Exploring Deforestation Through Culture and Art
By Will Hutchisson
When thinking about sustainability, many people solely consider environmental effects. In reality, there are many different facets of sustainability. Through a project in an FYE class I took when I was a freshman, students were challenged to choose an environmental issue that held cultural effects. My passion lies in nature and the beauty that surrounds us. Deforestation is the act of clearing land for the benefit of something else. The two most common initiatives that cause deforestation are development and agriculture, affecting the loss of habitats for many species. To connect to a cultural aspect, I focused on Johns Island, South Carolina. Charleston, sadly, has a rich history of deforestation due to the number of plantations that inhabited the Charleston area, however, this type of deforestation was thought of as agricultural adaptation as opposed to environmental degradation. John’s Island continues to be plagued by deforestation due to the mass amounts of people moving to Charleston, causing developers to deforest less popular areas. What was once a rural gem of the South has now become a more commercialized area. For those not native to Charleston, the Angel Oak Tree resides in Johns Island, representing the heritage and culture of the community. I sought to recreate the Angel Oak tree on canvas using natural materials such as sticks, leaves, acorns, and Spanish moss. I wanted to show that art can be created from simple, natural materials. Through my art, I sought to emphasize the importance of the Angel Oak tree in a culture that worshipped nature and to help people recognize the increasing rate of deforestation occurring in our world today.