The Battle Rages: Christo & The Sierra Club vs. the Environment

I’ve seen the so-called artwork of the man named Christo. Bright orange flags draped over the pathways of Central Park, wending the way through the trees and along the pavement like a snake along a farm creek. In Central Park, the little spit of “natural” land in the concrete jungle of New York City, Christo’s art project seemed to fit. It worked. I won’t say it was appropriate, because that’s not the fitting word. It was just…right.

In Colorado’s Big Horn Sheep Canyon, a land full of natural wonder, the art is already there. Christo doesn’t seem to think so. He wants to create a giant, 5.9 mile long art installation called “Over the River,” in which he’ll suspend giant pieces of translucent material…well…over the river. Taking 2 years to construct for a two week showing in 2014, the art project could have enormous environmental and aesthetic consequences. Suffice it to say, environmentalists, nature lovers, and many locals are up in arms about it. But supporters say it could bring an already cash-strapped local economy out of the red.

What’s most surprising about this “David vs. Goliath” battle is the alleged environmental stewardship group that is supporting the project: The Sierra Club.

Christo's new art project, Over the River, concept sketchFounded by John Muir in 1892, the group’s mission is “To explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the earth; To practice and promote the responsible use of the earth’s ecosystems and resources; To educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment; and to use all lawful means to carry out these objectives.” Some are saying that the support the group is showing toward Christo’s proposed $50 million project flies in the face of everything the group, and its founder, stands for.

The Bureau of Land Management will make a decision on the project sometime in the spring. In the meantime, betrayed environmentalists will fight against Christo’s art project by demonstrating how damaging the work will be to the natural environment. Sierra Club higher ups are flabbergasted by the objections to the project, saying that the project would have no lasting environmental impact.

Whether you think it’s a worthy artistic venture or an environmental disaster, it’s sure to create some attention. But for 2 weeks (not to mention the months of construction), 6 miles of Big Horn Sheep Canyon river habitat may wish for some anonymity.

(via L.A. Times)

Leave a Reply