Well, it scares the crap out of me.

I saw this guy on the Colbert Rapport, and found it eerie enough to go check out his website. His name is Chris Jordan. He’s a photographer, an artist. I also think he’s a messenger of sorts, a truth teller.

It’s easy to forget about waste and mass-consumption, not least because the rate at which we are polluting the earth is incredibly uncomfortable to dwell upon. You see the neighborhood recycling efforts, you remember to turn off the lights and reuse your towell a few times, and it’s easy to fall into the assumption that the world is doing ‘A-ok’, as you’ve not heard otherwise aside from Al Gore’s little movie, and look at all the websites discrediting him? (discrediting-with a furor, with a passion, with a fervency that should betray how much modern business and industry is counting on the myth that the way people conduct their lives at present isn’t destroying the Earth)

The exhibit is called ‘Running the numbers; an American Self-Portrait’. The concept is somewhat artistic, but mostly mathematical. Simply, Chris Jordan has taken a few specific statistical quantities of things that are consumed, wasted or numbers that depict some aspect of American culture, and presented a concrete visual of the numbers in a way the brain might begin to grasp, as opposed to a mere abstract number. Here are a few examples, but check out his site if you get the chance. I promise it will make you uncomfortable. http://www.chrisjordan.com


^ depicts 170,000 disposable energizer batteries, equal to fifteen minutes of Energizer battery production.


partial zoom


detail at actual print size (resized smaller to fit blog)


This. ^This is what average sized people would look like next to 15 minutes of battery production if batteries were printed to actual size. The poster of 170,000 batteries would be 26×43 feet.

That’s fifteen minutes.

A depiction of one year of Energizer disposable battery production, (six billion batteries) would require a print 26 feet high by 146 miles wide.


^ Depicts 60,000 plastic bags, the number used in the US every five seconds. (click to enlarge) print size 60×72″


zooming in


a small piece of the puzzle


10 thoughts on “Well, it scares the crap out of me.

  1. Amazing. I think it’s simply amazing what we are not being told. I also think the major companies are in bed with the government on keeping all of us in the dark. People think, well, I can afford a big honking pickup truck, so why don’t I buy something that gets 5 miles to the gallon, not thinking that maybe in the future, there will be NO gasoline. We are unfortunately a nation of short-sighted consumers.

  2. We are being told but not by enough people and not loud enough. Many choose simply to not hear.

    I don’t understand how anyone can hear what we are being told and not act on it. How people assume “someone else” will do it and they don’t have to.

  3. I go through periods of disgust with the way we here in the U.S. consume, consume, consume, without thought of what it’s doing to ourselves, our environment, and our future. During those periods, I often feel like the things I do are such a tiny, tiny drop in the bucket that maybe it isn’t worth all the trouble.

    Then I charge up my rechargeable battery, take the recyclables to the recycling station, haul the food scraps out to the compost pile, and all those other things that tree-huggers do, continuing on with my tiny, tiny drop in the bucket, hoping it will make some difference somewhere along the line. Like a butterfly flapping its wings…

  4. This scares the crap out of me also. I use rechargables and everything is recycled. That does little about the industries world-wide that dump toxins into rivers.

  5. Thanks for this. We know the origins and final destinations of so few things. Schools should do field trips to these things. Or perhaps we should have disclosure statements with all purchases…you are buying hard drive number xxx.
    I’ve always felt that everyone should spend some time in retail to learn about humans, and about the service industry, and now I think maybe everyone should spend some time in garbage.

  6. I’ve seen the plastic bottles photo recently, and I don’t know about you, but it does feel like when I reflect on the amount of waste we produce in just my family, it IS frightening. And we recycle!

  7. You know, I had forgotten but Ybonesy reminded me. When I was in high school, we had the first real wave of an “energy crisis”. It was the early seventies. My economics teacher had us do a project that really brought the point home to us.

    He had us go home and count the number of electrical “things” in our house. Every one of them. If we had five hair dryers, we were to list them. A ceiling light fixture with seven light bulbs counted as seven. And so on. When we came back to school to report back, the numbers were staggering.

    It occurs to me that if everyone were made aware of how much they consume and discard every single day, it might make a difference.

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