THE BLOG

Art in Aspen? Looks an Awful Lot Like Wildlife Exploitation

08/18/2014 11:30 am ET | Updated Oct 18, 2014

High art in Aspen is hitting a new low.

The Aspen Art Museum in Colorado is hosting a controversial exhibit from Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang featuring three African sulcata tortoises, each affixed with a pair of iPads stuck directly to their massive shells. Each screen shows video footage of nearby ghost towns as the ancient turtles walk around.

I get that art is meant to provoke and is a powerful vehicle for expanding thought and even fueling social movements. This exhibit in particular is supposed to evoke a sense of potential loss, and already experienced loss.

But what's happening in Aspen clearly ventures into the cruel and needs to stop.

And, yet again, it's a window into why so many species, like these tortoises, are endangered. Humans have a long, storied and deeply troubling legacy of exploiting wildlife -- sometimes it's a few individuals, sometimes it's enough to push them to the brink of oblivion. The attitude that these tortoises can be exploited -- for our benefit, not theirs -- is precisely the kind that underpins much of our fraught history with wildlife.

The result of this cavalier mindset is apparent in the sobering news of news of the mass wildlife extinction crisis that's unfolding around the world. Plants and animals are disappearing for a variety of reasons -- habitat destruction, pollution, climate change, overfishing, livestock grazing to name a few -- but the broad underlying reason remains the same: People come first and the rest be damned.

What's happening at the Aspen Art Museum may feel like a small fight to pick when there are so many battles to wage on behalf of wildlife around the globe. But when it comes to saving endangered species, every instance of needless exploitation and tribulation matters. And this one in Aspen ought to be stopped.

You can help, start by signing this petition.