36 Eye-Opening Works Of Street Art That Are Fighting For The Planet

Using the commons as their canvas, artistic activists create visual messages that can't be ignored as easily as news reports and scientific studies. These installations are out in the open and, hopefully, open our minds before we push ourselves (and everything else) past the point of no return.

Out of Place Traffic Jam

Most people would agree that spending time in nature is good for human health, but is it good for nature? Spanish artist Maider Lopez sought to illustrate the impact of tourism in rural areas by jamming 160 cars onto the tiny roads near Mount Aralar. The congestion and pollution created by this type of "sight-seeing" is why so many are dedicated to keeping wilderness areas roadless.

Insert Here

"Insert Here" is an interactive public art project created by Eve Mosher. It encourages people to use bold yellow arrows to indicate where they would like to 'insert' an eco-friendly solution in their community. The project focuses on optimism and action instead of doom, which is refreshing. (If you'd like to place some Insert Here arrows in your own community, just visit the website for more info).

Invisible Man

Source: 350.org
Created by Liu Bolin, this optical illusion the thousands of people who disappear (die) every year because of China’s massive coal consumption. Devoid of regulation, China’s coal mines experience regular explosions, cave-ins, and other fatal disasters. “Coal Pile is a conceptual commentary on the consequences of not only the dependence on coal, a limited resource, but the dangers that come for families who work with and use coal, ironically, to survive,” explains the artist.

Waiting for Climate Change

Sea level rise is one of the most tangible and threatening signs of climate change. In early 2014, Artist Issac Cordal created a stir when he released photos of a series of partially-submerged miniature statues dressed like politicians and businessmen. The figures seem to be totally unconcerned, carrying phones and briefcases, even as rising waters threaten to drown them all.

Scorch The Earth

Jetsonorama isn't your typical artist/activist. Now in his 50's, this African American doctor works on a Navajo reservation in Arizona, documenting the life and struggle of Native Americans through photography and street art. This mural highlights the fact that many residents have no other option but to work in the reservation’s coal mine, only to see the fruits of their labor trucked off to power metropolises like Denver and Phoenix. The text reads “Set fire to the earth, scorch the sky, stoop so low to reach to high.”

Ha'jólnìigo

Ha'jólnìigo is a Navajo word that means "to overcome/achieve a goal with inner strength." This mural, created by the Black Sheep Collective, illustrates the coal industry's cycle of pollution and filth on the reservation. “The focus of the piece is on the kneeling youth—embodying the innocence and inner strength that resides in the next generation. It is up to us to stop current industrial practices that only bring sickness to the earth and to our families.”

Fractured Icon

Source: 350.org
The past few years have seen an unprecedented increased in the number of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) operations in the U.S. In its quest to squeeze the last bits of natural gas from the ground, the fossil fuel industry has shown little care for the communities and ecosystems this practice affects. “This Bison is suffering from the side effects of the chemicals that pollute the groundwater in the areas exposed to Hydraulic Fracturing. Many livestock are exposed to these chemicals and suffer from hair loss, sickness, weight loss and death. This isn't just my attempt to look at the issues around these farm animals, but the deeper issue of how human consumption of this water is imminent as are the sicknesses associated with it,” writes artist Jesse Hazelip.

Open Your Eyes

This amazing time-lapse video uses graffiti and paper cut-outs to point a finger at the advertising industry's role in our excessive consumption--and how that consumption is polluting the planet. By removing the eyes from advertisements found all around Berlin, and placing them on the mountains of paper created by those same advertisements, Godot illustrates the "blind eye" advertising casts towards the use of natural resources.

Treehugging in Iran

Iran is home to some of the worst air quality in the world--several of its cities rank among the worst for airborne particulate. In 2011, Iranian activists planted these stumps on a street in the city of Kerman to protest against deforestation. Eliminating forests increases air pollution by removing the natural air filtration performed by trees.

Bag Monster

Miha Artnak collected 40,000 used plastic bags and 7,500 used plastic cups to create this plastic monster that trailed it's tentacles throughout the city of Ljubljana in Slovenia. It symbolizes the spreading of the consumerism and waste segregation.

Poster Pockets

The Toronto duo of Eric Cheung and Sean Martindale dig their way into multiple layers of paper advertisements to create a pocket. Then the pockets are filled with potting soil and plants to create an impromptu urban garden.

Complicit

When BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling platform exploded in 2010, killing 11 people and dumping thousands of barrels of oil into the Gulf, New Orleans went from the Big Easy to the Big Greasy. Street Artist QRST visited the city to unleash a graffiti series titled “Complicit.” Rather than a point finger at BP alone, the work suggests everyone involved in an oil-driven economy should consider their role, and it’s effect on animals and the environment. Even the artist himself.

Belgian street artist ROA specializes in bold installations that force viewers to confront environmental issues that are easily ignored in a noisy world. This series of heartbreaking images illustrates the devastating results of animal hunting, pollution and other destructive human actions.

Scary Stencils

Long before Banksy prowled the streets cloaked in mystery, John Fekner was challenging the status quo with stenciled messages and graffiti murals. Over the years, Fekner has created hundreds of environmental, social, political and conceptual works around in the United States, Sweden, Canada, England and Germany. Each one begs us to open our eyes, and wake up to the toxic nature of a world driven almost solely by greed and consumption.

Riverkeeper

This clever design by the Minnesota Riverkeeper organization uses the existing drainage system to get people thinking about why water quality is important for public health, as well as tourism.

Tree Drawings

UK artist Tim Knowles attaches drawing implements to the tips of tree branches, returning the power of the art--and its message--to the trees and the wind alone.

1,600 Pandas

In 2008, Paulo Grangeon launched the traveling exhibit, "Pandas on Tour," to bring attention to endangered species. It featured 1,600 papier-mâché bears--representing the actual number of pandas left on the planet (recent estimates actually place the number slightly lower, at 1,596).

Virtual Forests

Naziha Mestaoui's "One Beat One Tree" project projects virtual forests onto urban landscapes, with an interesting twist: viewers connect to the series via a smart phone sensor, and the digital trees actually grow in rhythm with their heartbeat. It's a powerful reminder of how closely our health is linked with that of the natural world. And with each virtual tree, a physical one is planted in deforested regions throughout the world.

Ice Men

In 2009, Brazilian artist Nele Azevedo created 1,000 'sitting men' out of ice and placed them on the steps of a Berlin concert hall to demonstrated the effects of global warming on the human race. After a mere 30 minutes, every single man had melted.

Denial Graffiti

When the 2009 the Copehagen climate conference failed to deliver a legally binding treaty, Banksy saw red--literally. Soon afterwards, the artist spray-painted the words "I DON'T BELIEVE IN GLOBAL WARMING" in red capital letters on a wall beside Regent's canal in Camden, north London, with the words disappearing below the water. Each Climate Conference since then has also failed to deliver anythign but lip service, and many now consider yet another stage on which the world’s politicians pretend they’re taking action, without actually effecting change.

Wake Up To The Sun

Source: 350.org
The sun is powerful resource, freely available to any country in the world. The theme for this mural is solar energy and the potential that this renewable power source has to bring security and equality to south africa. “Amongst all our problems we still face here in South Africa and other parts of Africa, a solution like this is our key. But most people are not even aware of the potential. My mural is not aimed at being a clear message or reminder but rather a simple poem or wish for us to "wake up to the sun" to change tomorrow,” explains artist Freddy Sam.