The Anthropogenic Slot machine is a browser-based artwork that conflates the use of gambling slot machines with the astounding decline of wild animal and plant populations internationally. We are gambling these precious species away with our addiction to fossil fuels, clearing forests and wetlands, and destructive land use policies.
When you spin the wheels of the Anthropogenic Slot Machine, the sounds you hear are animals that have gone extinct or are close to extinction. When your wheels stop, the screen goes blood red if one of the three windows displays a carbon-polluting machine. If this is your (and our) bad luck, you will listen to the sounds of industry and polluting machines. If you spin the Anthropogenic Slot Machine and end with all nature, you will hear the sounds of birds and nature unadulterated by carbon-spewing engines.
Conflating the addictive act of gambling with losing precious wildlife and species’ habitats seems appropriate as we selfishly overconsume the earth’s natural habitats with every press of the gas pedal.
According to the World Wild Life Fund for a Living Planet Index, wild populations of animal species have declined by nearly 70% in the last 50 years. Their landmark assessment highlights the devastating losses to plants, animals and insects, and the connection to human anthropogenic activities, including, and primarily associated with, the burning of fossil fuels.
Data from 32,000 populations of more than 5,000 species of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and fish shows accelerating global decline. Latin America and the Caribbean, two regions with the most biodiversity, show animal population loss is as high as 94%.
Current estimates are 150 to 200 billion tonnes of carbon is fixed in the forests of the Amazon, equivalent to 550 to 740 billion tonnes of CO2, or 10 to 15 times more than our annual greenhouse gas emissions. Lakes and oceans are also under assault as the WWF index found declines in freshwater species exceeded those in other habitats, with an 83% population fall.
The tragic reality is that the oceans absorb the heat equivalent of seven Hiroshima nuclear explosions every second from all the fossil fuels humans are burning. A Kiloton is an explosive power equivalent to 1,000 tons of TNT. Fifteen kilotons every second is the same as 1,296,000,000 kilotons each day.
The main drivers of wildlife loss on land are habitat degradation due to farming, developments, animal exploitation, and the introduction of invasive species. Pollution, climate change, and disease also play significant roles in these international declines as global warming stress animal and plant populations.
One primary cause was wasteful agricultural practices, which may collapse our global food chain. These practices are responsible for more than 80% of deforestation. Agricultural runoff and ocean overfishing are also driving a collapse of fishery stocks and populations in those delicate habitats. Increasing conservation & restoration efforts, while producing and consuming food more sustainably and decarbonizing human industry can help alleviate the dual crises of climate change, and biodiversity loss.
Mr. Lambertini. of WWF says, “We need to stress that nature loss is not just a moral issue of our duty to protect the rest of the world. It is actually an issue of material value and security for humanity.”
The population losses were not equally spread throughout the planet, sighting Europe, for example, which saw an 18% decline in wildlife populations.
In Africa, things are direr as 70% of human livelihoods rely on natural systems for survival and food, and the report shows a 66% decline in wildlife populations between 1970 and 2022.
We have treated these plant, insect, and animal populations and the earth they depend on like a slot game. Regretfully this is a game where we all lose.
This artwork allows us to realize we are gambling on the future health of all these species, necessary biodiversity, and our species’ survival.