3 ways art brings awareness to environmental concerns

Butcher

It’s perhaps the most typical of environmental political battles.

Congressional leaders from Florida—Republicans and Democrats alike—want $200 million allocated in the federal budget for restoration efforts in the Everglades. President Donald Trump included about one-third that amount in his proposed budget, though he hinted in a recent trip to south Florida that more money could be coming.

Yet, regardless of how Washington politics plays out, it’s important that attention is paid to the Everglades and to environmental issues in general, said Clyde Butcher, a nature photographer who since the 1980s has helped bring national awareness to the Everglades through stunning black-and-white photographs that have been compared to the works of Ansel Adams.

And Butcher says that while politicians wrangle, it is artists like him who can help give people a greater understanding what would be lost if we fail to conserve and protect the natural wonders around us.

“So many people these days live in cities, or spend time on computers, and they lose touch with nature,” he said. “Through art, we can perhaps inspire them to venture out and gain an appreciation for how important it is.”

Butcher over the years has dared to wade into regions of the Everglades that most people never see. He’s making plans to put his latest photographic exhibit, “America’s Everglades: Through the Lens of Clyde Butcher,” on a national tour. Right now the exhibit is on display through May 26 at the Appleton Museum in Ocala (Florida) and in 2020 will be in Youngstown, Ohio.

He says some of the ways artists help bring attention to environmental issues include:

Let people vicariously experience the world’s wonders.

Help people understand government’s role. One of the early ways he worked with government was when a water management district wanted to display some of his photographs in a new building. The problem: The water district had no money to pay for the photographs. Butcher’s businessman side hesitated at first, but eventually he agreed to provide the photos, feeling that his art could help connect the public to the water district’s mission.

Spread the word. Each time someone is exposed to nature through art they are reminded of the beauty and importance of these environmental treasures. Butcher took that a step further. About 25 years ago he began offering guided swamp walks through the Everglades at one of his galleries. People exposed to the habitat may be more likely to want to preserve nature and will influence others, he said.

Clyde Butcher is a Southwest Florida nature photographer best known for his striking black-and-white images of the Everglades. www.clydebutcher.com.

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