Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot
Container City: Shipping containers, indispensable tool of the globalized consumer economy, reflect the skyline in Singapore, one of the world’s busiest ports.
The middle finger is making a comeback. I know what you’re thinking. Who knew it ever went away?
But the bird — specifically the flipping of it — has managed to make worldwide headlines twice now in the past month. First, there was M.I.A.’s apparently unscheduled additional choreography during her appearance at the Super Bowl halftime show, a move that occasional finger-giver Madonna “wasn’t happy about.” M.I.A.’s off-book version of double dream hands swiftly proved the power of a gesture to shock, as NBC – the same network that features “penis cleavage” gags on “Are You There, Chelsea?” — hastily issued an apology and lamented that “Our system was late to obscure the inappropriate gesture.” The NFL similarly decreed that “The obscene gesture in the performance was completely inappropriate, very disappointing and we apologize to our fans.”
And now, just as the world has begun to recover from the shock and horror of seeing the longest finger of a woman’s hand standing apart from its fellow digits, along comes Adele.
After cleaning up with six Grammy awards and making a triumphant comeback after vocal chord surgery, the British chanteuse and object of Karl Lagerfeld’s derision came back to the U.K. a hero, picking up album of the year and best British female solo artist at Tuesday’s Brit Awards. But in the midst of her emotional speech, just as she was declaring that she was “so, so proud to be British and to be flying our flag and I’m so proud to be in the room with all of you,” the show’s mortified-looking host, actor James Corden, appeared onstage to whimper, “I’m so sorry…”
“Are you about to cut me off?” she replied, “Can I just say then, goodbye and I’ll see you next time round?” Then she gave him the one-finger salute to thunderous applause. Seriously, Brits, you were in that big a hurry to bring out Blur? What, was this the 1998 awards? You’ve got the biggest singer in the world right now, basking in the glow of hometown glory. Blur can freaking wait.
The finger is a powerful gesture – its origins go all the way back to a throwdown between Greek philosopher Diogenes and that punkass hater Demosthenes. The finger says, succinctly, “My penis!” and with it, all the power it wields and all the things that you, the object of said gesture, can do with it. Actual penis not required. The bird has been famously flipped by almost every public figure you can think of who doesn’t have the words “His Holiness” in front of his name – by everyone from George W. Bush to Katy Perry and Rihanna to most iconically, Johnny Cash. It is, in short, the most “obscene” a person can get without removing pants.
And in flipping off James Corden and all he stands for, Adele, who devoted a portion of her Grammy acceptance speech to a bit of rogue snot, achieved something that M.I.A. and her Super Bowl shenanigans could not. She gave the gesture context and meaning, proving yet again that under all that hair and eyeliner and singular cool is an artist who can really rage. Later Tuesday evening, she explained, “I flung the middle finger. That was for the suits at the Brit Awards, not my fans. I’m sorry if I offended anyone but the suits offended me.” Adele’s finger wasn’t a random moment of naughty provocation, calculated to get attention. It was, as a good flip-off should be, a wordless expression of genuine irritation, a thoroughly rock ‘n’ roll gesture that predates rock ‘n’ roll itself. Amazingly, one finger can still stun the world. And sometimes, the suits need to be reminded of that.
Man Covering His Mouth: A shepherd by the Yellow River cannot stand the smell, Inner Mongolia, China
Angry Crowd: People jostle for food relief distribution following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti
“Black Friday” Shoppers: Aggressive bargain hunters push through the front doors of the Boise Towne Square mall as they are opened at 1 a.m. Friday, Nov. 24, 2007, Boise, Idaho, USA
Suburban Sprawl: aerial view of landscape outside Miami, Florida, shows 13 golf courses amongst track homes on the edge of the Everglades.
Toxic Landscape: Aerial view of the tar sands region, where mining operations and tailings ponds are so vast they can be seen from outer space; Alberta, Canada
Ice Waterfall: In both the Arctic and Antarctic regions, ice is retreating. Melting water on icecap, North East Land, Svalbard, Norway
Satellite Dishes: The rooftops of Aleppo, Syria, one of the world’s oldest cities, are covered with satellite dishes, linking residents to a globalized consumer culture.
Child Brides: Tahani, 8, is seen with her husband Majed, 27, and her former classmate Ghada, 8, and her husband in Hajjah, Yemen, July 26, 2010.
Megalopolis: Shanghai, China, a sprawling megacity of 24 Million
Big Hole: The Mir Mine in Russia is the world’s largest diamond mine.
Clear-cut: Industrial forestry degrading public lands, Willamette National Forest, Oregon
Computer Dump: Massive quantities of waste from obsolete computers and other electronics are typically shipped to the developing world for sorting and/or disposal. Photo from Accra, Ghana.
Oil Spill Fire: Aerial view of an oil fire following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Gulf of Mexico
Airplane Contrails: Globalized transportation networks, especially commercial aviation, are a major contributor of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Photo of contrails in the west London sky over the River Thames, London, England.
Fire: More frequent and more intense wildfires (such as this one in Colorado, USA) are another consequence of a warming planet.