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Mon July 23, 2012
Sharks, Art and Conservation
There’s a huge list of bizarre things more likely to kill you than a shark: lightning, falling coconuts, hippos, even vending machines (think twice before shaking that machine that just ate your quarter – you could end up being one of the 13 people who die that way each year). But my personal favorite is cows. Yep, a cow is more likely to kill you than a shark.
“Between 2003 and 2008, 108 people died from cattle-induced injuries across the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's 27 times the whopping four people killed in shark attacks in the United States during the same time period, according to the International Shark Attack File.”
That’s from Popular Mechanics’ Cow Attack Survival Guide (a phrase I never thought I’d write or say). It includes handy tips like avoiding confined spaces and never turning your back on a cow.
But back to sharks. The thing I find so ironic about the fact that cows kill more people than sharks is the visual disconnect. Cows look so sweet and placid, with those big cow eyes and soft brown fur. Sharks are beautiful – sleek, powerful, wonderfully adapted to life as a top ocean predator. But with those mouths full of razor-sharp teeth, there’s really no cute cuddly factor.
So just how can visual art – painting, photography, video – help people connect with sharks in a positive way? I can’t say that the above painting inspires an overwhelming rush of warm feelings. But, then, just the mental image of a stretch of sea floor littered with the dead and dying bodies of sharks who’ve had their dorsal fins cut off for shark fin soup is pretty powerful. Seeing that, in person, was one of the experiences that turned Jaws creator Peter Benchley into a staunch shark advocate. A photo or video might go a long way toward converting others.
I guess that’s part of the experiment inherent in the Sharks, Art, and Conservation event that’s part of Jaws Fest 2012. Of course, Sharks, Art, and Conservation isn’t just visual art; there will be poetry, as well, and scientists and conservation experts will be on hand to talk with festival-goers about the threats facing sharks. If you go, let us know what you thought.