The butterfly effect: the theory that a butterfly’s wings might create tiny changes in the atmosphere that, ultimately, result in a tornado.*
The flapping wing represents a minuscule change in the initial condition of the system, which causes a chain of events that lead to large-scale phenomena. Had the butterfly not flapped its wings, the trajectory of the system might have been entirely different.
This theory can be applied to numerous cases where cataclysmic effects on the earth’s fragile ecosystem have been inflicted by subtle advances in technology. For example, the series of breakthroughs that led to the development of the jet engine, primarily for military purposes, has had the happy side-effect of low-cost air travel for all. Low-cost air travel, in turn, has turned out to be one of the chief offenders in the scourge of climate change.
The images in this series combine the shape of the butterfly – a fragile creature that represents the fragility of the natural world – with the texture of the printed map – a manifestation of man’s absolute domination of the planet. I was inspired by the discovery that the textural effects typical of cartography bear an uncanny resemblance to the detailed patterns visible on highly magnified butterfly wings.
*On an optimistic note, it’s worth remembering that the butterfly effect works in any direction. In theory, small individual actions could eventually reverse some of the harm already inflicted on the ecosystem – and thus restore the balance.
©imagesurgery December 2007