Remembering The Great War

Tower-of-LondonThis past August 5th marks the centennial of the beginning of one of history’s greatest follies, otherwise known as World War I and the Great War. And all over the world, this anniversary is being marked in a number of ways. But in London, a particularly interesting display has been created by artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper that gives new meaning to the term “swords into plowshares”.

Using Tower of London, an institution that once represented oppression and imprisonment, the artists creatively arranged a series of red ceramic poppies – 888, 246 to precise. Each one represents a British soul who died during the war. Resembling blood pouring forth, the poppies extend from a window and then sweep into the Tower’s the moat, giving a visceral casualty-visualization to the extreme death toll.

Tower-of-London-1The last poppy will be “planted” November 11, the date WWI ended and the poppies will be available for purchase. As dreamed up by artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper, the display – which is known as “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red” – was inspired by the words Cummings found in the will of a fallen solider. As he explained in an interview with The Guardian:

I don’t know his name or where he was buried or anything about him. But this line he wrote, when everyone he knew was dead and everywhere around him was covered in blood, jumped out at me: ‘The blood-swept lands and seas of red, where angels fear to tread.’

This latest display which attempts to visualize the costs of war in the same way “The Fallen” commemorated all those who fell at Arromanches Beach on D-Day. Created by British artists Jamie Wardley and Andy Moss, whose medium is most often sand, the artists and an army of 500 volunteers used rakes and stencils to create the silhouettes of the 9000 soldiers who fell on the beaches of Normandy on June 6th, 1944.

Arromanches_The FallenAs you can see from the aerial photograph above, the visualization drives home the terrible loss of human life in a way that cold statistics never can. This artistic display was made in honor of Peace Day last year, which has been held on Sept.21st of ever years since 1982. Having been to Arromanches this past April, I am sorry to say that I missed it. But such displays are short-lived, which only serves to add to their poignancy.

This past June 6th was a time of sober reflection and commemoration as well. This year also marked the 70th anniversary since the Normandy invasion, and the occasion was not only a time to honor those who fell in what was arguably the most ambitious undertaking in history, it was also a time for world leaders to come together and show their commitment to peace.

remembrance_day___poppy_day_by_daliscarIt has been a historic year, of that there is little doubt. And these two anniversaries are well-paired, drawing attention to two World Wars that were the most destructive in human history, but also inextricably linked. In total, some 90 million people died in both conflicts combined (thought estimates vary) and insisting that people remember how it all began is an opportunity to ensure that it never happens again.

As said before, the last poppy will be planted on Nov.11th, 2014 to mark the end of the war. To purchase one of these, simply click here.

Sources: fastcocreate.com, (2), poppies.hrp.org.uk

The Future is Here: The Wearable Landmine Detector

landmine1In certain developing nations, landmines are a terrible scourge that cause countless deaths and injuries. In most cases, the landmines are forgotten relics, the leftover remnants of civil wars, terrorist campaigns and national liberation efforts. Have been buried in unmarked areas and forgotten, many of the victims that come across these little packages of death do so entirely by accident.

Over the past century, the situation has become such that a ban was placed on their sale and in 1997 – officially known as the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention or Ottawa Treaty (my old hometown, where the treaty was signed). However, banning the manufacture and sale of the devices addresses the problem at only one end, and does not address the many thousands of mines that have to be found and disposed of.

landmine_problemIn Colombia, for instance, some 10,000 have been maimed by anti-personnel devices since 1990, putting the country second only to Afghanistan in the total number of deaths and injuries associated with landmines. This is due to Colombia’s long guerrilla war, where groups like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) have used mines to protect their bases and drug plantations.

The only real solution, of course, is to clear the mines and destroy them – a process that is now under way. In the meantime, however, people are still exposed to danger, and there’s a need for technology that helps people walk through rural areas without constant fear. Enter the SaveOneLife, a wearable landmine detector you slip into your shoe that may save your life.

saveonelifeDesigned by Lemur Studio, a design firm in Bogotá, the detector alerts the wearer if an explosive device is within a few feet of their path. It’s aimed at troops, people eradicating illicit crops (i.e. coca leaves and poppies), and farmers, all people who have to deal with landmines on a regular basis. Currently in the conceptual phase, the studio is looking for funding and support to get it built.

The detector consists of a coil printed on a thin conductive material that produces an electromagnetic field. This field in turn detects other electromagnetic fields that are emitted by large pieces metal nearby. If it finds a mine within the wearer’s proximity, the device sends a signal to a wristband, telling the wearer to watch out or change direction.

saveonelife2Iván Pérez, Lemur’s creative director, is currently presenting the idea to Colombia’s military, who he hopes will fund development. But of course, the device is intended for use far beyond the armed forces, ensuring that there are no more accidental victims. As Pérez himself explained:

The device was created with the goal of saving a life, hence the name, first by the families of the victims and second for the cost effects of military forces by the loss of his men in combat. We would like many people to benefit from it, not just people in the armed forces but also peasants and workers. We hope that some company or government wants to give us the support we need to complete the project and bring it to reality.

The idea has been nominated for several design prizes. And if funded, is likely to be adopted for use by NGOs, medics, engineers, civilians and military forces worldwide. But even if Pérez and his studio are not endorsed by the Colombian government (which is unlikely given the problem of landmines), an international crowdfunding campaign is likely to succeed.

landmine2After all, the problem of landmines is one that cuts across nations, organizations, and people of all walks of life, and a device that helps deal with this problem is likely to draw a lot of attention and interest. Being able to tackle the problem of forgotten ordinance and hidden dangers at the other end of the things will be a big step in helping to eliminating this dangerous legacy.

Source: fastcoexist.com