Culture and traditions encourage people accumulate and pass from generation to generation the knowledge, skills, rituals, and beliefs that they used to follow even being far from their home. The cultural peculiarities are often the reason for transforming the country into the attractive tourist destination that makes people overcome long distances to see them. Daily human needs determine the tendencies of economic development that is the most ancient manifestation of the human geography. Moreover, it is also the brightest demonstration of existing links between the people’s interrelations and geographic aspects because the economic cooperation is strongly connected with the diverse types of resources and their location. It is worth admitting that economic processes play significant part in almost all spheres of life, including the most unexpected ones. Everything, beginning from the smallest human’s daily habits to the biggest events on the global scale, is connected with the consuming that is related to the economy.

Thus, consumption is the point where the human relations and geographical aspects are the closest one to another and where their interplay is the most visible. Moreover, the aftermaths of such interconnection also manifest rather evidently, when taking into account the primary elements of the process aimed at meeting human needs such as production, distributing, and utilization. It becomes clear that the influence of the people’s activity on the environment is the biggest issue concerning the consumption. This problem seems to exist forever. However, the increasing rate of consumption that is observed in recent years gains the greater actuality and is gradually turning into the global threat to the Universe. That is why, everyone who managed to seize the seriousness of the issue try to draw global community’s attention to it. Especially, it can be said about such talented and active people as Keith Haring. His art is rather contextual. He tends to raise topical global issues by means of the art. His series of twenty drawings devoted to the sustainable coexistence of people and nature is not the exception from this tendency. Thus, this paper seeks to analyse the geography aspects of the human consumption by means of visual representation of the issue in the work of Keith Haring.

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The issue of consumption and environment

A lot of things people do in their daily life are so trivial and habitual that can hardly be the object of deep consideration in terms of their content and, moreover, aftermaths. Thus, the claim that the drinking a cup of coffee every morning, for example, can cause the ecological crisis certainly will create the distrust. At first sight, it really seems to be an absurdity, especially for those who used to think superficially. However, if one tries to analyse the process of coffee production, he/she will immediately notice the numerous sets of connections around the whole world. Thus, a lot of workers from different areas are involved in production of a single cup of coffee. Resources needed for its production are often situated far from the place it will be drunk. The aftermaths caused by this harmless tradition, as it may seem at first sight, reach far across the distances as well. The scale of the problem becomes evident enough taking into account the fact that daily human life consists of the chain of numerous similar habits and traditions. 

The environmental issue of the consumption has a few aspects that show its versatility and reveal its most acute moments. One of such aspects is the usage of the natural resources, which presupposes the wide spectrum of interlinks between the people and nature, and emphasize its geography ground. Thus, the wealth of the Earth plays the key role in the process of goods production. Due to uneven distribution of resources around the world, their location determines the duration and complexity of production. This process integrates numerous types of activities including extracting or growing raw materials, their processing, transportation, and utilization, making it possible to see the level of people and nature’s interplay.      

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Deposits of the natural resources or the territory where they can grow are determinant geographical factors in the consumption. Thus, people drink mentioned cup of coffee in every country around the world, but coffee trees may fruit only in the certain climate conditions. As a result, all world production companies direct their operations to those favourable territories. It is worth admitting that the level of consumption permanently increases. In thirty years, people consume one-third of the total world resources. Thus, there arises the question whether a few coffee plantations can satisfy the whole world’s needs for coffee beans. Obviously, nature can hardly meet humans’ demand, but the producers cannot resist the temptation to help it in this process. Therefore, the extensive methods of farming and resources extraction appear. Such kind of ‘help’ is rather expensive for the society.

Such overuse of natural resources is the violation of the primary rules of sustainability. Following those rules may help society to avoid the crisis connected with exhaustion of natural resources. To ensure sustainability, the rate of renewable resources use should be less than or equal to the rate of their natural replenishment. The usage of non-renewable sources should proceed at a rate of their depletion. 

The utilization of the products is another important issue. The biggest problem is that people produce an unprecedented number of goods they do not really need. Most of the products soon enough turn into trash and go to the garbage can. It its turn, this causes the excessive pollution of the environment. Since all natural processes are in a strong interconnection, contamination in the one corner of the world leads to irreversible changes in another one. These changes cause numerous diseases and hazards that greatly influence wellbeing of the people. Such cycle of interconnection is closed, and only people can break this vicious circle and enhance world’s sustainability for the sake of both humans and environment.

The issue’s framing in the drawing by Keith Haring

Keith Haring was the famous artist of the 1980s. He stood out among his colleges with rather modern and contextual approach to the art. Haring used his unique skills to emphasize actual social issues through the individual vision transmitted by means of the art metaphors. Thus, the series of twenty drawings Keith Haring created in 1989 represents the diversity of eloquent symbols concerning the influence of humans’ activity on the Earth. The set of drawings reflects the author’s perception of the issue and give the viewer the understanding of its threat to the environment and further human life. 

The chosen drawing that represents the most acute aspects of the discussed problem belongs to the mentioned set. Thus, the interconnection between the people and the Earth is the central art metaphor Haring used in the artwork. He depicted this phenomenon clearly enough by means of symbols associated with linking, such as intertwined human hands and bodies. By depicting people in a single vessel, the artist shows that society lives in the common space; and thus, everything one person does influences the other. Moreover, there is an evident hint on the issue of contamination, which author represented as garbage can in which people are seating. 

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Besides, in the drawing, the negative impact of human activity on the environment is showed by schematic picture of the globe. The way author emphasizes the suffering of the Earth caused by people is rather interesting. There is a black liquid streaming from the globe, which seems to overwhelm it. The substance pours directly on the people sitting in a garbage can. It is clear representation of the unbreakable link that exists between the human activity and environment. Thus, people thoughtlessly ravaged the Earth through the increasing consumption level, and polluted it with the huge amount of the waste. In its turn, the planet returns people their harm in the form of numerous natural disasters that happen as a result of human activities. The diseases, hazards, crop failures, climate changes, manifestation of diverse abnormal phenomena are only a few examples of such response to the irresponsible human treatment of the Earth. 

The next metaphor of the drawing is a man in chains. It serves as another reminder of each person’s responsibility for the common wellbeing. The man holds the globe on his shoulders, and attentive viewer can easily notice the deep sense of the author’s message. If this man who controls the Earth loses his balance, the globe will immediately fall, and everything it consists of will be destroyed or, at least, harmed. Moreover, the man can hardly manage such hard work because he is locked in the massive chain. Taking into account significant responsibility for maintaining sustainable environment that lies with humanity, the size of the chains is not surprising at all. 

The fact that this man is alone in his responsible task may seem strange because saving the environment used to be considered as the common business. Probably, there is hidden message to the viewers. Most likely, it means individual responsibility. People live in their individual world that consists of the numerous personal habits and traditions which determine the way of consumption. Thus, the only sustainable way of thinking and saving the balance in the individual world can promote the right functioning of the whole system. 

Self-control is the best means to save the biodiversity, beauty, and safety of the Universe. It is a primary idea Keith Haring used as the basis of his drawing. Maybe, the sign of the glowing key at the top of the artwork calls for people’s understanding of the sense of life. It is obvious that the excessive consumption is not the preferred path; while its minimization is the lifeboat for society and the Earth. The author is begging people to strive for the balanced living. That is why, people in the garbage can are raising their hands to the symbol of the key as the single means of salvation. 

The drawing by Keith Haring is completed in white and black colours. The fact that such shades are inherent to the human fears adds the deep sense to the artwork. Moreover, the play of ordinary colours helps the viewer to feel the author’s worries about the future that humans will not hear his call for sustainability and refuse to join their efforts for the common sake. 

Even though the artwork was created more than quarter of the century ago, it is rather actual nowadays. Moreover, due to the art techniques the author used in his drawing, the Haring’s work looks like a modern one. It stands out from the numerous visual representations one can see in the mass media. Thus, it can easily be used as an effective element of the promotion companies and movements for the sustainable development of the society.


The issue of the human consumption belongs to the widest and biggest phenomena in the world. It makes a lot of the people living in different corners of the Earth unite to solve it. Its threats are comprehensive and reach far across the distances. For this particular reason, each person’s responsible attitude to the planet and balanced coexistence is the only way to maintain the sustainable environment. Despite the fact there is a notion of the collective responsibility, it cannot be realized in practice. The human nature is the main cause of this situation. What is common is nobody's. Thus, calling for the common responsibility makes people give their obligations to the others. That is why, the drawing of Keith Haring is so actual in this connection. It emphasizes the primary task of each person to be aware of the aftermaths of his\her individual daily activity. Such awareness will certainly lead to the responsible behavior. The responsibility of a single person on the world scale will form the responsible world community and as a result, sustainable environment.

Visual representation

(One of twenty drawings, Keith Haring)

visual representation


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