ENSIA is a magazine showcasing environmental solutions in action. Powered by the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, we connect people with ideas, information and inspiration they can use to change the world.
Photography by Martin Hill – Writing by Monique Dubos


February 17, 2014 —

As a successful graphic designer, Martin Hill recognized the power of imagery to reach people’s hearts and minds. It was during his weekend pursuits of mountain climbing in remote places, where nature followed its course without human intervention, that he began to understand that environmental problems were a product of faulty design separating us from natural systems. “We have systemic design problems that we have created for ourselves. I think these problems can only be rectified by a change in human consciousness and systems redesign,” writes Hill, now an environmental artist, in the introduction to his new project, “Watershed,” which just opened in Melbourne.Hill’s images of human-formed sculptures acting as guardians of the pristine New Zealand landscapes they oversee illustrate the interconnectedness of living systems. Sculptures, constructed from ephemeral elements such as leaves, twigs, snow and ice, express the philosophy that humans are part of nature and must align with nature to survive.Circular forms underscore the importance of cycles that transform waste from one organism into food for another. “For me, making this body of work is my way of connecting with nature to tell the story of the transition that is now underway toward a circular economy that emulates the way nature works,” Hill writes.“Watershed,” Hill’s latest project with collaborator Philippa Jones, focuses on the water cycle and the prerequisite of water for all life. But for Hill, “watershed” has two meanings. The images are captured in locations where water arrives as clouds, mist and snow, and leaves as liquid — a literal watershed. But the metaphor is equally significant. “It is my belief that humans are at a watershed, where we now have to redesign our operating principles to align with natural systems, or head on down the dangerous path of significant peril.”

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