April 15, 2022

Living and Dying in the Name of the Lord

In the month of April Muslims celebrate Ramadan, Christians commemorate Easter and Jews observe Passover. During this holy period it’s time to take stock and consider the tenets of the predominant world religions—reflection, prayer, redemption, gratitude and compassion.

As tribalism, war and persecution increases worldwide we are once again faced with an existential dilemma. What are the root causes of these ongoing animosities—intolerance, fear, greed, revenge or just human nature?

• There are many reasons for the Russian invasion of Ukraine—Ukraine forging closer ties with the EU and NATO; control of Eastern Ukraine’s energy assets; Putin’s nationalistic claim that Russians and Ukrainians are one people; and the ongoing religious feud involving the split between the Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox Church which resulted in Ukraine receiving religious autonomy from Russia in 2019.

• In 1947 the Middle East was carved up by the British setting in motion an ongoing dispute about who gets to inhabit “the holy land.” This hostility is prevalent today as authority over Jerusalem is highly contested due to the presence of holy sites for Christians, Jews and Muslims in the city. The Jewish State of Israel and Muslim Palestinians are still trying to resolve this territorial conflict.

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• The discord between Saudi Arabia (Sunni) and Iran (Shia)—each with its own version of Islam—has intensified over the last forty years with proxy wars currently being engaged in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, North Africa and Central Asia. 

• Both Sunnis and Shiites read the Quran and believe that the Prophet Muhammad was the messenger of Allah. The primary differences between the sects is their belief over who shall succeed the Prophet Muhammad. Their prayer rituals are similar but Shiites stand with their hands at their sides and Sunnis put their hands on their stomachs. 􏰧􏰨􏰦􏰥􏰛􏰞􏰥􏰛􏰪

• Mob violence involving targeted attacks on person and property against Christian communities is also prevalent in some areas of the Middle East particularly in Iraq, Syria and Egypt. 

􏱂􏰢• Hindus and Muslims in Southern Asia have had cultural and religious differences since the end of the Mughal Empire.This conflict continued throughout British Rule and culminated with the 1947 Partition that split the two factions into Hindu majority India and Muslim majority Pakistan. The Himalayan region of Kashmir continues this ongoing struggle for control between these two combatants.

• In China the ethnic minority Muslim Uyghurs are persecuted by the government and sent to “re-education camps,” made to do forced labor, tortured, and in some cases women are being sterilized, forced to have abortions, and sexually abused.

•In North Korea Christians are deported to labor camps as political criminals or in some cases like possessing a bible they are executed on the spot.

• In Myanmar the military and Buddhist nationalists have perpetrated ethnic and religious persecution against the Sunni Muslim Rohingya people. In order to escape wide-scale human rights violations over a million Rohingya have fled to other countries.

•Africa has become a front line in the jihadist war waged by rival factions of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) whose mission is to defend Islam. Al-Qaeda and IS share a common loathing for secular, Western-supported rulers who they call “apostates.” (BBC News)

•The religious right in the United States questions science, wants to control womens' bodies and opposes critical race theory in schools, LGBTQ rights, and the Black Lives Matter movement. They believe that the 2020 election was stolen, the January 6th arrested rioters are political prisoners and that Christian morality is the necessary foundation for governance in a free republic.

To See More of Jeff Key's Artwork:

Website: www.jeffmkey.com

February 18, 2022

Let Them Eat Seaweed—Dinner or Disaster?

All dripping in tangles green, Cast up by a lonely sea; If purer for that, O Weed,  Bitterer, too, are ye?Herman Melville, The Tuft of Kelp (1888)

Soy sauce and seaweed go really well with potato chips. —Jose Andres, Chef, founder of World Central Kitchen, a non-profit providing meals in the wake of natural disasters.

Taking a stroll on the beach these days one is confronted with a 21st Century conundrum—the environmental impact of seaweed?

If your glass is half-full—seaweed is an environmental miracle and a new “superfood.”

If your glass is half-empty—seaweed is a noxious, insect-infected weed piling up on our beaches.

• Seaweed—The Plus Side:

• It has a negative carbon footprint—absorbing 20% more CO2 than it produces.

• It produces oxygen—phytoplankton, kelp and algae account for 50-80% of the total oxygen on Earth. (national geographic.org )

• It’s used as livestock feed cutting methane emissions from cows.

• It’s a new superfood—providing high levels of vitamin A, B12, K, folate, iodine, fibre, and high protein. It reduces blood pressure and improves digestive health.

• It binds ice-cream, wraps sushi, and moisturizes skin.

                                                  • Seaweed—The Negative Side:

• It’s proliferating in unprecedented volume—caused by the rise in ocean temperature, coastal deforestation, and agricultural/sewage runoff.

• It rots on beaches, contains high levels of arsenic and other heavy metals, creates a sulfurous odor, and attracts insects. 

• It’s smothering dolphins and sea turtles, creating toxic algae bloom (“red tides”) and killing fish by depleting oxygen from the water.

• So head for the beach. Try to step over the rotting clumps of kelp and if you’re hungry grab a bite of nutritious seaweed to fortify your immune system.

To See More of Jeff Key's Artwork:

December 10, 2021

A Tree Grows in Oakland— Winter Dreams for the Anthropocene

“Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your senses—especially learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.”― Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) 

“This is not our world with trees in it. It's a world of trees, where humans have just arrived.”    ― Richard Powers, The Overstory, (2019 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction) 

Anthropocene—The current geological age—viewed as the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment.

 As this exhausting year comes to a close and we wrestle with the consequences of Covid-19, climate change, societal inequities, and tribal discord it might be time to take a “time-out” from our divisiveness to consider how all living things—plants, animals and humans, are interconnected and interdependent. 

In “Jurassic Park” Dr. Malcolm explains the “butterfly effect” as it pertains to “chaos theory” and its unpredictability in complex systems—“a butterfly can flap its wings in Peking, and in Central Park you get rain instead of sunshine.” 

We do not live in a vacuum. When a coal plant in West Virginia spews mercury, lead and sulfur dioxide into the air its effect on global warming causes sea level rises, drought, and disease as far away as the Marshall Islands in the Pacific atoll.

                               Biodiverse ecosystems are needed to keep humans healthy.

Trees throughout the world are being cut down for agricultural expansion, logging, and urbanization resulting in water shortages, desertification, and mass extinction. Deforestation is forcing disease-carrying wild animals closer to humans, allowing new strains of infectious diseases like the coronavirus to thrive. 

Only about 15% of the world’s forests, which are key to maintaining biodiversity, now remain intact. The United Nations recently reported that one million species might be pushed to extinction in the next few years. (World Resources Institute) 

At last month’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland over 100 countries agreed to stop deforestation and 196 countries agreed to cut fossil fuel emissions 45% by the end of this decade—130 countries agreed to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. (Council on Foreign Relations, Nov. 2021)

Will these agreements be honored?

When I walked into my backyard this morning to greet the big 200+ year-old Oak tree looming over the garden I watched it breathe in CO2 and exhale oxygen. Within its branches were birds building nests, butterflies flapping their wings, and squirrels gathering acorns for the winter. I said some words of gratitude to all of them knowing that they were playing their part to keep our planet alive. 

As Ma Shouying, a character in Richard Power’s Overstory, said to his son, 

“You can’t come back to something that is gone.”

November 05, 2021

"Harbinger"—Mother Nature Ponders Evolution

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, 
 not the most intelligent that survives.
 It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” 
― Charles Darwin, British naturalist, On the Origin of Species, 1859 

“The power to control our species’ genetic future is 
awesome and terrifying. Deciding how to handle it may be the 
biggest challenge we have ever faced.” 
― Jennifer Doudna, 2020 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry; Professor 
of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Structural Biology at UC-Berkeley

Mother Earth’s oldest child, affectionately known as Mother Nature, has found herself in turmoil these days. As if she didn’t have enough to worry about with climate change and variant viruses, she now has to confront another existential challenge—biogenetic engineering.

With the advent of mRNA vaccines that deliver cellular instructions to create anti-bodies to fight off Covid-19; CRSPR, a gene-editing tool that cuts out disease-causing DNA and replaces it with healthy DNA; the continuing controversy over genetically modified food; and the coming advancements of artificial intelligence as a medical diagnostic tool; robotic surgery; regenerative stem cell therapy; 3-D printed organs; and cellular agriculture—it’s time to take stock as we move forward on the evolutionary road map.                                                      

"Vessel #94—Harbinger"   Wood, 28" x 22" x 24", 2021

Is it a sign of progress that we are able to fix Mother Nature’s mistakes, or is it a harbinger of concern precipitated by the ability to alter the natural selection of species?           
                                    Only time and history will tell the story.

To see more of Jeff Key's artwork:


August 06, 2021

Mother Earth Aches—Tree Farts, Sea Snot and Missing Monarchs

Mother Earth usually starts her day with a good “tree fart.” 

This foul odor emanates from “ghost forests”

—dead trees along her coastal shores that give off carbon emissions. 

The rise in sea level caused by climate change is poisoning the soil with saltwater and leaving stands of rotting trees in its wake. Mother Earth is mourning her trees— their last toxic breath—another warning sign.

"Boundaries"  Pigment Print on Rag Paper

By mid-afternoon it’s time to unload her “sea snot”

—a nasty mucus-excreting organism (phytoplankton bloom) 

that has become a threat to her coastal flanks. 

Agriculture and sewage runoff are feeding the algae in her seas forming “sea snot,” a gelatinous blanket attracting viruses and bacteria that are taking over large bodies of water—polluting them, blocking out the sun, depleting oxygen, and suffocating coral and fish.

While sipping her evening cocktail, Mother Earth, with an aching sadness 

for her beloved missing Monarch butterflies, 

keeps asking—“where have they gone?” 

Climate change, pesticides, and habitat destruction have ravaged this once thriving population. Where once there were over 4 million Monarchs in 1980 there are now fewer than 2000—a drop of 99%. Mother Earth asks all of us to plant milkweed and pollinator-friendly native flowers, food for the monarch larvae in the hope that once again she can see and hear the flutter of golden wings.

Jeff Key's work can be seen at the Ruth Bancroft Garden through August 29th

Ruth Bancroft Garden1552 Bancroft Rd., Walnut Creek, CA 94598

Additional work can be seen at:  Sculpturesite Gallery:   https://sculpturesite.com/exhibit/155

Jeff Key— Website:  http://www.jeffmkey.com/
 Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/jeffmkey/

July 02, 2021

Patriotism—Whose Flag Is It?

There are seasons in every country when noise and impudence pass current for worth; and in popular commotions especially, the clamors of interested and factious [individuals] are often mistaken for patriotism."Alexander Hamilton

"You're not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can't face reality. 

Wrong is wrong no matter who says it."  —Malcolm X

As we observe the Fourth of July the question of how we define patriotism in America has become an ongoing debate and a source of division within the country. 

Whose beliefs are more patriotic—someone who carries the flag into the capital because they think the election was"stolen," someone who carries the flag to protest racism and injustice, or someone who kneels during the national anthem?

An old Saturday night live skit asked the question, Who is more macho? 

Today the question is—Who is more patriotic?

Is it someone like Michael Flynn, former US National Security Advisor, who appeared at a “For God and Country Patriotic Roundup,” suggesting that we call for the military to overthrow our democratically elected president, or is it someone like Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who asks, “What’s more patriotic: fighting for the inclusion and rights of ‘more’ Americans, or working to exclude and marginalize fellow Americans based on their beliefs and identity.” 

"Vessel #18—Leeward"

The answers to these questions are open to each individual’s interpretation of patriotism—but on the Fourth of July—fly our flag for your beliefs, honor our freedom—but also recognize that our freedom is not perfect, and there are many among us who feel that they have been marginalized or denied justice. 

As Amanda Gorman so eloquently said in her Inauguration poem— 

"While democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated. We will not march back to what was but move to what shall be. A country that is bruised, but whole, benevolent, but bold, fierce and free."


Jeff Key's work can be seen at:

For ticket information to the Ruth Bancroft Garden:

Additional work can be seen at:
Jeff Key Website: http://www.jeffmkey.com/
Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/jeffmkey/
Sculpturesite Gallery: https://sculpturesite.com/exhibit/155

June 04, 2021

 Catch A Wave”—Summer 2021

We're waxin' down our surfboards. We can't wait for June. We’ll all be gone for the summer. We’re on surfari to stay.” —Brian Wilson, The Beach Boys, Surfin’ USA 

                “We all have a wave in our life; and you learn to surf that wave to shore.”                                                                                     —Paul Theroux, author of “Under the Wave at Waimea”

As we enter the summer of 2021 the wave of the Covid-19 Pandemic is finally cresting. The tension of the past year ebbs and flows like the tides trying to placate a restless moon. 

We grab our boards and head for the beach hoping that the sun and surf will begin to heal our psychic and physical wounds. 

Can the sound of the ocean drown out the the anguish lingering in our heads from Covid-19, systemic racism, gun violence, insurrection, climate change, and the continual threat of raging fires?

For a few brief moments when the light hits the water and temporarily lifts the weight of the world off our shoulders, the summer sounds of the Beach Boys spin in our head as we catch a wave and sit on top of the world.”

For ticket information to the Ruth Bancroft Garden: