The haunting reason these sculptures were designed to sink slowly into the mud.

This ghostly statue marks the site of a often overlooked, but devastating natural disaster — one that is sadly still ongoing.

Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.


In 2006, steaming hot mud erupted, without warning, from a rice paddy in eastern Java, Indonesia, sweeping through a dozen nearby villages.

Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.

20 people were killed, and thousands more were forced to flee their homes permanently.

Footprints in a house overwhelmed by the mud flow. Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.

The statues were erected by sculptor Dadang Christanto in 2014 to commemorate the eighth anniversary of the tragedy.

Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.

Since they were installed, the sculptures have have been sinking slowly — by design.

"They were not in mud when they started," Christanto told Australia's Saturday Paper in 2015. "And in one year they are nearly submerged. They will disappear. It is not just the environmental disaster but the social disaster."

May 30, 2016, marked the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the deadly mud flow.

Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.

While there have been no more fatalities, mud continues to pour out of the volcano to this day.

There's also strong evidence that the disaster was manmade.

Activists stage a protest on the fifth anniversary of the disaster. Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.

A 2015 report published in Nature argues that the gas needed to trigger the eruption could only have been unearthed by a nearby oil and gas drilling operation.

"We're now 99 percent confident that the drilling hypothesis is valid," Mark Tingay, the paper's lead author, told The New York Times.

(Other experts continue to disagree, arguing that the mud flow could have been caused by an earthquake.)

Like the Deepwater Horizon spill, this eruption demonstrates how lack of attention to the potential side effects of drilling can have disastrous consequences.

The nearly 40,000 Java residents who were forced to flee their homes have endured an often painful resettlement process. Many initially took shelter wherever they could find it — often in local markets.

"We couldn't shower, we couldn't wash our clothes," Sadli, a factory worker who was displaced by the mud flow, told the Chicago Tribune. "For every toilet, there were dozens of people constantly in line."

Some victims were eventually compensated. Others are still waiting.

When Lapindo, the company in charge of the drill operation allegedly responsible for the eruption, proposed installing two new wells near the site of the disaster, protests erupted and shut down the project.

Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.

That isn't to say we should stop drilling for oil and gas altogether.

Icky as oil can be, we need it for the time being, and natural gas can be an alternative to far dirtier sources of power.

But the statues serve as a kind of warning: When we mess with nature without taking the proper precautions, we don't just put our environment at risk.

An artist paints at the site of the sinking statues. Photo by Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images.

We put ourselves at risk too.

True

When Molly Reeser was a student at Michigan State University, she took a job mucking horse stalls to help pay for classes. While she was there, she met a 10-year-old girl named Casey, who was being treated for cancer, and — because both were animal lovers — they became fast friends.

Two years later, Casey died of cancer.

"Everyone at the barn wanted to do something to honor her memory," Molly remembers. A lot of suggestions were thrown out, but Molly knew that there was a bigger, more enduring way to do it.

"I saw firsthand how horses helped Casey and her family escape from the difficult and terrifying times they were enduring. I knew that there must be other families who could benefit from horses in the way she and her family had."

Molly approached the barn owners and asked if they would be open to letting her hold a one-day event. She wanted to bring pediatric cancer patients to the farm, where they could enjoy the horses and peaceful setting. They agreed, and with the help of her closest friends and the "emergency" credit card her parents had given her, Molly created her first Camp Casey. She worked with the local hospital where Casey had been a patient and invited 20 patients, their siblings and their parents.

The event was a huge success — and it was originally meant to be just that: a one-day thing. But, Molly says, "I believe Casey had other plans."

One week after the event, Molly received a letter from a five-year-old boy who had brain cancer. He had been at Camp Casey and said it was "the best day of his life."

"[After that], I knew that we had to pull it off again," Molly says. And they did. Every month for the next few years, they threw a Camp Casey. And when Molly graduated, she did the most terrifying thing she had ever done and told her parents that she would be waitressing for a year to see if it might be possible to turn Camp Casey into an actual nonprofit organization. That year of waitressing turned into six, but in the end she was able to pull it off: by 2010, Camp Casey became a non-profit with a paid staff.

"I am grateful for all the ways I've experienced good luck in my life and, therefore, I believe I have a responsibility to give back. It brings me tremendous joy to see people, animals, or things coming together to create goodness in a world that can often be filled with hardships."

Camp Casey serves 1500 children under the age of 18 each year in Michigan. "The organization looks different than when it started," Molly says. "We now operate four cost-free programs that bring accessible horseback riding and recreational services to children with cancer, sickle cell disease, and other life-threatening illnesses."

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