May 21, 2014

The Throwaway Phenomenon

Characterized by the 5 Gyres team as a dangerous cycle of careless consumption, disposal, and contamination, the “throwaway mentality” of today’s consumers is becoming increasingly prevalent and destructive.

Photo taken from 5gyres.org

Once discarded this plastic waste aggregates into immense oceanic whirlpools referred to as “gyres,” and five major ones having been identified worldwide. These slow currents allow hazardous plastic pollution to continue circulating, trapping oceanic contaminants and pollutants, and endangering both marine wildlife and humans. Marine animals are likely to consume this contaminated plastic debris, passing toxic waste on to human consumers of seafood.

In order to combat this large-scale environmental problem, the 5 Gyres Team is working to research the oceanic gyres, educate the public on recycling efforts, inspire legislation on plastic manufacturing and waste, and implement solutions to the plastic pollution problem plaguing the world’s oceans. With the goal of urging our society toward a more sustainable future, the dynamic staff of 5 Gyres collects and analyzes ocean samples, develops curriculum and solutions kits for use in schools, and generally fights the lack of concern surrounding this pressing issue of public health.

To learn more about the problem and possible solutions, click HERE.

To get involved with the 5 Gyres initiative, click HERE.

 


January 5, 2012

Mitch Epstein

Photographer Mitch Epstein won the third annual Prix Pictet, the recently established Geneva-based photo prize for excellence in environmental photography.  The Prix theme in 2011 was “Growth.”  (This year, it’s going to be “Power.”)

"Amos Coal Power Plant, Raymond City, West Virginia, 2004," Mitch Epstein

Epstein’s epic images of energy consumption in the United States are truly breathtaking, in all senses of the word.


November 27, 2011

Christopher Jordan: “Midway”

Much of artist Christopher Jordan’s artwork deals with consumption, sustainability, and the environment. His series of photos from the Midway Atoll islands (in the Pacific Ocean, about 1000 miles north of Hawaii) took my breath away:

From “Midway: Message from the Gyre,” Christopher Jordan (2009-current)

Maybe you’ve heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the giant “landfill” in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  Well, the Midway Atoll is located near its apex and is a longtime wildlife refuge where albatrosses go to mate and feed their young.

This photo essay is like an environmental autopsy of the baby albatrosses that die after their parents try to forage the Pacific Ocean for food, and come back with only detritus to feed their young.   These haunting images won the prestigious French Prix Pictet  in March 2011.

Jordan and several collaborators are producing a documentary film about this phenomenon, too, called simply MIDWAY.  The filmmakers write:

The islands are literally covered with plastic garbage, illustrating on several levels the interconnectedness and interdependence of the systems on our finite planet [...]

And so it is here, sitting halfway between the consumers of North America and the consumers of Asia, that we get to stop and consider some of the unintentional consequences of growth, and the responsibilities that we have for our planet.

 


September 21, 2011

Thinking big to think ahead

In Churchill, I see a lot of change going on.  Climate change changes the economy, and vice versa.  The world is getting hotter, even up here, it’s plenty cold but the difference is real.

I watch all the loading and unloading of ships, and I think about all the ports south of us, the ones that never see the change like we see it up here, though they will eventually.  It’s like if it’s not in their face, they won’t ever deal with the reality until it’s way too late.  So I always like to hear about somebody thinking ahead, and thinking big. 

There’s a guy name of Auden Schendler I heard about.  He started out as a nature, environment guy and now he works for a ski company doing sustainability stuff.  Now, I never been skiing, and I don’t plan on going. I have enough snow in my life.  I can’t understand why there are places like ski resorts where they actually manufacture snow.  Maybe I should appreciate it while it’s still around.

He’s in Aspen, Colorado down in the States and he’s trying to make the ski place better for the environment through retrofits, renewable energy, making things more efficient.  He says you either go big or go home, ‘cause doing little things to be greener are great but, only big things really matter, and it’s up to businesses and lawmakers to do what’s really important.  Wrote a book called GETTING GREEN DONE. 

 

He says companies gotta stop pretending they’re doing a great job if they’re blowing it with carbon emissions, also known as greenhouse gases. For instance, he says WalMart spent half a billion dollars a year on “green programs” in ’09, and carbon emissions still went up 8.6%.  You can imagine how much that is, a huge company like that.  Or can you even? 

His other thing is, business people need to factor the real cost of things into their price. Like, you can burn a pound of coal to make a dishwasher run for one cycle, and that power right now costs about eight cents.  But that doesn’t count the cost of the pollution from burning the coal, or the global warming impact on the economy, or the cost of the increased mercury in his son’s body from burning the coal. Or, say an American burns a gallon of gas to go to the market.  Right now they’re not paying for the cost of our military expenses in the gulf, or for the climate impacts of that gas on the GDP. 

Anyway, I like this guy, he tells it like it is.  Makes you think about how things are connected.  He’s kinda all or nothing, but still he’s pretty decent. 

One thing never changes, up here though:  watch out for bears.


September 20, 2011

Moby-Duck

 

World traveler.

 

There’s nothing that makes me happier than staring out at sea, so imagine how tickled I was when I heard about this book.  It’s called Moby-Duck (heh heh) and it’s about this writer guy who went on a quest to find out everything he could about a shipping container full of thousands and thousands of rubber ducks that got lost at sea.  

Donovan Hohn is the author’s name.  He called his book Moby-Duck because just like in Herman Melville’s novel, his search became all-consuming. Before Hohn knew it he left home for a 51-foot catamaran (cute but not really my kinda craft), running into all sorts of characters like arctic researchers and nutty sailors, looking into the murky worlds of shipping conglomerates (I’m not saying a word) and Chinese toy factories.  I think about a flotilla of rubber duckies crossing the Arctic and I have to chuckle.  I wish I’d spotted them, but they never made it into my range of view. 

Slightly jealous though I might be of this Hohn fellow, I’m more than happy to let him do the sailing himself and read about his exploits from the comfort of my study with a nice cup of Sanka and my sheepskin slippers on.  It really is a helluva read.  Makes you realize how random life can be.  And it’s funny.

I told my online buddies about it and some of them read it.  We liked the trailer Hohn put up on his promo site too.  Good visuals, especially the computer-generated 3-D visualizations of a cargo ship getting tossed about in a stormy sea. 

Welp, gonna go play Solitaire on my computer now ‘cause it’s foggy and I can’t see squat.


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