Planet Home: Part I

30 Oct

Of all the species inhabiting this earth, homo sapiens is a destructive agent without a natural place here.  Yes, we have been here thousands of years, but the destruction we have wrought, and bring upon the planet especially now, fits neither within the limits of ecological balance nor our own logic of mind. Are we stewards of a home marked by biodiversity, but seemingly and virtually under our complete control?  It is troubling to know that the encyclopedia of wildlife I enjoyed reading about as a child is quietly vanishing at a rate beyond comprehension.  Man delights in cataloguing the natural world and mapping its natural systems, but seldom sees the true authorship of this world’s degradation.

My friend and radical visionary Faye Bernstein brought me to focus on the destructive presence of plastic in the world.  We engaged for a time in finding a solution to the removal of man’s waste floating in gigantic areas of ocean around the world.  Garbage masses within gyres.  Ocean currents are primarily driven by the global wind system.  The air mass creates a high-pressure system and drives a slow current which moves with the air in a spiral.  This spiraling system is a gyre; they are oceanic deserts with low biomass.  Gyres in the Northern Hemisphere rotate clockwise.  The North Pacific Subtropical Gyre is immense, home now to a modern age, mostly “plastic soup” larger than the size of Texas.  Charles Moore has been campaigning for man’s attention to this problem since 1997.  For the reader, his organization, Algalita Marine Research Foundation, is an excellent first step in seeking access to information about and proposed solutions to this problem at: http://www.algalita.org

Currently, there is an excellent opportunity to begin thinking about the problem of consumer plastic, and a partial solution to reduce waste, at the EcoCenter, a SF Environment clearing house storefront about city ecology, at 11 Grove Street, across from the main branch of  the San Francisco Public Library.  It expands my knowledge beyond the aquatic life I have come to know about dying from ingesting plastic, including turtles and birds; this exhibit clearly shows the effect of plastic waste being consumed by animals on the ground.   I spoke briefly with artist/designer Ann  Sauvageau as she installed consumer bags for this exhibit, the bags produced through the program Bags Across the Globe (BAGS).   Savageau teaches sustainable design and textiles in the Design Program at University of California, Davis.  Sauvageau’s students assisted in sewing the bags and constructing a website for program information and Savageau’s blog: http://www.annsavageau.com/blog/?page_id=57.  I offer here my modest attempt at photographing the centerpiece of this exhibit with a cell phone.
“Camel Bezoar
This is a calcified mass, or bezoar, composed principally of plastic bags, as well as other indigestible debris such as plastic ropes.  It was taken from the stomach of a camel that died after eating the plastics.  It weighs 30 kilos (over 60 pounds).
It was provided by Dr. Ulrich Wernery, Scientific Director, Central Veterinary Research Laboratory, Dubai, United Arab Emirates.  Dr. Wernery has been researching the animals he has found that are killed by eating plastics and calls it ‘an epidemic.’  These include camels, sheep, cows, goats, and wild gazelles, oryx, ostriches, birds, as well as sea turtles.”
Halloween, America
You dress the world
For its demise.
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