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Saturday, March 31, 2018

Footprint calculator: how much energy do you use?

I worked in the Bronx last year with several artists who were concerned about environmental issues. Since we were focused on community outreach and education, we were trying to find ways to illustrate over-consumption and pollution. By chance, I heard on the radio about the Ecological Footprint Calculator, which asks a few questions about consuming habits, and lets you know when you Personal Overshoot Day is.

What is your Personal Overshoot Day?

It is the day, if everyone on Earth behaved like you, that you have used all the renewable resources on Earth, when you have simply used more than the Earth can produce in a year. My Overshoot Day right now is September 2, which means that I need one and a half "Earth"! I think I can do better. Luckily, the website also provides solutions and addresses all the different areas where you can improve as well. 

Ready for the test? 

Click here:

Monday, March 26, 2018

Why is plastic so bad?!

I use a lot of plastic in my artwork, because I feel that plastic is very representative of who we are as American consumers. I had a solo show last year about plastic in the ocean, so I did a lot of research for the exhibit.

What is plastic?

I got all the information below on the site, which I am quoting here directly:
"In chemistry, plastics are large molecules, called polymers, composed of repeated segments, called monomers, with carbon backbones. A polymer is simply a very large molecule made up of many smaller units joined together, generally end to end, to create a long chain. The smallest building block of a polymer is called a monomer. Polymers are divided into two distinct groups: thermoplastics (moldable) and thermosets (not). The word “plastics” generally applies to the synthetic products of chemistry.

Alexander Parkes created the first human-made plastic and publicly demonstrated it at the 1862 Great International Exhibition in London. The material, called parkesine, was an organic material derived from cellulose that, once heated, could be molded and retained its shape when cooled.

Many, but not all, plastic products have a number – the resin identification code – molded, formed or imprinted in or on the container, often on the bottom. This system of coding was developed in 1988 by the U.S.-based Society of the Plastics Industry to facilitate the recycling of post-consumer plastics.

Plastic is generally a durable material. Its durability has made it the culprit of the problem since it is considered resistant to natural biodegradation processes, i.e. the microbes that break down other substances do not recognize plastic as food. Yet plastic can be fragmented with the effects of UV, being broken down by light in smaller and smaller debris over time.

Biodegradation, the breaking down of organic substances by natural means, happens all the time in nature. All plant-based, animal-based, or natural mineral-based substances will over time biodegrade. In its natural state raw crude oil will biodegrade, but human-made petrochemical compounds made from oil, such as plastic, will not. Why not? Because plastic is a combination of elements extracted from crude oil then re-mixed up by humans in white coats. Because these combinations are human made they are unknown to nature.

Consequently, it has been thought that there is no natural system to break them down. The enzymes and the micro organisms responsible for breaking down organic materials that occur naturally such as plants, dead animals, rocks and minerals, don’t recognize them. This means that plastic products are indestructible, in a biodegradable sense at least."

What can you do?

Avoid single-use items as much as possible: do not use plastic utensils in delis, cafeterias, at work, or with your take-out orders. I travel with a small bag which contains real utensils (fork, spoon, and a knife - which I have crocheted out of plastic bags!).  They also make great gifts for all your environmentally concerned friends!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Plastic in the oceans: the garbage gyres

Ark for the Arts is a project about art, climate change and emergency preparedness. We feel that it is not possible to talk about climate change without addressing issues of plastic, waste, and how our consumption and habits affect our environment. As such, we want to take some time to offer facts about pollution, and whenever possible, offer solutions that you can implement in your daily lives.

It is well known these days, that the oceans have become a repository for garbage, so our first topic addresses plastic in the ocean: most folks do not realize that water from storm drains is not treated or filtered. Whatever goes down those drains ends up in our waters. That means that when you see a plastic bag, a cup, or a straw in the gutter or on the sidewalk, chances are, it will end up in our oceans eventually.

The first garbage patch (or gyre) was discovered in 1972 in the North Atlantic by E.J. Carpenter, and K.L. Smith Jr. The different streams in the oceans come together in a vortex: once garbage enters the vortex, it gets trapped and stays there as trash. The plastic patches are more like a "plastic soup": the plastic particles have broken down to tiny pieces, practically invisible to the naked eye. Fish, however, do ingest those tiny plastic particles, and we eventually eat the fish!

Altogether, there are 5 major gyres on earth's oceans: the Indian Ocean Gyre, the North Atlantic Gyre, the North Pacific Gyre, the South Atlantic Gyre, and the South Pacific Gyre. Here are some scary facts about the Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch, according to the website
  •     It contains 7 million tons of waste
  •     It is twice the size of Texas, and is up to 9 feet deep
  •     There is 6 times more plastic than plankton, which is the main food for many ocean animals
  •     By estimation 80% of the plastic originates from land; floating in rivers to the ocean or blown by the wind
  •     The remaining 20% of the plastic originates from oil platforms and ships
  •     According to scientists, it is the largest plastic dump on earth; larger than waste dumps on land
What can you do?

It is very difficult to avoid using plastic. But we can try! Next time you are in a restaurant or buying a drink at a deli, ask for your drink without a straw: chances are you do not need the straw, and any single use items should be avoided.

If you would like to read more about ocean gyres, here are some great resources:

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Under the Sea!

Jeannine led a great group of artists to add to the mural at Red Hook Public Library yesterday.
They researched some of the sea creatures, and learned about the burdens of being a male sea horse, and how narwhals use their tusks. They also found the cutest little sea slug that looks like a cross between a panda and Pikachu.

Join her on March 24th and March 31st at 11:30 to participate.