Tackling Plastic Pollution With Trash Art ... A Look at Our Waste Habits
By Rachelle Adelante
Amid the growing plastic pollution crisis, we see people rising up and taking a stand in a lot of different ways. Plastic pollution protests can range from marching in the streets to more unorthodox methods, such as protest art. Protest art is an important way to create public awareness for issues such as the single-use plastics problem.
Creative consultant, activist and artist, Katie Williams uses art as a way to raise awareness of consumer habits regarding single-use plastics. Her "trash art" with Jen Fedrizzi is publicly staged on the busy streets of San Francisco and forces passersby to take a closer look.
San Francisco Trash Art
She met photographer Jen Fedrizzi while living together at the Convent Arts Collective in San Francisco. Williams gushed over, "Jen had seen some of my performance art and she asked if I'd be interested to collaborate on the topic of plastic pollution. She absolutely reignited my passion for the environment."
The duo first staged a performance art piece on the day after Thanksgiving in 2017 called, Our Sophisticated Denial, which took place in the street front window of the Artists' Television Access Gallery on busy Valencia Street in San Francisco's Mission district. For this performance, Williams and Fedrizzi "drowned" in waste over the course of 5 hours.
"We actually collected waste from our arts collective, and in that process of collecting waste, rather than throwing it in the bin, we saw firsthand just how much waste was being created. It was shocking to see how much trash you've accumulated. Once you see it, you cannot unsee it." Williams said.
Our Sophisticated Denial, November 2017.
A year later, Williams and Fedrizzi took the project to another level and launched, What Remains? in which they used their collected waste to create costumes made of trash. Williams also created original music for this performance piece, which included songs about plastic pollution. "I wanted to try to reach people on a different level," Williams said, "It's easy to share information about plastic pollution, like, X amount of plastic is created, but I wanted to get to the heart of the issue and touch people on a more emotional level."
Her song, Where is Away, from this performance uses lyrics to awaken people into thinking more about their waste habits:
Williams once gave a statement in her art pieces that speaks volumes:
"I believe that sharing vulnerability can be powerful. For me, it was a vulnerable process to collect my own trash and then wear it for people to see. I'm not zero waste, I'm not perfect. Most people aren't. I want the system to change so that we all have better choices that are more sustainable than single-use plastics."
Global Beach Cleanup
Beyond creating art pieces out of trash, Williams and Fedrizzi also organized a global beach cleanup and brand audit in collaboration with The Surfrider Foundation, All One Ocean and Zero Waste Youth USA in March of 2019.
"A brand audit is a little different from a regular beach cleanup," Williams explained, "For a brand audit, you sort the trash and pile it up by the company that created it. At the end, you take photos and post them online tagging the companies. This lets them know that we are holding them accountable and makes their branding synonymous with trash. We want to force corporations to change to alternatives to single-use plastics."
The brand audit toolkit is available from Break Free From Plastic and can be used for any type of cleanup.
Stop Plastic! Act Now Facebook Group
Williams also manages a group on Facebook that posts daily actions for group members to take, such as emailing companies or signing petitions.
She created the group as a response to the many Zero Waste groups on Facebook, which place an emphasis on individual actions. "I wanted to focus on corporate accountability. I believe that if enough consumers write in and voice their demands, we can make companies listen."
You can join the Stop Plastic! Act Now group on Facebook.
Love Transcends All Borders
From her years of experience traveling and working around the world, Williams came to realize that people, at their very core, are all the same.
"We share the same desires, wishes, and sorrows," she recognized, "And of course we also have rich diversity and complexity, but at the heart of it, I feel we all share the same human goodness." That is a good thing as it gives us more chance to unite and collaborate towards the same goals.
"We see people all over the world right now standing up for plastic pollution and climate change," Williams said, "It represents the goodness of people. We do care."
So many possibilities are out in the horizon and Williams is simply enjoying her free time working as a communications consultant, plotting her next protest art projects. For now, her latest project emphasizes love and how it transcends beyond borders, languages and anything that divides us.
Rachelle Adelante is a volunteer and contributing writer with Greenpeace USA.
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A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
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