Monday, 21 June 2010

A billion little pieces

Some of you may be aware that an island's worth of trash, roughly the size of Texas is floating in the Pacific Gyre that circulates the currents between the Japan, Hawaii and the West coast of theUnited States mainland.  Hawaii in particular has borne the brunt of an epic pollution by non-biodegradable plastic that is totally unamanageable to the extent that it has entered the food chain and undermined the entire biosphere.

Never one to NOT procrastinate about things beyond my control, the immutability of plastic is what I lie in bed at night obsessing over.   The Louisiana oilspill (which I won't comment on at this point, but if you haven't read Naomi Klein's piece on the crisis for The Guardian, I heartily recommend it gives us a villain and a disaster that has confounded the world's authorities on pollution management and limitation - it is also a good news story because it is unfolding in real-time, is multi-dimensional, tragic and best of all, visual. It makes a great narrative and one that will be consistant in its avoidance of its audience's (ie, our) culpability as users of oil and goods which are made from plastic.

 I have noticed that I am becoming more and more sensitised to the use of plastic - something I hadn't really thought that much about until relatively recently. Wherever I walk lately I have been doing an audit of people's clothing, accessories and accoutrements and whilst they may be well made or aesthetically pleasing to me, I can't help but notice the amount of non-recyclable shit that appears to be almost mandatory on so many items. Sequins, beading, shoes, jewellery, handbags, mobile-phones, laptops...

I know that plastic is made from chemicals separated from crude oil and it makes extraction more cost effective but is it really? (*In my best Charlie Brooker impression*  Is it? Is It? Really?  Really is it? Is it reaaaalllly?).  In order for plastic to be recycled (that is the ones that are recyclable), it has to be processed a second time and this is also far less efficient as the product is not equal to the energy expended to create it.  Most of the things we make from plastic are just rubbish - this is tacitly acknowleged before we even consume it.

The big problem is it doesn't go away, it sits there stockpiling ever upward: clogging, poisoning, eroding.

Its it quite easy for me to get depressed and I'm aware that this is a depressing subject...but I'm also aware that I need help. If I cannot acknowlege my own hypocrisy how can I purge myself of it? For so long we have been co-opted to conflate want with need and I am as much a victim of consumerist desire and profligacy as the next person. I want an i-phone (I believe I need "apps" in my life - if they had a "live my life for me" app, I wouldn't delay). I want foreign travel. I like mineral water from a bottle...I drive a car. I buy disposable nappies for Ernie. I'm basically a shit.

I despise moral laziness and flippancy in other people - why do I except myself from this judgment when it comes to the way I conduct my own and thus my child's life? I love irony, deprecation and darkness used to intelligent, comical effect...and i can laugh at myself most days (eventuuaaaaally anyway...). I will get onto that whole ball of wax later when I talk about the albatross in a later post...

If you haven't seen it, here is some sobering food for thought.  A small section of "Manufactured Landscapes" which someone has posted into youtube, followed by the trailer for the same. It follows the work of photographer Edward Burtynsky who documents the impact of globalised consumerism as the defining mechanism of pollution, the exploitation of human labour and most markedly,  how communities and landscapes are implicated and redefined by materials with neither longevity nor value.

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