Friday, May 20, 2005

The Party's Over

What we leave behind, what every creature, every culture leaves behind. What the rocks themselves leave behind. Paleontology, Archeology, Geology. All these sciences study the remains of something that happened in time, something that left a mark. We cannot see sub-atomic particles, but only know them by the shadows they cast in their swift passing. History itself looks into the archives of politics, art, literature; what was left. C├ęzanne's apples, Mozart's Magic Flute. The fossilized bones of the Archaeopteryx— the Ur bird. Strata of rock telling the tale of mountains in motion. The columns of Persopolis standing stark against the empty Persian Plain.

And now here, found once as a bright curiosity picked out of the buff strand the little popped things full of color once signifying transitions, birthdays mostly but you see 'em at weddings, at New Year's and most recently at the funerals of kids bumped off in car wrecks and fall guys from the AIDS plague, both dying too soon with a send-off that speaks of hope for a future never realized. As we kept finding them over the years of beachcombing, we couldn't help but think of these little things as marker buoys for the most acute passages that shape each life.

Joyous or grief struck, the limpid floppy remains are hardly mute. That they last a long time belies their notoriety for flimsy ephemerality. They sit, many with their ribbons still knotted on saying yes that was gone, and that was gone too. Finding all of them on one isolated beach- strangely fraught with the thrill of discovery. With a connoisseur’s eye, avaricious for the next and the next, collecting talismans of the tiny moments profound only by the very commonness of their token, little beacons of the life lived. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2005


On February 26, 2005 we spent our lunch time at Crissy Field Beach. Our findings —what we 2 people collected in 90 minutes — were displayed at the Thoreau Center for Sustainability in EcoVisions: Bay Area Artists Exploring Global Ecological Issues curated by the WEAD board.

What you see here is what two people picked up during a ninety minute lunchtime walk. This is not picnic litter, it is what washed ashore on a tiny beach, Crissy Field Beach, in the San Francisco Presidio. 

It is one beach in millions. 
The plastic is just a small part of the 46,000 pieces of visible plastic in every square mile of the ocean. 
That's all the oceans on our plant. 

We have mined the fossil hydrocarbons for heating our houses and workplaces, for driving our planes and trains and automobiles and yet we only vaguely understand that at least 20% of these irreplaceable primordial remnants of Carboniferous fern bogs laid down 300,000,000 million years ago, are being used to make plastic that gets blithely tossed away. Tossed away in such quantity that today in the North Pacific Gyre there is a raft of floating plastic the size of Texas, some even say the size of Brazil. We toss it away, blind to the implications.

What we do know is that if we failing our attempts to stop this mad rush to use it all up, industrialized, information driven civilization will never rise up again. The Bronze Age was founded on metal easily mined with minimal effort, picked up off the ground, in fact. The Petroleum Age jump started with plentiful oil seeping out of the ground. Oil production has reached it's peak and though we still have half the amount we started with, it is only reachable by powerful infrastructure driven by oil itself. In other words, every drop of oil we extract now is twice as hard to get as it was 10 years ago and it will be twice as hard as that ten years from now. In other words, if we blow it this time, there will be no second chance. An industrial civilization will never again rise from "scratch."

What to do?

We are in charge, we can re-dream the system, using the most powerful force on the planet, the human imagination. We are all cousins in the vast dysfunctional family spending our children's birthright to natural resources. There is no "they' who will solve the problem. Each individual has deep power to find solutions.