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The Art of Destruction

As disturbing as some of these images are (I think the one I posted below is the worst one, so now you’ve been prepared), it’s important to know the ecological, environmental, and chemical impacts that are taking place on planet Earth, even if most of us never see them first-hand. I think this also demonstrates just how powerful art can be in promoting scientific awareness and hopefully educating people.

SEED Magazine spoke with photographer Chris Jordan, who recently traveled to a remote part of the Pacific Ocean to document effects of the world’s largest known mass of garbage trapped in a broad ocean current, known as a gyre, in the middle of the northern Pacific Ocean, in what has been named the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Near the center of this giant swarm of pollution are the Midway Islands, a series of small atolls in a remote area of the Pacific, about a third of the way to Tokyo from the Hawaiian Islands. Here, some of the effects of the patch are just now becoming apparent. A full third of the resident Albatross chicks die due to feeding on the ubiquitous plastic, mistaking the ingestible bits as baitfish. The phenomenon threatens more than the biodiversity of marine wildlife at Midway. Many researchers view what’s happening at Midway as a bellwether for ecosystems across the globe, with the Albatross as proverbial canaries in the coal mine, alerting the world to an environmental toxicity that could ultimately impact us all in ways we’re just beginning to understand.

Chris Jordan, a photographer whose work on visualizing impossibly large numbers SEED Magazine featured last week, traveled to the Midway Islands last year to document the Garbage Patch. What he returned with is visually shocking: a series of ghastly images of Albatross carcasses bursting with wholly undigested bits of plastic waste.

Continue reading the story…

I also wrote an Art of Science post last week about the Crocheted Coral Reef Project, which is working to bring awareness to this issue.

*EDIT* It turns out there is also an Atlantic Garbage Patch. Who knows what else is out there?



Beth Kelley is an applied & digital anthropologist with an overall interest in how people engage with and are impacted by their environments and vice versa. This has manifested itself in many ways, by looking at creativity, playful spaces, built environments, and environmental enrichment, sustainability, design research, and integrative and collaborative models of learning such as through play and hands-on learning.

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