Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Art from Trash

I was at the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory in St. Paul yesterday.  The zoo, which is undergoing some big renovations still had plenty of visitors because the Washed Ashore organization has an art exhibit going on there right now.  It's both art and trash.  Trash made into art.  The exhibit invites you to think about the problem that trash in our oceans is creating for the animals that live there.  (Wait, it's not just the animals, it's us too.  We've got micro plastics in our drinking water.)

The parrot fish is one of the most colorful fish in the sea.  Take a closer look and you'll begin to see the creative use of all the plastics that have been found by the many volunteers who clean the beaches along the coast of Bandon, Oregon. Somebody has got to color sort and clean all that stuff.  A nice volunteer job if you lived out there.

The exhibit educates the viewer both young and old.  It's the seeing is believing thing.  There are a few statistics thrown into the exhibit for us too.  "White is the most common color of plastic.  Plastic pollution has spread to every ocean in the world and into all marine habitat.  Water bottles from the 2008 Olympics in China are still being found on west coast beaches.  Over half of the world's sea turtles have eaten plastic.  Almost all the rope used by fisherman is made of plastic.  Cigarette lighters wash in from all over the world.  90% of seabirds are estimated to have ingested plastic.  Red, yellow, tan and orange imitate the colors of food for many animals.  Approximately 6 million tons of plastic waste enters our oceans every year."

In my own efforts to walk and pick up trash, that first year in 2015 was a gold mine for finding larger weird plastics along the Mississippi River.  What I find now is the presence of others who are also picking up.  I can work a spot along the creek and a few days later that spot will have been finished off by someone else.  Sometimes someone will stop and say "hey I do the same thing over by the Franklin Bridge" or "I'm working the area around Lake Minnetonka."  There's the two guys who pick up trash on the other side of the river and the old couple on Nicollet Island that pick up on Sunday morning.  There are people everywhere doing their thing in their own neighborhood.

There are five pieces of trash art over at the zoo.  I wanted more, but you can visit the Washed Ashore website to see videos of making the art and find out where you can see exhibits.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Wet Clothes and Waders

 The journey of this pair of waders started about two weeks ago on Fisherman's Point on the north bank of Bassett Creek where the creek meets the Mississippi River.  I was so tempted to take these hip waders home. They would definitely fit me.  Think of all the trash one could haul in by just being able to wade out a few feet in the river.   I came to my senses and left them.

On the south side of Bassett Creek, I had been waiting patiently for the river to go down so I could haul in this pile of clothes that had been snagged on a tree branch for the last many months.  When I finally dragged them out they must have weighed about 80 pounds.  I left them for a few hours hoping they would perhaps dry out a little and be easier to manage. There is still a tent including poles that is partially submerged and hopelessly tangled around a tree stump.  Someday I'll try to hack it out of there.

Later in the day I hauled the clothes up to the top of the new stairs that were built last fall.  I didn't have the energy to continue on to the trash can so I just left them.  There used to be a trash can closer to this location but Park and Rec has not put out yet.  I figured the maintenance folks would see my pile soon enough.  When I walked by a few days later the clothes were gone.  I continued up river to see about those waders.  Gone too.

Further up stream along the stretch, as always, there was lots to pick up.  And quite a few shoes.  I started to count them just for something to do.  There were the lone flip flops, the boot, the white shoe, the loafer.  Maybe 12 in total.

A few days later I was picking up trash again just south of Bassett Creek on a hidden beach I call Middle Beach.  There were those waders again and yet another mess of clothes in the muck.  I hauled some of them out.  So now the waders are mine, all mine I thought to myself.

Fast forward to this morning.  Fueled by coffee and cookies I stuffed those waders with sticks and stones so they can stand up by themselves.  Add a nice but dirty XL Columbia Jacket with a channel 9 news logo on it.  Create a makeshift head with materials on hand.  Now I just need a hat and a pair of sunglasses.  I'll have no trouble finding those sometime soon and who knows maybe someone else will add to my creation.