While artists show us that pieces of pollution are the breadcrumbs of an unsustainable past, scientists show us that innovation is the way to a sustainable future. This is especially important on World Oceans Day.
June 8th is World Oceans Day, but for decades, artists have warned us about the bleak future that awaits if we remain stalwart in our environmental destruction. Between a Texas-sized garbage patch floating in the Pacific Ocean and dead animals washing ashore, stuffed to the gills with trash—the future foreshadowed by artists is already here.
Yet, art and science are working together to lead us into a cleaner and healthier future. Whether it is the brick canvases in our urban centers showing us environmental inequality or the flying drones over the Pacific Ocean retrieving our floating trash, we are responding in novel ways to our trash-filled world. Perhaps we are too late, but artists and scientists are not giving up.
Artists showcase environmental challenges within their communities by holding up a mirror to the alarming, yet under-realized facets of an unsustainable culture of consumption. Their art possesses the ability to transcend the barriers of personal and implicit biases to highlight a message for their community in a compelling way. This is their call to action.
Scientists are heeding this artistic call to action by developing their solutions through innovation and technology. With World Oceans Day happening this week, it is prudent to take a look at the waves of progress being made to clean up our oceans and surface waters.
The realization of science fiction is helping to clean our planet.
From mutant enzymes eating garbage to artificial intelligence (AI) robots cleaning the oceans to a substitute for plastic that dissolves in water—emerging technologies are reducing the nearly 14 Billion tonnes of pollution that finds its way into the natural environment each year. While art is showing us the environmental challenges, science is solving them. These two disciplines rooted in different human experiences are uniting together to further the Anthropocene, the age of humans.
Much like art, pollution comes in many forms. Of course, pollution never really starts as pollution as it is a by-product of human ingenuity and the lack of responsible fabrication and disposal. However, there are creative and meaningful solutions to pollution and most are driven by scientists working to better their communities—just like artists. For example, as the solubag from Chilean Scientists Dr. Robert Astetet and Dr. Christian Olivares which is a plastic bag that degrades very quickly and dissolves in water.
There is even an enzyme that eats plastic pollution. This mutant enzyme, if deployed properly reduces the decomposition cycle from 500 years to under a week, thereby expediting the decomposition of garbage and waste with little risk to the environment. The purpose of these cool, innovative solutions is to prevent and reduce further damage to the planet but also to push humans into cleaning up their act.
As you can see, scientists and artists are kindred spirits utilizing different sets of tools. Instead of paintbrushes and spray paint cans, scientists are equipped with test tubes and microscopes. Both of their forms of creativity are activated in response to the needs of humanity thereby making our planet cleaner and safer.
Artists all over the world are drawing attention to the primary transportation that most garbage takes to our waterways, the storm drains. Just as water flows from streams to oceans, pollution flows through our sewer systems polluting every water resource on its way to our oceans.
The oceans account for more than 75% of the Earth’s Surface, but we can do more to account for the health and stability of the ocean ecosystems. World Oceans Day helps spread awareness about the health and stability of our oceans similar to how artists and scientists respond to our greatest environmental challenges.
A team of inventors from Mumbai, India is trying to clean up the sizeable garbage patch this process has created in our oceans. They have developed marine drones using artificial intelligence and the latest drone technologies to locate and collect heaps of floating garbage, effectively a Roomba for our oceans.
"The drone is basically an oversized pool net with a sensor fitted machine. It nets drifting plastic trash in a very innovative way. Several drones scout the seas for waste and use a special sensor to keep away fish and other aquatic animals.” said marine drone designer at Yanko Design. This type of imagination will help solve our world's greatest challenges.
The survival of both nature and humanity is hanging in the balance between our ability to recognize and solve the challenges of human-made pollution. While artists and scientists do what they can to provide solutions to the problems we face, nothing is better than people taking individual action. You can work to reduce your consumption and use your voice at the ballot box so remember to support the arts, value the science, and cast your vote. This is the best way to respond to the environmental calls to action as well as to celebrate World Oceans Day.