Sunday, July 20, 2014

sans or sand

Sans or sands, either way, time is of the essence.

Yes, that is Judith at two years old with the Cormorant, 1952, Seaside, Oregon and yes, now some 62 years later in her birthday suit, 2014, Kehoe Beach, California. Since that first introduction to the glories of sun and surf, the beach has been her place, "power spot" on the planet. On Sunday, July 13, it was reaffirmed with a long trek from Abbott's Lagoon to Kehoe Beach that included an annual skinny dip baptism in the chill Pacific Ocean. And, although a Cormorant did not present herself, many other creatures large and small did.


It was a glorious day that included a soulful rendition of Merle Hargard's The Day I Started Loving You Again, from a troubadour at the trailhead. Along the way there were many natural wonders — the scampering of a Long-tailed Weasel, the dive of River Otter, the flurry of a Northern Harrier on the hunt, bumble bees on the Cobweb Thistle.

There were special discoveries of a Mermaid's Purse, the expended egg sack for a Skate,
and the feathered nest of some diminutive creature who had taken refuge under the looming shade of a big piece of styrofoam. How about that for a creative re-use?

Richard, mighty friend and stalwart companion, always willing to go the distance — hauled back a hefty duffle bag full of plastic.

To complete the celebration, there was a birthday balloon on the beach.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Where did all the plastic go?

Where did all the plastic go?
Coming through our news feed this week was the Los Angeles Times story about the disappearance of plastic so when Janis Jones (Judith's sister) sent an email Richard responded with an emphatic, "Dude. It's in our barn." Since 1999 we have collected tons of plastic from 1,000 yards of one beach. We are heartened to learn that our efforts are paying off: having a signifiant effect on the oceans. HA!
Read the report: Ocean Plastic Patch Missing

Where did all the plastic go?
This year because of the weather pattern, there hasn't been much plastic anyway. We long for the wet and windy El Niño days. Nevertheless, there are many other good reasons for heading to the beach. It's the Fourth of July weekend so everyone and their dogs had the same idea.

The day started with a quick trip for Judith out to Bolinas to deliver a proof print to expert birder Keith Hansen. His shop/studio is must for anyone interested in our feathered friends. His scope camera focused on a humming bird feeder gives an eyedazzling look at the quick flash and shimmer of those fast wings. For years Keith has been painting birds. His recent book Birds of the Sierra Nevada is the definitive volume on the subject. 

Thanks to iPhone technology Judith was able to record the song of a bird calling in the night. Keith identified it as the Western Screech Owl although its song is more melodious than screeching.

Although there has been scant plastic on the beach there are always natural wonders to be found including these talons from a  Red-tailed Hawk? Peregrine Falcon? Hey, Keith- what do you think?

Where did all the plastic go?
Bravo Plasticity!!! Doug Woodring from Hong Kong traveled to New York this week to present Plasticity, a forum for movers and shakers in the plastic biz who have great ideas about where the plastic can go. This convocation brought together the folks who, with boots on the ground, are re-thinking plastic from "cradle to cradle." If we don't take action on their proposals it will be more like "cradle to grave." 

Via youTube we were able to tune in. We realize that we are on the action continuum, finally arriving at # 5 in the five stages of plastic awareness. We seem to have fully inhabited the first four, now ready for the last. We are ready to put our shoulders to the wheel in a new way.

1. Surprise at finding so much plastic stuff blotting the beauty of the world
2. Disgust at the short term thinking
3. Rage at profits over posterity
4. Counter the claims of the producers and lobbyists 
5. Find solutions using what's given (the marketplace)

Where did all the plastic go?
In Baltimore John Kellert has stopped the flow with a sun-powered water wheel that is collecting trash flowing down the river. Since May it has collected some 40 tons- which means 40 tons that won't end up in the ocean.

Where did all the plastic go?
Researchers also note that recent studies have shown bacterial populations growing on plastic microfragments, weighing them down and causing them to sink. From todays collecting- a great example of the bryozoans and barnacles inhabiting a piece of plastic.

Report about bryozoans: Ocean Watch 

Where did all the plastic go?
It's one more year around the sun. This week is Judith's birthday week- apropos she found a birthday balloon that looks like it definitely has had its share of trips around the sun and sea.

Monday, June 9, 2014

World Oceans

Trails and Oceans Stewardship Day organized by the Point Reyes National Seashore Association brought together ocean advocates: All One Ocean, Marin Debris Action Teams, Marin Horse Council and our own Plastic Forever for a day of hard work and big fun to celebrate National Trails Day, June 7 and World Oceans Day, June 8.

Over 40 volunteers convened at Limantour Beach. Special thanks to Jessica Taylor from the Point Reyes National Seashore Association who worked hard to assure the success of the day. Good job!

Ranger John reminded that if we happened to find an artifact that looks like it might be of historical significance we should mark the spot and let the park archeologist investigate before removing it.

Hummmmm - wondering if the plastic bits we find today might someday be considered historically significant? Thinking back to the oldest piece of plastic we have been able to verify — our green oil truck, vintage '46-'49.

Chris Pincetich led a training session about his system for counting plastic pieces. His lively banter and extensive knowledge made the trek down the beach a lesson in the importance of an relaxed demeanor when teaching about the dire consequences of plastic pollution. It was obvious he has done many workshops with school kids.

In 2011 Pincetich started monitor-ing plastic pollution on six beaches at Point Reyes. With scientific accuracy he counts the number, and documents the size and kind of plastic. He sets up transects, or measured grids, to collect data before removing the marine debris. He intends to use his data to inform larger conservation efforts.

Having just read Bill McKibben's review of Walden Warming by Richard Primack in the New York Review of Books we have a greater appreciation of value of data over time. For years Thoreau recorded the blossom dates for the flowers around Concord, Massachusetts. Scientists today have observed the blossoming at increasingly earlier dates — solid evidence of the fact of global warming. Pincetech's rigorous measurement is just the kind of documentation needed to argue the impact of plastic pollution on beaches and in the ocean. Hummmmm — wondering about that first piece of plastic that arrived on the beach? When? What?

After an intense morning the group hurried back for lunch but I meandered looking for treasures. As I rounded a corner I heard a woman shout out to her companion in what sounded somewhat like German. When we came face to face I eyed her collecting bag and asked, Find anything good? Isabel and I struck up a conversation — what brought her to the beach today? She was at Bovine Bakery. By chance, Jessica told her about the event so she decided to come out to the beach. She was visiting from Switzerland. Zurich. She had been impacted by an exhibition she had seen there and thought that as an artist she might start incorporating plastic into her work.

Could it be Out to Sea? at the Design Museum?
Yes. Yes. That was the show. It was incredibly well done- a perfect mix of message and art. 
Yes. Yes. Those were our photographs of microplastics; of our nurdles in Zurich all the way from Kehoe Beach.

We marveled at our fortuitous meeting. There at the beach — true evidence of World Oceans. We really are all one.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Global Goals, Citizen Solutions

Although Redwood City is only 26 miles south of San Francisco, thanks to the international gathering at the Global Philanthropy Forum conference at the Sofitel, we felt transported, far from home, truly Global Citizens. We were star struck by the illustrious group of presenters and participants. All of the heavy lifters were there — CEO's and CFO's from the Ford Foundation and the MacArthur to the folks on the ground from Africa, Brazil, Indonesia.

As the smallest NGO at the table (and sometimes we are not even that organized), we were honored to bring our message all the way from Kehoe Beach.

In the evening for the Citizen Ingenuity Reception we piled the table high with vases full of plastic and we set out glue guns so that everyone could have a hands-on crafting experience and make something to take home.



Saturday, April 19, 2014

Fire And Ice

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

When Robert Frost penned these words in 1920 he obviously had not yet read Lisa-ann Gershwin's book Stung! on Jellyfish Blooms and the Future of the Ocean.  If he had, he would be sure that the world is going to end in jellyfish bloom.

During our morning commute we enjoy what we call books-on-tape which is really Judith reading aloud to Richard. This week we were spell bound by a review of Gershwin's book They are Taking Over  by Tim Flannery in the New York Review of Books .

In his review Flannery recounts horror after horror from Gershwin's book about the crisis in the oceans and probable causes for the frightening demise:
By 2002 the total weight of Mnemiopsis in the Black Sea had grown so prodigiously that it was estimated to be ten times greater than the weight of all fish caught throughout the entire world in a year. The Black Sea had become effectively jellified. Nobody knows precisely how or why the jellyfish replaced the valuable fish species, but four hypotheses have been put forward.
The first is that stocks of anchovy, which compete with the jellyfish, collapsed because the jellyfish ate their eggs and young. A second is that jellyfish ate the same food as the anchovies, and starved them. A third is that overfishing left more food for the jellyfish, and the fourth is that climate change caused a decline in plankton or promoted a jellyfish bloom.

Thanks to Rietta Hohman blogger and Marine Science Instructor for the Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association for helping to spread the word about our project especially to the fish purveyors and restauranteurs who read the Pucci Food blog. Read her interview Judith and Richard Lang Create Beautiful and Thought-Provoking Plastic Art from Beach Trash 

Plastic art
Smoked Salmon from our Cavallo Point Series 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Cinéma vérité

We trekked to Kehoe today with three intrepid Tam High Schoolers: Hannah, Bella, and Paloma, who were on assignment to create a cinéma vérité style three minute piece to discover a cinematic truth - and what better truth than to document plastic on the beach.

Unfortunately, there was almost no plastic. Especially embarrassing after we had described the great swales we would find and had shown them our art work and our vast collection inventory. So sad, it was our worst day ever, the beach was clean. To make the most of the tiny pieces we were finding we fell to our knees to dramatize our diligent work. Perhaps this is the new truth = no plastic. We could see the bold headlines: R&J Plastics gone bankrupt. R&J Plastics out of business.

After a high tide, the backside of the dunes often catch the drift of plastic so we decided to go round to take the trail home. Almost invisible because of its diminutive size and camoflage color, Judith found the tinniest soldier, a 3/4" bazooka guy tucked under some brush and nearby him almost 50 nurdles scattered in the sand. We were saved, we regained our creditbility with the filmmakers- maybe there really is plastic on the beach- and they exclaimed - "hey this is fun!!!"

Back at the Dance Palace in Point Reyes the benefit concert for All One Ocean was in full swing. There was lots of hoopin' and hollerin' for a good cause. AOO is a SF Bay Area non-profit devoted to educating people about the destructive impact of trash by providing Beach Clean UP stations stocked with reusable bags, a simple way for beach goers to help clean up. 

Our What's for supper? table display greeted concert go-ers. After a long day we asked ourselves What's for supper? and headed for the Palace Market.

While standing in the grocery checkout line we were recognized by a couple who remembered our presentation for the Geography of Hope conference. We struck up a conversation. Richard told the story of Monopoly:

How can this tiny piece of trash point us toward the motivation to change the world? It's no wonder that in our 15 years of collecting trash from 1000 yards of one beach we've found 2 of the little houses after all 6 billion have been made. And what is it we need to understand? The trail of art as a piece of culture that reflects, and the point of culture is to reflect ourselves. As art became more abstract, money became abstract. As metaphor focuses thought, we use art to make metaphor to make understanding.

As life-long producers of art work, essentially the job of creating metaphor to understand the mysteries of the world, we have chosen several objects fraught with meaning, that from point to line to cube to time/space, show us in a humanly graspable way how we may find the path toward sustainable human existence on planet earth. One little monopoly house opened the world for us, from ideas of progressive experiential education to the economic theory of the Georgists a single tax scheme that had among its adherents conservative and liberal alike. John Kenneth Galbraithe, Phillipe Legrain, Sun Yat Sen, Frank Lloyd Wright to name a few. Lizzie Maggie an acolyte of Henry George invented the game to give the players the feeling of psychic shame at the defeat of your fellow players…the question this little house asks, Why did Lizzie Maggie fail so badly in her mission? Because it's fun to win?

and that's the truth!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Time and tide

Time and tide wait for no man.

Although the origin of this phrase is uncertain, it's clear that the phrase is ages old and that it predates modern English. The earliest known record is from St. Marher, 1225:

"And te tide and te time þat tu iboren were, schal beon iblescet."

Sometimes it takes us a long time to discover the source of a particular piece of plastic. For years we have collected small turquoise fish-shaped pieces. At school with Grandson Aloysius, the revelation was at hand. He is a big fan of the plastic swimming pool filled with plastic balls and will while-away over and over again tossing the balls up into the air. When it was time to ride the horsey, as I removed him from the pool, to my amazement I saw embossed fish shapes on the bottom that I recognized as the same as our beach finds.

From Kehoe Beach 

Later, during our walk home we found another kind of tide and time: a sidewalk shopping enticement, a battery-operated plastic scuba guy clacking over and over again against the edge of a pool that was way too small for his enthusiastic strokes. Needless to say, Aloysius was a big fan. And for me, something existential, yes, time and tide...