… Abundance, in the company of  350 people attending the  TEDx* talks on Friday at  the University Edinburgh.

TED ent bottle

My contribution was to create an installation to spark discussion and catalyse debate about Scotland’s problem of beach litter

Talk attendees were asked to follow the sound of the sea  to find the installation,  along the way passing  statements about the condition of the beaches and litter found. Reaching the installation room they were asked to Enter, Consider  and Respond –  by tweeting a picture and comment. On entering the room the viewer was confronted by a collage of projected images of seemingly massive floating plastic  bottles which emanated from seven overhead projectors positioned throughout the room . Participants were encouraged to walk around, reposition bottles on the projectors  and to ask questions about the issue. Many engaging in discussion with me about the  major part that plastics plays in the problem.

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A display of a few of the ‘future  fossils’ helped to introduce the issue of the longevity of the litter problem and my new crowd funding appeal video gave an on the beach background to the project.  In the centre of the floor a 1 metre square was marked out with plastic drinks bottles I had recently found in a similar area on a beach last month , bottles like the ones we use everyday for 5 minutes which might have  contained  water, juice, coke …. prompting the question why are we using bottles made of a material that lasts up to 1,000+years when the contents are drunk in a few minutes ? Prompting comments like:

 It’s not even good for you to drink out of ta plastic bottle!!  

Where does what you drop end up? Here               One day the ocean will throw it all back at us

We’re paying today the price  for a  mind set from a time when environmentalism still didn’t exist in our vocabularies

Make rubbish valuable e.g. non throwaway bottles.

There needs to be an incentive to recycle. For example in Scandinavia you’re charged 20c per bottle if you return it , you’re given money back. In my time living in Finland I didn’t once see bottles lying around.

Please comment on the installation and the event

* TEDx is designed to give communities, organizations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experiences at the local level. TED’s mission is to freely promote “ideas worth spreading”. TED Technology, Education,  Design. Talks are offered for free viewing on line in 2012 TED Talks had been watched one billion times worldwide


As I head North again through a submerged southern English landscape which is still  suffering from this winters Extreme Weather events, I took time this weekend to stop off and  join the Oxford Climate Forum an annual student led conference  which provided a platform for a wide range of passionate expert speakers under the banner ‘Climate Change: An Opportunity’. Their goal like mine through the Littoral art project being to inspire people to play a role in the solution of tackling and mitigating the connected problems of beach litter pollution and Climate Change

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The speakers from across the world and across the disciplines put forward evidence to show that Climate Change is a concern and opportunity for everyone to be looking to solve. The  keynote speech from Dipal Barua was wonderful example of on the ground positive action of  affordable solar power being able to improve living conditions of rural communities by providing electricity at the same time as cutting Green House Gas emissions kerosene lamps, plus the benefits of rural employment in the support training for solar maintenance engineers particularly for Women. The Bright Green Energy Foundation  by putting into place affordable financing system means that by 2013 2.8million Solar Home Systems had been installed in Bangladesh in remote areas, their aim is to provide 50% population with polar power by 2020 becoming the first Solar Nation!

This amazing story was followed by an Energy Panel consisting a group of experts who are engaged in researching areas of energy generation methods, applications, demands, efficiency and sustainability, each gave their view of the energy situation in the wealthy nations. They agreed that the potential of solar power in the UK could only  predictably play a very small role, renewable energy was seen as a smart but at the moment having only a small impact, with most power still coming from fossil and nuclear fuels. Points of consensus on the production side included  the need to capture emissions, invest in better grid systems, invest in efficient power storage , integrate power sources and improve long term financing systems . On the demand side Dr Nick Eyre made a strong argument for social change as a means to reduce energy consumption as individual households consume 50% of energy used in Europe & the US. The biggest reduction in demand for energy so far has been attributed to energy saving light bulb measures!  Another positive example of the effectiveness of social change has been seen in London with the introduction of congestion charges and improved public transport, a comparison of city commutes found that the cost of the per capita commute was of emissions was 50% less than in any other city!

The need to reduce the energy consumption of transport was highlighted many times by many contributors’ throughout the forum, with David Buckland (artist) sharing the disturbing grim details of the US’s  daily consumption of fuel  being 400,000,000 gallons with the added details that most of the energy in cars and vans is spent moving the vehicle and not the person .

Buckland is the founder and director of the Cape Farewell project which has immersed scientists and artists for over a decade in environments threatened in by climate change. Having recently visited Cape Farewell’s Seachange  (Tionndadh na Mara in Gaelic) exhibition at the Edinburgh Botanics  which celebrated the work of 30  artists and scientists who worked collaboratively and independently to consider the relationships between people, place and resources in the context of climate change  on the Western Isles from Mull and the Small Isles, Skye and the Inner and Outer Hebrides to St Kilda, Lewis, Rona and the Shiants.  Last year a follow up expedition to Orkney & Shetland found writer Gorm Ashurst  posting a an expedition blog Nano Incursion about walking into a tiny bay on the west of Shetland. His record highlighting how even on this island with the sparsest of populations he found similar beach litter scenes  to those we are familiar with on the mainland and all along the Scottish, UK and World beaches. 

Buckland’s quest for founding the project was to understand and make the language of Climate Change more accessible, he and the artists  that join the project expeditions create images, poetry, installations, films, stories that visualise what is happening to our climate. The  artist’s work that Buckland shared in his passionate lecture was poignant, engaging and inspirational.

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His own recent addition to the project being the installation of a ‘ready made’ which took the form of a combustion engine appropriately located in Texas,  which brought home the significant part that this technology has in the  debate .  Cape Farewell  with its scientific partners is presently focusing on the idea of visioning an ‘Energy Renaissance’ which develops the most efficient energy sources  across the world capturing solar energy from the Sahara and distributes the power to populations  through a super efficient grid. Here in the UK utilizing geothermal energy from beneath our feet and harnessing tidal energy from around the coast. 


Plans for the first tidal lagoon are well underway for Swansea Bay, the vision being for the lagoon to generate electricity, and to be a conservation and cultural resource. It is estimated that five tidal lagoons around the UK could by 2018-25 produce 10% of the UK’s energy. Such bold projects in tandem with better transport systems and changes in social habits that reduce the demand for more energy would indeed be a great start to an Energy Renaissance.

From this talk in particular and from the many other fascinating contributions I have broadened my knowledge and understanding of Climate Change and topped up my own power store of enthusiasm. With which I intend  to develop my practice as an artist working to inspire others about the issue of beach litter and our need to change our social habits that are its cause. I hope to share more of the CF contributions in future posts .

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On a rare trip down south I am taking time to see what’s happening on the beaches of Dorset. After months of storms, rain and flooding the access to most beaches is tricky  but what I am finding out after sliding onto the rocks and sand is both sobering and hopeful with interesting positive initiatives.

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While there was only limited access to the beach at Kimmeridge Bay due to minimal low tides and the Dorset firing range flags flying I was still able to see that stony strandline under the cliff edge was punctuated with dense knots of tangled line, rope and rubber strips presumably originating from fishing gear The knots ranged from 30cm -1.5m across, big objects to be floating in the sea and to be hauled off the beaches by volunteers.

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Kimmeridge is fortunate to be home to the Purbeck Marine Wildlife Centre (run by the Dorset Wildlife Trust) which promotes active beach cleaning and creative ways to recycle the bigger lengths of fishing gear washed up by selling them (nets & bouys) to visitors to  decorate their garages and garden sheds.  

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Both Kimmeridge and Swanage Bay beaches plus several other smaller ones I visited have adopted the Sea Clean initiative of installing simple pipe bins to encourage beach goers to collect the thousands of metres of plastic fishing line littering the beaches. I found Swanage Sailing club beach approximately 100m long littered with tens of smashed lobster pots and the ubiquitous plastic bottles. Feeling shocked and saddened I was happy to hear that the beach is also home to a large variety of seaweeds which I will go back to take a closer look at.  


Chapmans Pool between Swanage and Kimmeridge proved the trickiest decent yet and an an even harder ascent several hours later. The continuing winter storms have washed that idea clear away as I look along the volume of litter that is backed up along the slipway wall I feel that drowning feeling I first felt on Altandu beach on the Ross-shire coast, when I made my decision to somehow address this issue began.

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Plastic bottles … How many bottles can be washed up onto 1 sq m of beach? On this day on this beach I have counted 23 besides all the other things.