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Zooming in on plastic strapping threaded together to form #LitterCUBE                                 J Barton

My ongoing musings on our entanglement with plastic pollution and its interconnectedness  with the sustainability of our environment both here in Scotland and globally was greatly aided by visitng the  most recent An Talla Solais exhibition Murmur an exhibition of 5 women artists  reflecting on Climate Change .

Both the exhibition and a gallery talk by  John McIntyre (scientist) illustrated  the linkage between our actions and changes in world ecology.  John used this diagram called a  ‘Muir Web‘ drawn by Landscape ecologist  Chris Harrison as a visualization of habitat relationships and ecological associations of the Manhattan island, circa 1609.

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John Muir:  “When we try to pick out anything by itself we find that it is bound fast by a thousand invisible cords that cannot be broken, to everything in the universe.”

Our inter-connectedness and responsibility to the environment, our species and each other was further wonderfully delivered that evening in a film of the American  philosopher/artist Donna Haraway entitled ‘Story Telling for Earthly Survival’  by film-maker Fabrizio Terranova.  Donna animatedly tells  anecdotes of her dogs prowess at complex agility courses, adding another layer to her own visual analogy of  our ecological and social mesh being as a ‘Cats Cradle’

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As I begin to select elements of the NEO Terra exhibition to take to Holyrood  in December to share with MSP’s and Ministers I am convinced of the importance of taking the #LitterCUBES particularly this one made from strapping  to help with imagining the depth and complexity of the issue that we are all enmeshed in.

COPcube2 - J BartonMy intention is to engage as many people as possible in the seeing of  the ecological web/mesh we hold in our hands.  To do this I am working up an idea to tour the       #LitterCUBES ( in much bigger forms) to harbours and festivals around the coast.

Please leave any suggestions  below of possible locations,  where you can see this working and ways to help raise funding to make this happen .  Thank you

 

NEO Terra: first sighting

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The first sighting of the exhibition NEO Terra, an archipelago of  islands  was seen on Saturday at Da Gadderie, Lerwick,  by an inquisitive, thoughtful and appreciative audience. These first shots fleetingly record a walk through the exhibition, around the central floor installation a 10 metre map with plastiglomerate archipelago within the Polymer Sea.  Exiting this space the Terra Nova animation made with Shetland filmmaker JJ Jamieson illuminates the origin and making of the islands/the plastiglomerates.

Turning left visitors enter an  interactive space where plastiglomerates with their place of discovery can be examined. 60 beach samples from around the islands are arranged side by side , a selection of which  with commonly found microplastics  can be magnified and projected.  Notes can be left of observations.  Opposite is a photo documentation of education workshops carried out in schools this spring.

Five cubes constructed out of plastic items found on beaches and a simply drawn timeline notating how long different items/materials might last on beaches completes the exhibition.

The exhibition runs until the 12th of November at Shetland Museum & Archives and is open very day 10-4pm. I will be present in the gallery on many days during the exhibition naming coastal features and analysing the samples collected. I look forward to meeting visitors particularly on Friday afternoons between 2-4pm

Many thanks: to JJ Jamieson for his creative collaboration and technical dexterity in making the animation. Thanks to John Hunter Shetland Museum & Archives curator for going along with plans for re-configuring the gallery, physical help in constructing the walls and keeping us smiling while installing and to Davy Cooper from the Shetland Amenity Trust for lending us equipment and calm we can fix it support. 

Installation was only possible with the help of artist/photographer Ailsa, art students Alice and Kirsty, Jane from Sumburgh Head, and Sita Goudie and Alice from the Trust.

Thanks to Jean Urquhart for making the connection between my work on the NW coast and the work of  Sita  Goudie running the Shetland Amenity Trusts Environmental Improvement work who in turn enabled the Littoral Art Project in Shetland to happen.

Plus all my friends and supporters on the mainland and world wide thank you !

cs-logo-1-copyand travel support from North Link Ferries

Shetland Notes 5: Collecting

As my expedition to Shetland enters its last few weeks I am travelling to as many beaches and foreshores that I can to examine the littoral zones and to collect Plastiglomerates.

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This morning I picked my way carefully along the tideline of Channer wick beach a steep pebble beach on the eastern side of Shetlands mainland keeping an eye out for waders nests and watching the Fulmar chicks fledging out of burrows set in the bank of the back beach while I myself was being in turn watched by three common seals basking close in to the shore line. Facing southeast this beach is cleaner than most beaches around the  Shetland/World though plastic litter is there  knitted into the raised  back beach landscape

My main aim is to collect up as amny of the Plastiglomerates I can find, so far I have found them on nearly every beach I have surveyed, even on the beautiful world renowned St Ninians (tabola), where they tend to be small fragments collecting usually at the south west corner of the beach.

My notes help me keep track of my finds, the type of beach, aspect amount of easily visible litter and the amount of  what I collect.

The numbers of sacks are a  crude summary of the amount of litter that each beach is subject to and the prevailing  tidal  flows and whether the  tidal flows are able to wash  the litter out to sea once it’s there or whether the landforms entraps the litter like at beaches such as Burrick (above left) where so far we have collected 6 sacks,  or at  Meal where I lifted several large slabs off the rocks,  or at Mangaster (below) and Mavis Grind  where the the Hightide lines are almost as deeply littered as at Burick.

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Mavis Grind is a significant point in Shetlands Geo Park  being a narrow isthmus between the Atlantic and the North Sea where boats were hauled traditionally from one side to other to avoid the long row around.  On my journey north today I intend revisiting Mavis Grind to try and understand  more clearly the significance of the landforms (Taings : tonues of land ) that entrap what the Atalantic and passers by leave. Connectivity permitting I will share my findings.

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Alongside collecting the Plastiglomerates  usually within the high tide zone, I have been taking small samples of sand/seaweed from the splash zones that evidently contain micro-plastics.  This week I will ask Higher school pupils on Whalsey Island to examine and compare samples taken from their own shorelines with those I have taken from around the Shetland Mainland.   I look forward to their observations creative interpretations and  wonderfully visiting another one of Shetlands 100+ Islands.

Shetland Notes 4: Learning

A big aim of mine is to inspire young people to creatively tackle the massive environmental issue of plastic pollution in our marine and coastal environments.

Pupils in Shetland each year take part in the great Da Voar Redd Up spring litter pick and so know only too well the size of the problem and how much effort it takes to collect and carry hundreds of bags of litter from remote beaches.  Last week 70 Scalloway primary pupils cleaned Burick Beach a mile west of the school they collected 363 bags of bruck (rubbish) off the beach approximately 100m long.

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Jane Outram (environmental officer for the Shetland Amenity Trust) & myself have now begun to deliver three educational workshops across Shetland. Each workshop begins with an observational session on a beach near to the school. The outside learning element of the day long workshops fitting well with many of the schools, as writ on the wall at Nesting Primary School

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We are criss-crossing the isles to deliver 3 different workshops devised for different ages across the Primary and Higher School years with the aim of looking at how we can tackle the litter before it arrives on our beaches, so Shetland’s  children’s children won’t have to collect hundreds of bags of rubbish each year.

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We have had an amazing response over 14 schools will be taking part, including the outer isles. Pupils taking part will also complete a questionnaire developed and written by researchers Lynette Robertson, Agnes Patuano and Reyhaneh Mozaffar so we can assess the benefit of our creative approach to investigating  beach litter and how we can help to reduce plastics in the environment. So far we have delivered a training session to members of Shetland Environmental Education Partnerships (ShEEP) an environmental project which will continue to help schools deliver the workshops on in future years.

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Our first ‘Close Examination’ into the micro plastics of our beaches was carried out by lower high pupils of Aith School, who after taking a selection of particle samples from their local beach, used simple separation techniques to discover the variety of forms that plastic particles take. Using electronic magnification identification of the types and possible sources of the particles was discussed.

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Using projected images of  drawings of sand hoppers, the smallest organisms known to ingestion micro fibres, we began to experiment with ways of visually making the links between the ingestion of  micro plastics by marine organisms, the related hazards particularly to birds and mammals. The pupils and biology and art teachers now plan to explore this connection further through graphics.  I look forward to seeing the work!

Year 7 pupils enthusiastically took up the roles of a Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) team, on the western end of Burick Beach to collect evidence to carry out a ‘Return to Sender’ workshop. Back in the art room our team eagerly and thoroughlyscrutinised their evidence to build up a detailed product profile.

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Each Crime Scene Investigation team set about interrogating the litter items to learnas much as possible about the type of material it was made from,who manufacturered the product, the retailer involved, plus  recycling symbols and anti-littering information etc.

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With this information pupils are now composing highly visual letters, FaceBook messages and Tweets to be sent shortly to manufacturers/retailers to ask for their help in reducing packaging, encouraging recycling and investing in  research into biodegradable products to help them keep their beach free of their products. Follow the blog to see their work and manufacturers responses

A cross age group of Outer Isle School pupils from Foula, Fetlar, the Skerries and Fair Isle visiting mainland Shetland searched for ‘Future Fossils’ amongst the Voxter shoreline stones. The children took part in 2 full sessions collecting and examining rock samples,  and then excitedly broke open the fossil pebbles to reveal a variety of common objects found on shorelines all around Shetland.

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Later they took time to carefully work out how long litter items such as plastic bottle tops, gun wads, balloons and ropes might last into the future and considered this in context of the time line of the world, Shetlands geology and their own existence having put their names and birth dates onto the line.  A powerful days learning outside, together. I look forward to meeting all of these children in the interactive laboratory that I am designing for the exhibition at Da Gadderie.

Special interactive school event at the museum on Thursday 27th October

Many thanks to Awards for All , Zero Waste Scotland and North Link Ferries for enabling this educational part of the project to  be devised and facilitated .