NEO Terra: first sighting

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.

IMG_1940

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.

IMG_1695 (2)

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.

IMG_1694 (4)

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.

IMG_1720 (2)

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

learning words (2)

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.

school workshop locations (2)

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.

LAP Edu Pack 2   LAP Edu Pack 3

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.

IMG_1519 (3)

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.

DSCF9913   DSCF9923   DSCF9919 evidence board

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.

IMG_1598

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.

observation drawing rocks & FF Voxter magnifying  Voxter timeline Voxter

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 .

Shetland Notes 1: Docked

IMG_1280Firmly docked in Shetland I am now happily tied up with the Littoral Art Project for the next 2 months.   Many  Many thanks to North Link Ferries for their support and a smooth crossing on MV Hrossey.

 

 

 

 

IMG_1269

Greeted by a wintery day – I am glad to be back and  to begin making an animation film with JJ Jamieson and to lead educational workshops in partnership with Shetland Amenity Trust to schools and organisations across the islands. We will be investigating the longevity of plastic and ways to creatively help to reduce the waste that’s picked up off beaches every year. This week is the annual Da Voar Redd Up the UK’s biggest spring clean up, the beach clean event that I took part in last year with Scalloway  School

Burwick beach WS before DSCF9507 IMG_1293

On route to spend my first few nights on the West side of the mainland I stop to check out a beautiful beach Sand Sound, perfectly named.  On arriving I see the Redd Up bags mounded up with random objects on top car bumper with nets thrown over and meet nearby resident Mike Barnett collecting litter along the beach. Like thousand’s of other Redd Up volunteers this week he has been well at work picking up and bagging every type of beach litter.   You can see the great work that community members have achieved if you go to the Dunna Chuck Bruck   As Mike bows down picking up pieces of cord and rope in the  wind, he voices what many  volunteers over the past 4 years have said to me about litter picking ‘It becomes so addictive , especially when you know if you leave a piece by next year it will be broken down into 4 pieces then the next 8 pieces …..and on’

IMG_1302

This is a common addiction I sharealong with most beach cleaners i.e. the compulsion to keep going, picking up piece after piece even when you’re tired and its freezing cold and snowing like today! The compulsion is that the more you pick up the cleaner you leave it, which is of course true BUT sadly we know only too well it’s only a temporary fix.  The gratifying ‘high’ only lasts until the next spring tides

My aim in creating this project and travelling to communities on the frontline of the issue is to inspire us to find ways to reduce the waste in the system and to be more sustainable which inturn allows us to negate the need for this addiction.

Keep tabs on the Littoral story  by clicking  the follow button on this page and confirm with Word Press when prompted. Please pass the link on to as many people as possible and if in Shetland get in touch if you find any plastic rocks ‘Plastiglomerates’ like the ones below  as I am collecting them to use in my work and am happy to pick them up.

IMG_4456  Plastic Rock  Burn beach melted rope plastic rock reveal copy

In the meantime well done to everyone who has/is taking part in the Redd Up here in Shetland and all spring MCS Beach Clean events  around the UK !

CO2 Count

Having recently been  introduced to looking at the natural landscape  in terms of carbon storage and points of exchange through taking part in the Flux Chamber investigation  at the Environmental Arts Festival Scotland EAFS. I am increasingly conscious that the litter that I and thousands of people this weekend  (18th-21st Sept) are surveying and collecting for the Marine Conservation Society’s (MCS) annual Big Beach Watch across the UK  represents vast volumes of wasted/discarded carbon, that may of only been used once.

plastic bag scottish P1090105 cover image bag on sand

The MCS annual survey enables pollution sources to be identified and is a vital tool in being able to take action to pressurise DEFRA and governments to bring in positive environmental legislation e.g. the charges for one time use plastic carrier bags. Last October our MCS survey on Ullapool East Shore Beach recorded a marked drop in the number of carrier bags. Having just helped out on the Beach Watch Event at Robyn Hoods Bay (a North Yorkshire beach regularly cleaned), the need for the ban to be introduced in England is very obvious as shredded and degrading  bags  cling to the seaweed along the strand-line, not surprising as 7.6bn were handed out to English shoppers in 2014.  The partial ban will take effect next month (October) and will hopefully will have a similar effect to Wales where there has been dramatic drop in carrier bag litter, in Scotland there as been an 80% drop in their use  since 2014.

DSCF9503 80 bags +
My hope is that MCS 2015 analysis of the Beach Watch Survey will show a marked decrease in the  thousands of heavy bags of litter/carbon collected and hauled up the beaches this weekend. Its estimated 80% of litter will be plastic, the massive bags of litter like all ‘unsorted/mixed’ waste in bins around the UK will be transported to waste transfer stations and then on to landfill sites, such as the one I visited at Caithness last year . The non-biodegradable plastic (engineered from oil) buried in these sites ironically   may last  longer than the million year process took to form the oil from marine organisms.

landfill mound

The weight of such carbon use and waste is  thankfully being felt and highlighted as the Climate Change Conference COP21 approaches, fantastically creative ideas about a new ways of approaching use of resources and reducing environmental damage are being aired BBC R4’s Future Proofing programme explained positive ideas on the ‘Sharing Economy’ you can ‘share’ via the Twitter #future.

clyde tide line 1

Low down on the tide line of the Clyde
I along with artists across Scotland  ArtCOP Scotland and the World are creating artworks and events to capture in some way the urgency and hope that is needed to draw the commitments and resolve from politicians and most of all from ourselves and our communities. The Capefarewell arts organisation has just launched their Art COP21 events calendar and is encouraging us all to take part with events addressing climate change. My contribution will begin with a short film compiled from images low down on the tide line of the Clyde . The film will be shown on line here and projected at beach locations I visit  during the autumn.

For details of locations of the projection locations and dates please click on the blog FOLLOW button above and please share any Beach Watch observations made this weekend by leaving a comment below.

Many thanks to Laura Shirra and Noel Hawkins for taking on organising the Beach Watch event in Ullapool, I will share their findings in due course and compare with the previous two years results.
MCSS & MCS Beach Watch events continue today and tomorrow check out and join one near you http://www.mcsuk.org/beachwatch

Carrier Bag charges in Scotland have reduced the number of  one use bags in Scotland/http://www.theguardian.com/environment/plasticbags