When someone asks you how you’ll celebrate Earth Day 2011, perhaps you’ll shrug and mumble something about recycling, or carpooling to work. For college students and young professionals, it seems cumbersome to find a spare moment, put down our coffee/economics textbook/IPhone, and appropriately celebrate our humble, celestial abode: planet Earth. As much as I cringe to admit this, Earth Day brings back memories of elementary school, and ill-executed, construction paper homages to the holiday: “Save Mother Nature; She’s crying,” plastered alongside a teary-eyed image of planet Earth. (Oddly enough, the materials used in said endeavours were not the most environmentally friendly).
Although my inner skeptic may be rearing its ugly head, I do think that there is a way to play your part on Earth Day, without building a car made of solar panels, or planting an organic, microbiotic garden of turnips. For young adults, sometimes the best way to be your own John Muir is to simply listen, or educate yourself. Pam Longobardi and other artists provided the opportunity to do just that. At Georgia State University, Longobardi and other Atlanta artists partnered with the Center for Collaborative and International Arts (CENCIA), and hosted the Nature of Waste: An Art Meets Science Symposium. With ocean plastic pollution as its cause, the symposium uses visual arts as a platform for sustainable solutions–marine debris will be reprocessed into artwork.
Personally, I love this approach to oceanic pollution–rather than serve up steaming dishes of guilt, and barrage us with images of sea otters tangled in six-pack plastic rings, the environmentalists and artists behind this symposium engage in a more optimistic approach. In this case, one man’s marine trash is another man’s artistic treasures. Perhaps the pollution solution isn’t to wave a wand, and make all of the environmental illnesses disappear, but rather convert the plastic soda rings into the stuff of beautiful artwork.