A dedicated group of ocean advocates and artists met at the University of California, Santa Cruz for the 2nd annual SS Palo Alto Roundtable this week. 

Some scientists are warning that our oceans may stop breathing within ten years if we continue to raise the planet's temperatures, let our chemicals and crap seep into the seas, and fish in brutal and unsustainable ways. To that end, our wild idea of creating an international umbrella forum for artists to reach out to these issues got a step closer this week at the SPARC, Social Practice Arts Research Center in California. It's a long term project, conceptualized when I first was Artist-in-Resident at UCSC in 2009, and now starting to take steam thanks to some amazing individuals.

Students, artists, an art collector, and environmentalists joined marine scientist Daniel Sippl-Sweezey, PhD. candidate at U.C. Davis, and SPARC's co-directors, Dee Hibbert-Jones, EG Crichton, and Elliot Anderson for a lively discussion on how to make this happen. June Gorman, of TEF, the Transformative Education Forum, and an ArtDialogue Advisory Council member, started the day off with some words on 'systems analysis' and empathy: how to create a management system that includes overall organization of all our project elements (education, community outreach, inspiration, policy, recreation, conservation, etc.) and push that into an emotional AND scientific paradigm.

Rachel Kippen from the local NGO SOS, Save Our Shores , gave a terrific background on her organization's work as well as some ideas on how to keep a presence at the Ship in Aptos fulltime. Janeil Engelstad of MAP, showed us inspiring examples of other similar projects like the Mobile Ecology Art Lab that uses containers to exhibit artwork and engage the public. Randy Widera, a longtime local activist and involved with Friends of the State Parks Santa Cruz for many years, mentioned that indeed the Monterey Bay is a shipping lane with containers passing every day. This engendered a lively discussion on easy and availble containers for material to establish a local presence for our project. 

From Geneva, we skyped in Michael S. Jones at UNEP- Safe Planet's liason to our Campaign for the Responsibility of Hazardous Chemicals and Wastes. He congratulated us on our perserverance on this innovative idea to educate the public on dangerous toxins floating to sea and eventually our bodies. At Dee's questions, he recommended the UNEP Yearbook 2011 (chapter 5 on Micro-plastic debris and POPs pollution) for further discussion on the issues.  

Randy's opening remarks brought us all back to the origins of our environmentalism: the native tribes whose stewardship of the land and sea were sustainable by definition, and could still hold for us examples of conseravation. He pointed out the "Diablo" line, that runs through California and is a geographic marker for how we measure and divide everything in this state from districts (before gerrymandering) to earthquake faults. By coincidence or synchronisity, the SS Palo Alto points like a compass into the sea at the south end of that line. Summing up the wider view of State Parks, and their challenges, we were gently reminded of the difficulties ahead in any cross-pollination of organizations, especially if run by state officials and not elected representatives. 

Bringing together ocean advocates from around the globe may be the easy part of this project. Inviting all 66 marine labratories and organizations of the Monterey Bay could be possible. There is no bigger bureaucracy in the world than the United Nations and we already have their thumbs up. The creative spirit of the involved artists is the backbone of our inspiration on this project. But it was in the afternoon session of Dee's sculpture class that the purpose of this idea came home: the youth. Talking to 40-some students about the state of the ocean and what we can do about it gave me hope. By turns enthusiastic and appalled at the information they received, we left the room with some new advocates and a few interns, ready to help.

The future does, after all, belong to them.  


2012-10-26 - 22:36:00  by barbarabenish

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