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Posts Tagged ‘marine life’

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Photo: Ocean Sole
Says Ocean Sole: “We turn flip-flops into art and functional products and in turn raise visual awareness of the problem. … We are not only creating employment for a country that has 40% unemployment, but also sending a message about how we can help our planet.”

Around the world, flip flops have provided cheap footware for billions of people. Everyone loves them. Unfortunately, they’re part of the planet’s growing plastics and synthetics problem, a tsunami of trash that damages the environment and threatens marine life.

Some years ago, the company Ocean Sole was created to do something about that and at the same time provide employment in a high-unemployment region of Africa.

As Olivia Yasukawa and Thomas Page reported at CNN in 2017, “The shores of Watamu on the Kenyan coast should be pristine. They’re not. Downstream from an ecological disaster brewing a continent away, these placid waters are bearing the brunt of a foot-born problem: your flip flops. …

” ‘Over three billion people can only afford that type of shoe,’ says Erin Smith of Ocean Sole, a conservation group and recycling collective. ‘They hang on to them, they fix them, they duct tape them, mend them and then usually discard them.’ The average lifespan of a flip flop is two years, she adds.

“They’re ubiquitous, and the modern day synthetic rubber flip flop is not going away. In fact, tons of them are washing up on the East African coast. Reports suggest that at least eight million tons of plastic enters our oceans every year.

By 2050, there could be more plastic than fish in the seas by weight. …

” ‘We are actually receivers of pretty much the rest of the emerging world’s marine pollution,’ [Smith] argues. And a significant quantity of the pollution which appears on East Africa’s beaches come from discarded flip flops — approximately 90 tons a year. … They’re not only an eyesore, but a direct health hazard, and with no hope of biodegrading.

” ‘Our founder Julie Church back in the 90s discovered an entire beach … was just covered in flip flops,’ Smith says. ‘What she saw were not just dead fish that had been trying to eat in their natural habitat, but turtles unable to come up on to land and actually hatch. [The pollution] started to kill the plant life, it started to kill the crabs on the sand … we have deserted beaches that used to have communities there, that used to be able to fish, and the whole ecosystem has been ruined by this massive increase in marine pollution.’

“Matilda Mathias, a debris collector from the ‘Blue Team’ in Watamu, cites the benefits to the tourist industry when the beaches are clean, and says ‘we also benefit from the money.’

“Most of the detritus is recycled, some is reused, but in the case of flip flops, they’re upcycled. Ocean Sole has trained a team of 40-or-so artisans in a workshop in Nairobi to craft sculptures from these pre-owned, unloved objects into a source of income. Importing flip flops from recycling crews along the East Coast and from as far away as Zanzibar, Smith estimates the Ocean Sole team can repurpose approximately 800,000 flip flops a year. …

“There’s little chance artisans will run out of raw material any time soon as long as our flip flop habit remains.

” ‘I think it’s time for us to start looking for an alternative shoe, or an alternative material, to fit that kind of fashion need,’ argues Smith.”

More at Ocean Sole, here, and at CNN, here.

Warthog made of recycled flip flops by Ocean Sole. Many zoo gift shops carry these products.

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When I was a child, the great blue whale was the attraction I most looked forward to seeing at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Now my grandchildren look forward to it.

But in an article on the website called Seeker about how the whale gets cleaned every year, I learned that the model I saw was not anatomically correct.

“The original model was based on measurements taken by American Museum of Natural History scientists in the 1920s. The measurements were of a dead female blue whale captured by a whaling station in the southern Atlantic, and although the artists who crafted the whale followed the original records, there were anatomical inaccuracies, likely because the whale that the scientists examined was already decaying. …

” ‘It was the wrong color. It had bulging eyes, probably due to decomposition,’ [Melanie Stiassny, curator for the Department of Ichthyology] said. In 2001, artists adjusted the body color and flattened the whale’s eyes, also adding a navel that had originally been omitted.

“Today, the [whale] resembles living blue whales more closely than before. However, while scientists’ knowledge of blue whales has certainly improved, there is still much about these giants that remains elusive.

” ‘We still don’t know how many blue whales are out there,’ Stiassny said. ‘We don’t know exactly where they go to breed. They still remain one of the great mysteries of the ocean.’ ”

More at Seeker.

Art: Richard Ellis

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Photo: Cornell University
Small predators related to jellyfish (Hydroids) and other marine creatures made of glass may be viewed at the Corning Museum of Glass until January 8, 2017.

Visitors to the Boston area are often taken to see the famous glass flowers created by Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and displayed at the Harvard Museum of Natural History in Cambridge. I have taken guests there myself.

But it was news to me that the Blaschkas also created sea creatures in glass. Many of those were acquired by Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

According to Wikipedia, the marine specimens came before the flowers.

“Leopold Blaschke was born in Český Dub, Bohemia, to a family which originated from Josefuv Dul (Antoniwald) in the Iser or Izera Mountains, a region known for processing glass, metals and gems. The family had also spent time in the glassblowing industry of Venice.

“Leopold displayed artistic skills as a child, and was apprenticed to a goldsmith and gemcutter. He then joined the family business, which produced glass ornaments and glass eyes. He developed a technique which he termed ‘glass-spinning,’ which permitted the construction of highly precise and detailed works in glass. He also Latinised his family name to ‘Blaschka,’ and began to focus the business on the manufacture of glass eyes.

“In 1853, Leopold was suffering from ill health and was prescribed a sea voyage. He traveled to the United States and back, using the time at sea to study and draw sea animals, primarily invertebrates.’ ” Read how he started making replicas of them at Wikipedia.

The Guardian alerts us to the current exhibition of the Blaschkas’ marine work in upstate New York. “Father and son team Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka created perfect reproductions of invertebrate marine life in glass in their studio in Germany in the 19th century. Cornell University acquired a collection of 570 items in 1885, and a selection of these can be seen at an exhibition at the Corning Museum of Glass. ‘Fragile Legacy: The Marine Invertebrate Glass Models of Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka’ runs until 8 January, 2017.”

Amazing photos here.

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Over at TreeHugger, Kimberley Mok has a post on an Italian filmmaker’s study of breathtakingly beautiful marine life.

“The ocean is a mysterious place,” she writes, “full of wondrous creatures and hidden delights, waiting to be discovered. The very nature of this massive body of fluid is primordial and seen as a symbol of the subconscious in many cultures. Italian filmmaker Sandro Bocci, also known as Bolidesottomarino, recently released a sneak peak at a ‘non-verbal’ film he’s working on, titled ‘Porgrave.’ Showing captivating scenes of vibrantly coloured underwater organisms, it’s a close-up look at a ‘microworld’ that many of us never get to see — or may never get to see, if ocean acidification, pollution and habitat loss continues at today’s alarming rate.

“According to Bocci’s website, Julia Set Collection, the film is influenced by thinkers like Alan Moore, Jan Hanlo, Don DeLillo, Kurt Vonnegut, Alfred Van Vogt, and is

an experimental film orbiting scientific and philosophical reflections on time and space, and that through various shooting techniques, fields of magnification, and an exciting soundtrack, weaves a web between science and magic.”

Please click here. The photos are extraordinary.

Photo: Sandro Bocci

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