Oceans are at once the bank vault and the universal eraser of our dirty little secrets: waste and indifference. Varying combinations of both are acceptable currencies throughout the world, making it unclear who manages the landscape of caring about the costs of these transactions on our account. Submerged within this silenced asylum are increasing quantities… Read more »
Oceans are at once the bank vault and the universal eraser of our dirty little secrets: waste and indifference. Varying combinations of both are acceptable currencies throughout the world, making it unclear who manages the landscape of caring about the costs of these transactions on our account.
Submerged within this silenced asylum are increasing quantities of metaphorical pills forcibly swallowed only with the aid of an extravagant amount of water. Ranging from atmospheric CO2 to the 3Bs of Blackwater, Ballast, and Bilge oil discharged from cruise and cargo ships, these liquid assets contribute a 30 percent increase in ocean acidification since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and boast bouts of unwelcomed algal growth, ecosystem suffocation from stowaway species (trans-continentally transported in ballast water that ships collect and disperse between ports of call), and toxic oils commingling with open waters, respectively. Other side effects have included (but not been limited to) relatively minimal dumping fines on suspect industries as issued by the EPA, moderate to severe ethical confusion, bloated political campaigns with occasional ego cramps and nauseating illusions of dilution remaining an acceptable solution. As a disclaimer, the number to call regarding floating plastics lasting 400 years or longer IS a forever-disconnected landline, so any symptoms and/or discomfort resulting from these realities must magically dissipate over time.
How can landscape designers become effective operators and create a productive relationship between anthropogenic indifference and large-scale systems of “waste”? Waste is a condition ultimately tied to human existence, but unfortunately its emergent forms are hidden away and forgotten about until they are deemed inconvenient or irresolvable. One superior alternative to dilution is to embrace waste. For example, the oceans will continue to act as carbon sinks and swallow up exhaustive outputs from frivolous amounts of global mobilization, so perhaps tasks we focus on as designers can revolve around reassessing the effects of sea-based industries (starting with cruise and cargo traffic) known to produce heavy air- and water-based pollution and make visible the already-existing consequences of these effects. Policymakers are primary enablers in the lifecycle of these gateway habits: vessels are legally allowed to expel untreated blackwater three miles from any jurisdictional shore except for the Alaskan coastline, and plastic qualifies as a non-hazardous material ranked equally to food scraps.
Since prescriptions for compassion and common sense are not yet available on the market, some scientists have started building evidence to facilitate policy change within this context. Mapping changes in global pH levels, conducting research on dissolving sea snail shells, observing the destruction of sensitive habitats caused by stowaway species such as zebra mussels, and collecting data on the effects of microplastics (those whose masses are populating oceanic gyres and measuring less than 5mm in size) on marine worms are all means of building an argument for amending policies. However, they could be stronger if designers envisaged their relevance within the context of the global landscape and industries persistently threatening it. As ecological consultants we are already empowered to build relationships between ideas and people, but we can go further and find creative ways to tap into those dangerous corporations’ psyches and their budgets. Research often falls short of its potential due to lack OF funding, so by taxing instigators of waste (which could reduce their impending fines for discharging waste), big ideas can stay afloat instead of evaporating or plunging below the surface due to the weight of old habits.
In creating opportunities to identify and redirect “waste” streams (in tandem with streams of wasted opportunities) we can transform our relationship with this powerful resource instead of ignoring and disregarding its latent value. By invigorating small, even temporary changes, the accumulated effects of which will have repercussions at large scales, designers can pair ever-growing understandings of systematic, socio-ecological and strategic political principles with a professional ability to choreograph and coordinate cross-disciplinary efforts toward the goal of realigning higher priorities within the United Imagi-Nations. Taken with a grain of saltwater, these wasted commodities can be easier to swallow.