April 21, 2009

Changed by a Pile of Trash

Last weekend I visited a close friend who is also the exhibits designer for the Seymour Center at Long Marine Laboratory, UC Santa Cruz. Wendelin has been a lifelong inspiration, but this visit was more than I ever expected. On our personal tour, she led me through earth science exhibits that were thought provoking and engaging for all ages. They have an aquarium, a touch tank, hands on exhibits, local artwork, tours and even classroom programs for kids.

But it was the plastic pile of trash that impacted me the most. Standing in the corner like a transparent Christmas tree was a sculpture of plastic bottles and containers. It is a representation for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a landfill the size of Texas, floating around in the ocean and messing with the food chain.

Looking up the coastline as we walked outside onto the bluffs, I couldn't get the image of a huge floating trash dump out of my mind.

And that is what, in my opinion, makes an effective exhibit. It should keep haunting you until you choose to make a positive change. Education centers succeed when visitors leave with a mental set of action-items. If we are moved by a message, then we can make a difference.

When I went back into my car, I wasn't very happy to see my own plastic water bottle in the cupholder. It's time to recognize my hypocrisy, and fix it. Then it's time to spread the word. Because it would be really great if my daughters could experience the annual whale migrations by seeing, you know, actual whales.


Carolina said...

How cool you got the special tour, I really like the Seymour Lab. The volunteers at the touch-pool do a great job of interacting with the kids.
And the great trash patch, it's frightening. I learned about it at one of my teacher workshops a few months ago. The animals that feed in those waters are completely toxic, and the people that feed on them, are getting all those chemicals in their bodies too.

Tiffany T said...

I thought your last sentence was absolutely brilliant and hilarious in a depressing kind of way. I know that makes no sense, but that's what I was feeling as I read it :).

Danielle said...

We went out and got our own Sigg bottles. Wow, what a difference in the amount of plastic water bottles we were going through. It was truly appalling. Now everyone enjoys their personal bottles and just by taking that small step - we've cut down on our plastic use.

That display is something else!

Danielle said...

and I had no idea about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Holy cow!