Art, Plastics, and Politics

  • Posted on 17 November 2020
  • By The Angeles Chapter
The intersection of arts and political activism are two fields defined by a shared focus of creating engagement that shifts boundaries, changes relationships, and creates new paradigms. For centuries, art has been used to create change and spread political and social messages. Why? Art creates empathy. It helps society see injustice, and consequently, to make change.
So, can art inspire action to fight plastic pollution? Come see for yourself at the Newport Beach Central Library. Presented by Bow Seat Ocean Awareness Programs, Sierra Club Angeles Chapter, Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce and Newport Beach Arts Commission, the Youth Ocean Art exhibit calls for the care of our friends in the oceans.  
'Trashimi', Jennifer Kim, Age 13

'Trashimi'- Jennifer Kim, Age 13
Through my research of ocean pollution, I was shocked by the sheer number of trash thrown away into the sea, as well as the thousands of dead fish from oil spills in the ocean. The pollution is symbolized by a sick-looking fish with a soda can body, to represent “sashimi” on the plate that the food we eat ends up on. Around it are garnishes for the “sashimi” which are trash, such as cigarette butts, plastic water bottles, and so on. The “soy sauce” is made of petroleum, and there are “lemon” garnishes of old tires. I used acrylic paint to emphasize the fish along with several other “garnishes” on watercolor. Around the plate are old articles concerning pollution. I named this piece “Trashimi” to reflect on the items from the sea that we will eventually consume, but also as “Trashme” because the trash that we humans throw away just come back to us in a cycle.

Recently, Nancy Gardner, the host of NBTV show The Village Green, interviewed Angeles Chapter volunteer Hoiyin Ip and the Chamber President/CEO Steve Rosansky on the exhibit. 
“Credit to the City Water Quality Committee, since the start of our collaboration in 2017, the goal was clear: banning certain single-use plastics,” Hoiyin said. During the process, she became a member of the City plastic subcommittee, “We hosted movie screenings, conducted surveys, created educational materials, and put on art exhibits. The Chamber has helped us along the way, in addition to a grant from the Arts Commission.”
Plastic touches all of our lives, from takeout food containers to car tires. But many plastics are used once only. And unfortunately, too much ended up in the ocean. Study shows plastic in the oceans will triple by 2040. This pollution threatens the food chain, water and air qualities, human health, environmental justice and our economy. And, it contributes to climate change.
“Kids and parents tell me this is a serious problem, it shouldn’t be political,” said Hoiyin. “We had a big coming-to-reality moment this August when the twin plastic bills failed to pass in the state legislature. Again, we’re turning to City Councils to address the issue.”
Does the local government have a role to play in plastic pollution? “Of course,” said Steve, who was a Newport Beach mayor. “Newport Beach is on the frontline. We have to preserve our environment, our bay, and the ocean. It’s not just about having a clean beach. It’s also about the economy, tourism, and many things in the big picture.”
So, are the businesses on board with a single-use plastic reduction policy? “Generally, the business community is on board,” he said. “Of course, they have to factor this into the operation of their business. When the society moves more towards it, the businesses will be more accepting of this.” Nancy, also a former Newport Beach mayor, said the restaurant association supported the Styrofoam food ware ban in 2008 because there were reasonable substitutes.   
Newport Beach has always been working on plastic and trash reduction, steadily but slowly. A trash and toxics reduction policy is drafted after looking into dozens of policies in the state. Hoiyin says working on political will is a spiritual practice, but remains hopeful that City Council will approve it: restaurants will save money from single-use reduction, the City will save money from cleanups. She encourages everyone to contact his/her elected officials to discuss plastic reduction too. 
If you’re in Newport Beach, make a fun stop at the library (1000 Avocado Avenue) to see the exhibit. It’s on until Jan. 8, the library is closed on Sundays.
Are you or someone you know aged 11-18 interested in participating in Bow Seat’s contest? Enter the contest by Jun. 14, 2021.  
2020 Ocean Awareness Contest Poster
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