Rumer & Qix


A Gorilla's Gurgle

Kwibi and Damian Aspinall.  Reunion in Africa, five years later.

Witches' knickers, roadside daisies and tundra ghosts

Art blossoms from plastic trash
from Geekcrafting andUberdorking

Big Bambu

DART Growing A Bambu Forest In the Sky

On the roof of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a bamboo forest is growing. The work of Doug and Mike Starn, New York art world regulars since the 1980s, this is Big Bambu - a sculpture, an installation, and a performance piece all in one.

Rising 50 feet above the roof garden, with heart-stopping views of the city, Big Bambu is constantly growing and changing as rock climbers add to its height and length during the run. Made of 5,000 bamboo poles measuring 30 to 40 feet long, lashed together with 50 miles of colorful climber's rope, the art project is also a demonstration of sustainable materials. The bamboo, which comes from Georgia and South Carolina, grows faster than any other structural building material available.


Saturday evening at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photos: Peggy Roalf.

The project began as an experiment at the Starn's Beacon warehouse, which I visited last Spring for a preview in DART. In the former Tallix Fine Art Foundry, which is roughly the size of a football field, you could see the piece in its entirety. At the Met, it's jammed into a much smaller space, resulting in a denser thicket of poles which, in a way, makes it nicer to walk through.


Big Bambu at the Tallix Fine Art Foundry in Beacon, NY. Photos: copyright and courtesy Doug & Mike Starn.

Best of all, visitors to the Met can ascend its heights and walk along a bamboo path that rises nearly to the top. Each day (except Mondays, when the museum is closed - and weather permitting) guided tours are offered to small groups on a first come, first served basis. If you go, be sure to read the conditions posted on the museum's website; without the right shoes, you will be turned away.

Doug + Mike Starn: Big Bambu continues through October 31st at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1000 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY. 212.535.7710. Enter the Uris Center at 81st Street for guided tour tickets.
Read the Guided Tour Guidelines and Restrictions.
See the video about its creation on YouTube.

The Cove

What did we learn from the documentary, The Cove?

Dolphins are conscious beings
They recognize who they are.  They are highly social and communicative. In the wild, they regularly swim long distances.

They become stressed in captivity 
Small tanks are too confining for dolphins.  They are extremely sensitive to sound.  Some develop ulcers when surrounded by noise and confusion.  They are given antacids.

The popular TV show, Flipper, began a global dolphin craze
with people wanting to swim with dolphins and see them at marine parks.

Several different dolphins played Flipper
One was named Kathy. 

According to her trainer, Ric O'Barry, Kathy the dolphin committed suicide
due to the stress of being on the TV show.  Dolphins do not breath automatically.  They have to consciously decide to breath.  One day, when Kathy was with Ric, she decided not to breath any more.

This caused Ric O'Barry to begin a lifelong mission of trying to release all dolphins
in captivity and prevent future slaughters.

Nevertheless, dolphins are still being captured for sale or slaughter around the world 
This film focuses on dolphin killing in a cove in Taiji, Japan, but other places such as the Faroe Islands, the Solomon Islands, the Phillipines, Indonesia, Peru and Sri Lanka also continue the practice.

Most people in Japan do not know
that dolphin killing is taking place in their country. 

Some captured dolphins are sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars
to become performers at marine parks.  

Some captured dolphins are slaughtered and sold for hundreds of dollars to be cut into fillets
that are not labeled as dolphin meat, bought in supermarkets, and eaten for dinner.

Dolphin meat is filled with toxic levels of mercury
It causes mercury poisoning and is highly dangerous when eaten.

Mercury poisoning was first discovered in the town of Minamata, Japan
where thousands of people developed a toxic neurological syndrome caused by methyl mercury.  Industrial waste water from the Chisso chemical factory had accumulated in the local shellfish and fish that swam in the contaminated water.  The shellfish and fish were later bought in supermarkets and eaten by the local population, who got mercury poisoning and became very sick.  Many died.

What kind of impact did the movie have?

Japan has set up an organization
to try to save the dolphins  -

September 10, 2010 - Taiji suspended the annual dolphin slaughter -

January 7, 2010 - Helen O'Barry reports that the slaughter of dolphins in Taiji is no longer suspended
and has returned -

March 7, 2010 - The Cove won an Oscar for Best Documentary

Miyazaki's Eco-Fantasies: Children, Nature and the Fate of the Planet

Hayao Miyazaki, one of Japan’s preeminent anime writer/directors, is a master at weaving threads of social commentary into his brilliantly gorgeous, realistically rendered animated features.  More like the real world than Saturday morning cartoon fare, Miyazaki’s films are often complicated and his characters difficult to stereotype. Villains are usually portrayed in ambiguous shades of gray, factions within groups often disagree and people are capable of changing their behavior. One thing, though, is unambiguous:  Miyazaki’s deep love of natural beautyThis is apparent in his stunning portrayals, largely hand drawn, of the natural environment, set more often at a simpler time, in a vaguely medieval past rather than the bustling, industrial present or some imagined dark future.

         Once you’ve experienced a Miyazaki film, it’s hard to forget his mist-covered mountains, primordial forests, shafts of sunlight, crystal clear woodland pools, towering clouds, bubbling streams, sheets of rain and lush green valleys.  It makes sense that, among other things, Miyazaki has long been interested in mankind’s troubled relationship with nature, as exemplified by the two films discussed here, “Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind” and "Princess Mononoke.”  In each of these films,  Miyazaki’s  protagonists are strong-willed young women who have special bonds to nature and come through in the end to help turn things around before it’s too late. After a rare interview with Miyazaki, Margaret Talbot sums up his sensibilities as follows
(The New Yorker, 2005):


He lamented the fact that children had become disconnected from nature, and fulminated about

the deadening impact of video games on the imagination. Only half in jest, he said that he was

hoping for the day when "developers go bankrupt, Japan gets poorer, and wild grasses take over."

And the conversation grew only darker from there. A man disappointed, even infuriated,by the

ugliness surrounding him, Miyazaki is devoted to making whatever he can control—a museum,

each frame of a film—as gorgeous as it can be.

Miyazki’s “Nausicaa” is based on the first two volumes of his “Nausicaa manga serial (1982-1994) which was wildly popular in Japan. 

The See full size imagemanga version took thirteen years off and on to complete and is considered by some to be Miyazaki’s life’s work. “Nausicaa” was produced in 1984, pre-dating the current explosion of global green initiatives by twenty-five years.  The 1980s was a time when Japan was experiencing one of its first waves of environmentalism related to  the effects of  rapid post-war economic expansion, huge government-sponsored development projects and the subsequent transformation of the landscape and environmental pollution (Bauer, 2006, pp. 106, 110).

Nausicaa is the Princess of the beautiful and peaceful Valley of the Wind.  She loves soaring on her wind-rider and, with her special ability to understand and communicate with all beings, is capable of calming them down when attacked, fearful and angry.  Despite the fact that most parts ofthe world have become a wasteland covered with fungi that release poisonous spores, Nausicaa’s valley is still vibrant, although even there people are starting to fall ill, including Nausicaa’s father.  Her blind, elderly grandmother tells her that the valley is protected from the fungi poisons and foretells the return of a warrior in blue who will rebuild the lost connection with the land.


When the Valley of the Wind is attacked by ominous enemy aircraft in search of a new place to live, Nausicaa launches a campaign to stop their ruler, Lady Kushana and save the valley.  Lady Kushana has decided that the way to preserve the land is to prevent the fungi in the forest from spreading and to kill the giant, insect-like Ohmu that protect it, by burning the dead forest.  Nausicaa’s wise grandmother warns that this will only anger the  Ohmu who  will then invade the valley.  Nausicaa is full of compassion, pleading with people not to fight each other or kill the giant Ohmu.  She asks the wounded Ohmu for forgiveness. In the end, it’s the Ohmu who open their hearts to Nausicaa after she rescues one of their young, causing the wind to come back, water to flow, flowers to bloom and a new sprig of life to sprout deep underground.  The grandmother’s prophecy has come true, but with a twist:  Nausicaa is the returning warrior in blue who returns to reunite man with nature.

Miyazaki’s “Princess Mononoke,”continues many of the themes of “Nausicaa” but in a harsher, more direct manner.  It was produced in 1997, more than a decade later than “Nausicaa” and was the highest grossing film in Japan until “Titanic.” 

See full size image

It reflects, perhaps, the mood of  the 1990s in Japan, a time when people there had become disillusioned with the government’s expansion programs. Traditional obedience inherent in Confucianism was weakening and citizen activism was gaining legitimacy (Bauer, 2006, pp. 107).

 In this later film, the protagonist is also a willful young princess.  Her name is San(Princess Mononoke).  She has been raised in the forest by wolves and, like Nausicaa, has a special connection to all beings and is fiercely helping to defend the animals and their forest habitat.  Both Nausicaa and San face female adversaries, this time in the form of Lady Eboshi, with her polluting iron ore factories and voracious need for trees to fuel her smelting pots.  A major difference here is that the relationship between mankind’s industrial initiatives and the negative impact on the environment is much more direct in “Princess Mononoke," with its belching factories and sweaty laborers working through the night in the gritty iron factories. 

Both films show the ability of mankind’s selfish behavior to poison all in its path, but in Princess Mononoke the evil is a much more severe kind of hatred than the anger that infects things in  Nausicaa’s world.  San is not compassionate towards all beings like the peace-loving Nausicaa, but rather is fighting to the death to save the natural world.  An epic battle ensues between Lady Eboshi, who needs trees to fuel her factories and is determined to kill The Great Forest Spirit and San, who is determined to kill Lady Eboshi for all the destruction she’s caused the natural environment.  It takes the resolution of differences between the young Prince Ashitaka, who’s been infected and is searching for a cure for the evil poison, and San, who has come to despise all humans, to save the day.  Similar in tone to the optimistic final scenes of Nausicaa, in the end things change, the evil is overcome and the polluted, overly mined and timbered landscape is restored to its former natural beauty.

From these two films, it appears that Miyazaki’s portrayal of man’s troubled relationship with nature has hardened over the years, become more direct and less metaphorical, but his optimism for the future prevails through his continued beliefs that people can change, young people have important roles to play and it’s not too late to turn things around.

                                                               Works Cited

              Bauer, J. (Ed.), Forging Environmentalism: Justice,Livelihood, and Contested Environments,

              Armonk, NY:  Sharpe, M.E., Inc. (2006).

              Cappello, D., “The Animated Life,” The New Yorker, January17, 2005.

  Ghibli Museum, Mitaka, Japan.

  Talbot, M. Letter from Japan, “The Auteur of Anime,” The New Yorker, January 17,2005, p. 64

  The Hayao Miyazaki Web.





The Plastiki

The Boat:

The Plastiki is a 60' catamaran modeled after Polynesian double-hulled boat and made of recycled plastic.,

The Creator
David de Rothschild
The Plastiki is the brainchild of eco-celebrity, British banking heir,David de Rothschild whose goal is to raise awareness of the effects ofglobal climate change, one adventure at a time.

The Expedition Route:
The Plastiki is taking a 1000 mile ocean voyage from SanFrancisco,  through the Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch to Hawaii, thenon to Midway, the Bikini Atoll, the Gilbert Islands, Tuvalu, Fiji, theSanta Cruz Islands and finally Sydney.

The Company:

David de Rothschild's company, Adventure Ecology, "undertakes adventures to some of the world's most dangerous, exciting and environmentally challenged regions ... (its aim is) to create stories that inform, question, challenge and generate debate."

Plastic Flotillas of Mermaid Tears

There's a lot of garbage floating in the ocean, particularly in the northern Pacific.  It's carried by ocean currents for thousands of miles until it's dropped into  slow moving clockwise spirals, or gyres, that form there when ocean currents collide.  Over the years two massive clusters of garbage have been growing - one afloat between California and Hawaii, the other between Hawaii and Japan.  They are connected by a thin, 6,000 mile convergence zone and are collectively called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.  It's comprised of fragments of glass, rubber, metal and plastic, but mostly plastic

The actual size of the Patch is hard to estimate because the trash is not a single mass, but rather made up of small chunks, loosely floating together.  The fact that some of the trash is submerged as much as 100 feet below the surface makes the actual size difficult to determine.  That said, some scientists estimate that if you added all the bits and pieces of the flotilla together it would be about the size of France, or Texas.  Whatever the actual size, it's a lot of trash, about six times the size of the natural plankton there.

Unfortunately for marine life, plastic is not biodegradable.  Sunlight breaks it down eventually, but not completely, just into smaller and smaller bits of plastic called "nurdles" or "Mermaid Tears."  They contain toxic materials which seep into the ocean as they break down.  At the same time,  they absorb additional toxins from the ocean.  When the bits get sufficiently small, marine animals unwittingly ingest them and, before long, larger animals feeding on the smaller ones ingest them in turn, and so on up the food chain.  Many die, partly because they can't digest plastic and partly because of the toxins.  Others are killed when they get entangled in the debris, particularly in six-pack packaging rings and  plastic fishing nets.

floating trash is not just waste jettisoned from ships.  In fact, most of it is human garbage from the land, mostly plastic bags, that have washed out to sea through sewers and rivers, as well as  from beaches and harbors.  Whether on land or sea, humans are the source of the problem and will ultimately need to be the solution. To prevent further accumulations of ocean trash, we desperately need to ramp up our efforts to recycle plastics and use biodegradable materials.   Unfortunately, the problem of removing ocean garbage is not simple.   Unless we find a way to re-use or get rid of it, most of the plastic afloat today in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch will still be there far, far beyond the next century.

UN Climate Summit

September 22, 2009 - New York City

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon convened a Summit on Climate Change today in New York with 100 world leaders meeting to reinvigorate negotiations in advance of  COP15, the UN's upcoming Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December.  The goal of the Summit today is to give world leaders a forum for direct discussion that will provide clear political mandates for negotiators in Copenhagen and faciliate agreement on terms for a global climate treaty at COP15.  The new treaty will replace the Kyoto Protocol which set binding targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in 1997.  Kyoto was ratified by 184 countries, with the notable exception of the United States. At COP15, all eyes will be focused on the US ... and China.

For more information:

Note - the world's biggest contributors to greenhouse gas pollution are:

#1        US & China - each contribute about 20%
#2        The European Union contributes about 14%
#3        Russia & India - each contribute about 5%


"What Is Missing?"

A multi-sited sound and media installation, traveling exhibit, website & book

By Maya Li

See full size image

Where/When:  California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco (September 17, 2009), 

                         Beijing Center for the Arts (September 19, 2009) 

                         Storm King Art Center, New York (September 21, 2009)


Maya Lin's sculpture, "What Is Missing?" is a  multi-sited tribute to the Earth's extinct species. Through this work Lin asks us to consider things that might be impossible for us to consider - parts of the natural world that are now extinct.  Do we really remember the sounds of long lost creatures?  Their way of moving, their scent, the way they feel to the touch?  Can we possibly remember the richness of the biodiversity we've lost?  Lin asks, "Can we save two birds with one tree?

Maya Lin has designed a "listening cone" that invites visitors to consider these questions through sound, video and text  and provides information about the kinds of things being done today to save natural habitats by conservation groups around the world.  Traveling exhibits in different locations, a website and book accompany the permanent installation. 

Terra Incognita

It's hard to imagine stumbling upon previously unknown terrain or discovering a new species of plant or animal in our 21st century world. ...<< MORE >>


April 2014

Monthly Archives

Recent Posts

  1. A Gorilla's Gurgle
    Sunday, May 23, 2010
  2. Witches' knickers, roadside daisies and tundra ghosts
    Friday, May 21, 2010
  3. Big Bambu
    Tuesday, May 18, 2010
  4. The Cove
    Saturday, April 10, 2010
  5. Miyazaki's Eco-Fantasies: Children, Nature and the Fate of the Planet
    Saturday, January 30, 2010
  6. The Plastiki
    Sunday, November 15, 2009
  7. Plastic Flotillas of Mermaid Tears
    Thursday, November 12, 2009
  8. UN Climate Summit
    Tuesday, September 22, 2009
  9. "What Is Missing?"
    Sunday, September 20, 2009
  10. Terra Incognita
    Thursday, July 23, 2009

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