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My parents are getting my little brother a dog, and while I was online doing some research for them I came across this NY Times article that reminded me far too much of this class. We have spent all term talking about our daily contact with chemicals, and how they affect humans, wildlife, and pets. I know we have spoken about our experiences with processed foods and what is actually in them, but I never really considered what could be in our pets food. The food they WE give them because we love them, that they don’t have the ability to refuse. It is also the food that we don’t have the expertise to know exactly what it contains, unless we all have a full laboratory in our basements. This article reports on two Chinese manufacturers that knowingly put a harmful toxin in animal food during 2007 in order to reach high protein levels, with the result of over 4,000 animal deaths in just the U.S.  It can be found at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/09/business/worldbusiness/09iht-petfood.1.5616947.html

Manufacturers of animal food are required to have specific levels of protein and nutrients in their products, to label these correctly, and submit to quality testing. However, these two companies used loop holes and poor ethics to make sure they were still able to sell their low quality, low protein food products as high quality, high protein and expensive food products. After putting the chemical melamine, which is used in fertilizer and plastic production, to fake protein levels their food product met the high quality standards that their contract called for. Then set for sales,   they mislabeled their products on purpose, with the intent to avoid quality inspections that would have prevented their distribution throughout the United States. Over 4,000 animals died as a result of eating their products.

I feel like their are so many guilty parties in situations like this. To start, it is the horrible companies that attempted to get away with this, all in the hopes to make money while cutting costs. Then, it is the Chinese government that doesn’t regulate their industries well enough. As well, the United States government and companies should be more ethical in who they do business with, and the inspection processes that they have in place that are intended to prevent situations like this. Lastly, we have the consumer who bought the product and gave it to their pet unknowingly. I wish I could say that the pet owner isn’t at fault here to any degree, but then again they are the ones who chose to get a pet in the first place, most likely for their own ego, and decide to give it dry, imported food.

All I know is that it is a sad day when we are so oblivious to the chemicals around us that kittens and puppies are dying because we demand chemicals in our daily life.

The recent discussions of harmful plastics has made me think about something I don’t believe we covered much in class, but most of us know about- the Pacific Gyres. These free floating plastic island cesspools contain millions of pieces of plastic, some very large, some microscopic. They are the result of our throw away society, tossing plastics into the ocean and landfills where they may reach the ocean. Many people have asked why can’t we just clean it up? It is not that easy, these islands are miles wide and float just below the surface, nice and hidden, yet in perfect stance for causing problems to marine wildlife.

The reason the past few discussions made me think about these gyres is that we keep discussing the dangers of chemicals in the plastics we use. One of the most interesting clean up ideas I have heard of is to create bound, recycled floating islands out of the plastic, that can be inhabited by either wildlife or humans. Last year I was able to find a lot of articles relating to this that had extravagant plans and pictures, but it seems that many of them have been taken offline. The best description I could find currently can be found here:  http://harmoniouspalette.com/RecyleLand/GyreLand.html.

This seems like an interesting idea, and to even imagine the possibilities that this could present for the future blows my mind. However, with all this talk of dangerous plastics, all I can think about would be the types of cancer any inhabitants would end up developing. They say that the new plastics we use can be dangerous to us, I don’t have any idea what the dangers posed by partially decomposed plastics would be after sitting in seawater and the sun for months. I guess this post more aims to bring up the idea of solutions. It seems nearly impossible to come up with perfect solutions for all the problems we have caused as humans, and sometimes it seems like the solutions we come up with are far worse than the original issue. So what do you say, should we leave the plastic in the ocean and twiddle our thumbs, or should we try to put those poisonous pieces to good use?

 

Art in the current world can mean many things. It seems as though each day we find some new artist that has created a master piece that will “finally make people think”. After awhile, it might seem unoriginal and not particularly creative, and concepts appear to be recycled rather often. This is some of the criticism that Paul Kuczynski  receives. Here are some examples of his artwork, and yes, if you take a quick look at them you can probably figure out his point fairly easily.

A public speaker- Paul makes us wonder about the sewage they seem to spew.

Don’t drink the water! But of course, go ahead and preach it.

Fixing the land is as simple as stitches on a small cut…. hah.

As long as it looks prettier, then it is cleaner, right?

I think that his illustrations are fairly witty, and some of them I would like for myself. I can get the general idea of why he created these, but I do not feel that it diminishes the overall impact at all. Of many blogs about him, self proclaimed “art scholars” complained that his art is too easy to figure out and diminishes the impact of the concept. I am pretty sure that is the point- while he may have some deeper meaning rather than what is fairly easy to discern, this art is created for the purpose of causing a flicker in someones mind. They should be able to see and identify these things and think about them, not stare at a painting for two hours trying to figure out the deeper intent. The subject matter is simplified for maximum impact to the maximum number of viewers.  While you may be able to find artists with a more refined and complex message, I think that artists like Paul Kuczynski are important. They pick to the bare bones of something that is corrupt or just messed up in our society, and can clearly depict that in a satirical way that makes citizens think.

Much of his art is not like the above paintings, but instead focus on socioeconomic injustice or other things, but I think that these drawings pertain specifically to our class. The first one is of Christmas, with Asian countries supplying all the goods. It gets the point that Westerners just want the image kept up, without a care to who is actually making and distributing the goods. I also really liked the illustration of the public speaker, because it goes along with our class theme that you really can’t believe everything you hear or read, because often it is really just trash. You have to think and investigate for yourself. My next favorite was the illustration of soldiers stitching the land. Although this seems to play into the current wars, I think it also holds importance for this class in that we are so focused on the quick fix for issues we just brush them under the rug or apply a quick fix like stitches- we didn’t do anything to prevent getting cut in the first place.

Art like this helps to inspire cause and interest in the average person. Without understanding among the masses we are never going to affect a change, and social media like this is a step in the right direction.

 

So, I got kind of bored on Saturday and I began to search Netflix for a random documentary to watch. By chance I found Waste Land. When I do this I typically try to just pick the first title that seems interesting to me without reading the description, because I have found that by doing this I end up learning about something I hadn’t really made an effort to before. I thought I had done that this time also. Well, imagine my surprise when I figured out the movie was about Vik Muniz and his foray into the lives of the Catadores, pickers of recyclable materials, at Jardim Gramacho, the world’s largest landfill located near Rio de Janeiro. It immediately brought me back to the reading about our trash being art, because  Vik Muniz’s Narcissus piece was used in that article and in our class activity.

I remember thinking in class that while this was cool, it was also a little silly. However, after watching this movie and really getting a feel for the daily lives of these people I completely understand what Vik was going for- he wasn’t trying to glorify our trash. He was trying to empower the individuals that spend their lives making a living off of what we consider trash, but are truly recyclable materials.  These individuals are looked down upon in their society as a lower class, and many of them even lie to their families about their work. Often, they have no pride in themselves or in what that do. Vik really helped to change that for them, he worked to instill a belief in them that they are not just trash pickers, but they are people who have an eye for the value of an object, can communicate important messages, and really accomplish large goals.

The way they pulled off this huge project was that Vik Muniz and his team hired on a number of Pickers to actually build these pieces of artwork with him, and the pictures they built are of themselves. Interesting fact- contrary to what I stated in class, that they obviously filmed themselves dismantling the work- it was the opposite. The Catadores first posed for photos, then based on these photos they selected specific materials that would give them the correct shading and provide the right intent. The process of making multiple pictures took a couple of years to complete, and when they were done the Pickers got to go to the galleries to see their works of art and see that what they do on a daily basis isn’t really something to be ashamed of.  The most touching thing was that many of them actually exclaimed ” I am art! I am famous! I never thought I would be a piece of art!”.  ALL of the proceeds for these photographs were given back to the association of pickers, which they used to make their campaign national, and to build an education center (which is aided in stock by perfectly good books found in the landfill).

I think what is most interesting to me is that many of the individuals that they interviewed were kind, mothers and fathers, self educated, spoke at least some English, and knew more about famous philosophers, world leaders, and historians than I did.  It was not that many of them were well spoken and accomplished that surprised me, but that they didn’t believe they were even worth as much as the recyclables they collected. All it took was one team of people believing in them and showing them that they have the power to improve their world for the Catadores to finally believe in themselves.

It has make me seriously look at the things my friends, family and I throw away.  What is a broken shoe to me was turned into art by Vik and the Catadores. What was a jagged plastic bottle to me was $0.06 to them. Goes to show you should think twice before you buy, and think three times before you dispose.

http://www.amazon.com/Dog-Eat-Production-Pollution-Profit/dp/B000UM2JK2/ref=sr_1_6?s=toys-and-games&ie=UTF8&qid=1303160743&sr=1-6

http://www.gamecabinet.com/reviews/DogEatDog.html

When we were asked to find a toy or video that depicts risk awareness as a commodity I knew a lot of people would find ones that had something to do with major oil spills or other forms of distinctly harmful tragic toxic events. However, I knew that I wanted to come up with something that made our day to day risks into a commodity, and I think that this game sums that up perfectly. Dog Eat Dog- A Game of Production, Pollution & Profit is the boiled down but true to form example of the risks Capitalism has created in the society of developed nations worldwide.

At all times corporations are fighting and scheming to the best of their abilities in order to ensure that they get the resources they deem necessary to make their products, and to do so in ways that will achieve the highest margin of profit. At times they mistreat employees, they abuse the land from which they derive their resources, they bribe officials, and “pull the wool” over consumers eyes to accomplish their goals- by mastering these skills, you can become the winner of this game.

It may just be that I am surround myself with fairly aware individuals, but I find that most consumers know that corporations do this and yet for the most part we do very little to change or stop greedy corporations (unless they are seriously messing with the stock market). That is why I find this game so interesting; it takes what the everyday consumer knows and  feels bad about (but does nothing) and it gives us a chance to be the evil do-ers. An amusing and sickening way to pass our time on game nights with the family.