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Drifters Project

Cleaning up ocean plastic pollution around the world and visualizing the plastic pollution problem through fine art.

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Overview

Plastic pollution is one of the most pressing threats to environmental and human health, yet it is a problem that every individual holds the power to change. The Drifters Project is a fiscally-sponsored project of Oceanic Society that works to mobilize individuals and communities across the globe to recognize, remediate, and prevent plastic pollution through beach cleaning, education, and large-scale art production.

To witness the impacts of the global epidemic of disposability in the world's most pristine places delivers the message of the heavy reach of human destruction. Cleaning a beach while looking for the messages the ocean is sending us through our own cultural artifacts changes a person. It puts one in a position of care, and creates the awareness of one’s own culpability and ability to directly effect the problem. Our work involves social and behavioral change away from the status quo of contemporary living and towards being an active agent in preservation of the natural world.

Threats

Plastic pollution is an immense and growing threat to ocean and human health. It is now estimated that there are more than five trillion pieces of plastic in the ocean, and that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. In the ocean, plastic pollution impacts sea turtles, whales, seabirds, fish, coral reefs, and countless other marine species and habitats. It also mars otherwise beautiful beaches, coastlines, and coral reefs worldwide, even in remote areas such as Midway Atoll.

How We Are Helping

Since 2006, Drifters Project has been mobilizing individuals and communities across the globe to recognize, remediate, and prevent plastic pollution and its dire effects on ocean and human health through a) forensic beach cleaning trainings, b) education and c) large-scale art production. Founded by artist Pam Longobardi after encountering the mountainous piles of plastic that the ocean was regurgitating onto remote Hawaiian beaches, Drifters Project has worked directly through local sponsorship, small grant support, and personal expenditure to clean beaches, make art and work with communities in Beijing, China (NY Arts Beijing, 2008); in Atlanta, Georgia (New Genre Landscape, 2008); in Nicoya, Costa Rica (Chorotega Sede/Universidad Nacional, 2009); in Samothraki, Greece (EVROS Cultural Association and PAI 2010); in Monaco (Nouveau Museé National de Monaco 2011); in Seward, Alaska and Alaskan Peninsula, Katmai National Park as part of the GYRE Expedition (Alaska SeaLife Center 2011, Anchorage Museum 2013-4 and CDC Museum in Atlanta, 2015); in Kefalonia, Greece (Ionion Center, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014) with the 2014 birth of Plastic Free Island, and in Armila, Panama in collaboration with women artists of the Guna Yala community there. Longobardi and the Drifters Project have been featured in National Geographic, on the cover of SIERRA magazine, and on the Weather Channel. Longobardi is Distinguished Professor at Georgia State University in Atlanta and Artist-In-Nature for Oceanic Society.

As an artist, Drifters Project director Pam Longobardi is an advocate of beach cleaning as a form of forensic aesthetics. As a person, she is an advocate of beach cleaning because the action of removing even a single piece of vagrant plastic is a positive thing for you (by accepting collective responsibility for plastic use) and for the natural world (by preventing that particular piece from damaging a living creature). But even more so, everyday, we make dozens of choices, conscious or not, either towards or away from unnecessary plastic use. As we are beginning to learn of linkages between plastic pollution and and enormous range of human health issues, it couldn’t be better timing to examine this material (plastic), its presence in our lives and in the lives of the non-human creatures with which we share the planet.

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