Grandeur in the Ocean Garbage Patch

This new awareness advert from Rise Above Plastics combines the ick factor of the ocean garbage patch with the majesty of a giant whale with predictably repugnant results. (From their website, we learn that “In some places of the Pacific Ocean, the amount of plastic suspended in the water outnumbers plankton six to one.”)

Two other items on the Rise Above Plastics website that make us say, “Hey, that’s neat!”…
Above, this rapidly escalating-counter shows, in our face and in real time, the runaway rubbish rate for plastic water bottles.
Below, the site alos includes this photo of plastic shopping bags masquerading as jellyfish, which reminds us of this “Dangerous Species” poster as well as the much-loved-by-me Ariston washer ad.

The Smart Set Always Heads for the Beach

I’m thinking (as I browse travel sites from ThirstyInSuburbia’s cold-gripped Midwest HQ) how people naturally seek out bodies of water. We are hopelessly drawn to it. Look at any map and note how the population clusters along oceans, rivers, coastlines or lakes. Is it part of our human nature to seek out bodies of water?

Nature or nurture? Theorized by neuroscientist Michael Crawford, our attraction to water represents another element of human evolution.

The University of North London researcher has proposed that our ancient ancestors were devotees of the sea, and that their diets were a factor in the evolution of the human’s large and complex brain. Form a 2007 article that I missed on,

Crawford claims that when humans separated from apes and emerged from the forests of Africa, they stuck close to rivers and beaches and started feasting on fish, clams and crabs. That marine diet was packed with omega-3 fatty acids, essential fatty acids that promote brain cell growth.

It’s no coincidence, Crawford claims, that human brain growth began to increase exponentially once we left the woods and headed for the beach.

Maybe that’s our cue/excuse to pack up our big brains and small bathing suits and head for the water.  Mare proluit omnia mortalium mala!

Vintage postcard “Bathing in Lagoon, Long Beach, CA from riptheskull on Flickr, thanks!

Architects Gone Wild: Water Inspiration for Yeosu 2012

Big-time international design competitions encourage architects to “design and build feats of wonderment” and for the ocean-themed Yeosu, Korea World Expo 2012 (“The Living Ocean and Coast”) we can see what their creative imaginations might generate with water as a prime ingredient.

MVRDV (Rotterdam, NL) submits a striking Water Cube Pavilion that imagines “a block extracted from the ocean” in which one is surrounded on all sides by water with a series of water “basins” that are stacked on top of each other. . The skin of the building is designed out of four layers of glass, with water in between. Fresh sea water from outside is constantly pumped into the basins as a natural temperature adapter. The skin contains elements to regulate temperature such as rolling curtains to control the UV penetration and solar PV cells to create energy for the water circulation and the light of the building. (More info and images at and

Our mobile society will squeal with delight at the submission from Melbourne, AU-based Peddle Thorp Architects. Their pavilion is is a vessel – a floating exhibition space that can be sailed to other cities. Today, adaptability is a key planning concept, so we love that this is a “living building that can adapt to suit an unknowable future.” Just think how great it would be if we could easily move the many abandoned and failed facilities that now litter the world landscape…schools, malls, hospitals that moved along with the population! (More info and images at

He Swallowed the Sea

In the current installment of Emily Green’s excellent regular feature “The Week that Was” at, I read…

“It would be very interesting if we could drain the ocean and look at what’s down there.” – Holly Bamford, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Program, “‘Ghost’ traps, long lost, keep catching lobsters,”  AP / Denver Post, November 26, 2009

Before I reached the closing quote I was overwhelmed with a long-buried visual memory, as vivid today as it was more than forty years ago.

I MUST FIND IT. I purchased it for my children 20 years ago and it is here, somewhere in my house. So many books…so many neglected boxes, dusty shelves, stacks in the basement, the attic, unused closets. It took 2 days to find it, and what a joy it was to hold in my hands again and turn the pages.

Once upon a time there were five Chinese Brothers and they all looked exactly alike. They lived with their mother in a little house not far from the sea.

The first Chinese brother could swallow the sea.

He could swallow the sea! As a child, these pages captured my imagination many times over. How wonderful would it be if I could roam that seabed, seeing, touching and marveling at the sight of all the mysteries of the deep laid bare! Even today it is a powerful fantasy to ponder.

(In the book, this scene is a spread that looks like this:

If you are familiar with the book, you are likely smiling and fondly remembering the story. If this is new to you, l’ll avoid any spoilers and just say, “YOU MUST FIND IT.” (Try your local library or, $5.99)

The book was originally published in 1938 but since the 1970s has been removed from schools and classrooms due to criticism of alleged ethnic stereotyping. There are also plenty of defenders–including me and many others who understand the magic in a child’s (or adult’s) imagination, to “drain the ocean and look at what’s down there.”