During this week I was having a conversation with an environmentalist from Oceanographic
Institute, working on the Mar Menor lagoon in Murcia, Spain, where they have just published a
new paper which explains the results of a study into the condition of the marine situation in the
Mar Menor, which show that in spite of efforts to prevent further nitrates – the leaching of
agricultural fertilizers into the sea and the excess nitrates present to fertilize yields– following
into the water that the meadows of sea grass and seaweed have diminished by 85% over the last two years. Preventing agricultural waters from flowing into this sea is essential and must
undergo a profound restructuring, scientists affirmed.
This research has lot of controversy, having in mind about government’s statement, as the
regional minister for water, agriculture and environment that said this is an "alarmistic theory"
and cut the agricultural activity could cost thousands of jobs as well as they are related to the
tourism sector, hotels, hostelry, etc.
Scientists working at the Mar Menor also explain the problem with the turbidity of the water and
the limitation of the marine meadows to photosynthesis and growth. A big problem caused by, as this article explains, the leaching of agricultural fertilizers into the sea and the excess nitrates present to fertilize yields.
After this information, and thinking on our project, we examined some artworks from David
Benque’s THE NEW WEATHERMEN MANIFESTO, For a new symbiotic world order:
“We the Weathermen have listened for too long, it is time for action. Politicians, journalists and
‘green’ activists keep on telling us which way the wind blows. In the Anthropocene, the only
question is; which way do we want the wind to blow?”
In the face of impending climate crisis, environmentalists are becoming increasingly polarised in their ideas and beliefs. Bio-Conservatives argue for a curbing of consumption, a return to Nature and are suspicious of new technologies. Techno-Progressives on the other hand adopt an optimistic trust in progress, and promise to solve problems with newer and better technologies.
We are thinking about how to visualize some of this water problems in the art field. One of the
ideas is DIYBIO or Biopunk movements that could help us, as artists to show and provide
information on water pollution to citizens.
Having into account Ben’s last post where he created a survey; questions about water pollution
to the citizens, we are also having in mind the idea of mapping perhaps turbidity of the water and its relationship with pollution.
Mar Menor is a real hotbed of ecological pollution, farming industries, and tourism. It’s a fascinating case study that brings together myriad problems faced around the world (it’s also great to have Paz right there learning about everything that’s going on). Here in the United States, water is also falling under increased scrutiny—earlier today I saw a hand-painted #NoDAPL banner suspended over a highway in New Jersey while marches took place around the country in support of the movement.
Although our project is still evolving, it seems likely to be some sort of toolkit or informative resource for combating water pollution in the future. Alongside infographics and suggestions for self-testing water, Paz is interested in designing (or at least envisioning) devices for empowering water activists. To that end, I was researching artists working in the realm of speculative design and came across David Benque’s New Weathermen project, which Paz mentioned above.
Speculative design is a broad category of work that renders ideas without worrying about feasibility. I highly recommend Anthony Duane and Fiona Raby’s Speculative Everything as a guidebook, but this type of work imagines potential technologies or behaviors as a means to shape possible futures. Benque imagines his technological fancies as “proposing deliberately radical or outrageous ideas that make the original agenda look acceptable by comparison.”
Both Paz and I have made work that embraces this influence of art over reality, and I’m curious to see where this new collaboration ends up. In approaching water activism as a design problem, I think it will still be useful to launch a survey to find out how people think about their water. Maybe next week we’ll have something for you readers to contribute.
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Paz Tornero is an artist, visiting professor at the University of Caldas in Colombia, researcher at the University of Murcia, Faculty of Fine Arts in Spain, and visiting fellow at the Institute of Microbiology (USFQ) in Ecuador.
Benjamin Andrew is an award-winning interdisciplinary artist, storyteller, and Instructor at Pennsylvania State University.