Exhibition curated by Donny Foley. See Pacific Art League website’s page of the show here.
“The natural environment is under pressure across the globe, and the changes in weather patterns are becoming more acutely evident, with each successive year of record-breaking temperatures. Yet against this troubling background, our show seeks to find those rays of light through the power of art, telling stories of progress and hope, and celebrating the unique beauty of the planet we all call home.”
About the piece:
Material: recycled cardboard and cardstock, reclaimed wood
First created for Tech Shop San Jose in 2017. Exhibited at Art Ark Gallery, San Jose, in 2018, part of the exhibition ‘Arousing Biophilia’ curated by Shannon Amidon, and at San Diego City College Fine Arts Gallery, San Diego, 2018, part of the exhibition ‘Art in the Age of X’, curated by Richard Gleaves.
The installation represents an ensemble of enlarged plankton organisms. The word plankton is derived from the Greek word “planktos”, which means drifter, since plankton drift at the whim of the ocean’s currents. They have almost limitless distribution across the world’s oceans. The installation brings to visibility these tiny – but vital – organisms to help visitors realize more about how much we need them. As humans, we are largely unaware of the world of plankton, and the critical foundation it serves for our present and future. Scientists are closely monitoring the effects that the climate crisis has on them. Plankton are the canary in the coal mine of the climate crisis.
Plankton are the first link in the ocean food chain.
Fish and mammals depend on plankton for their survival.
Plankton produce 50% of the oxygen on Earth.
Plankton suck up a tremendous amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) near the sea surface. They use sunlight to photosynthesize, converting carbon dioxide into organic compounds and producing half the oxygen we breathe. Plankton are as important as the trees and plants in making our planet habitable.
Plankton sequester CO2 at the bottom of the ocean.
When they die, plankton take CO2 with them to the ocean floor, locking it away so it can’t return to the atmosphere and contribute to climate change. It’s one of the only natural processes we know of that can sequester carbon for a long time. Scientists believe that plankton currently absorb 30-50% of the CO2 produced by the burning of fossil fuel.
Plankton and the climate crisis
Understanding how the climate crisis is affecting the planet is a key issue worldwide. Ongoing plankton monitoring programs act as sentinels to identify changes in marine ecosystems. Scientists have begun recording alterations in the distribution, abundance, and seasonality of plankton in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. This could have a large impact on species further up the food chain – species that we many communities depend upon. Food chain disruptions could amplify global displacements and migrations of populations.
Two changes are of particular concern for plankton: rising ocean temperatures and acidification. Since plankton mostly live at the ocean’s surface, they are particularly susceptible to rising ocean temperatures. In more acidic seawater, plankton cannot produce their shells, therefore less carbon sink in the ocean and more is going into the atmosphere.
While there is still much to be learned about plankton, without strong action to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, climate change will almost certainly result in a long-term decrease in ocean plankton. This is likely to have negative consequences on already pressured global fisheries, and for the populations that depend on them, for the global production of oxygen and the amount of CO2 sequestered at the bottom of the ocean.