We know that the world is in trouble due to our obscene use of plastic, but maybe it’s time to find a different narrative to drive change. A key concept in the sustainability world is the idea of circularity — minimizing waste and maximizing resources. And as we watch our world get more and more and more cluttered with waste, it’s clear that a change is beyond necessary.
But seeing the ocean filled with plastic, sea turtles tangled in can lids and other tragic visions of how we are failing to care for our planet may have been over used. Yes, they inspire a reaction, but do they inspire action? It’s time to consider that a doom and gloom narrative may not be the only — or the best —way to drive change.
Other efforts seem to be gaining traction and, perhaps, making a greater impact on those who experience them. Take San Francisco-based artist Ben Von Wong who has embraced a different approach to exploring circularity through images and videos. His approach combines photography and fantasy, bringing to life what many may consider tedious stats about microfibers, e-waste and apparel through intricate designs with a huge impact.
Some recent installations express how much of an item one person is likely to use in their lifetime, such as the world’s tallest closet in the Mall of Arabia in Cairo which showcased the average pieces of clothing that someone in the a developed world is likely to wear during their life — 3,000 items. Or last year’s project in conjunction with Dell highlighting the company’s e-waste recycling program and, hopefully, inspiring a growth in e-waste recycling. The final product? A series of photographs capturing an out-of-this-world landscape that Von Wong and a team of 50 volunteers constructed using 4,100 pounds of e-waste, approximately the amount an American might use in their lifetime.
And with so much focus on transitioning away from single use plastic straws, Von Wong’s Strawpocalypse was made out of 168,000 drinking straws recovered from the streets of Vietnam.
With works like this, Von Wong is hoping to inspire action, not just feeling. It’s time to stop focusing on the breadth of impact and instead focus on the depth of impact so we can see some real change.