The Great Pacific Plastic Patch

When I read about this assembly of plastic garbage, I was inevitably reminded of stories out of the saga “Erik the Red” or the Irish Legend of Saint Brendan. In other words, it has everything for being a modern myth, a contemporary fairy tale: A gigantic new island that appeared in the pacific ocean suddenly. It’s size is questionable. It is floating, so it’s exact position is also questionable. It is very hard to get to and it is dangerous.

Take for example this excerpt from National Geographic:

“Many expeditions have traveled through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Charles Moore, who discovered the patch in 1997, continues to raise awareness through his own environmental organization, the Algalita Marine Research Foundation. During a 2014 expedition, Moore and his team used aerial drones, to assess from above the extent of the trash below. The drones determined that there is 100 times more plastic by weight than previously measured. The team also discovered more permanent plastic features, or islands, some over 15 meters (50 feet) in length.”

And a nameless Captain is quoted: “Fishermen shun it because its waters lack the nutrients to support an abundant catch. Sailors dodge it because it lacks the wind to propel their sailboats.”

So while islands like Tuvalu and cities like Jakarta are projected to sink beneath the sea in the next 100 years to join Atlantis and the many, many sunken islands and cities of our mythology, new and fascinating islands appear.

I wonder if the Great Pacific Plastic Patch too will become the stuff of songs and poetry in 200 years from now.

Are floating cities a remedy for over-crowded coastal cities, land subsidence and rising sea level?

As this documentary from German TV from 2022 clearly shows, designing floating cities is one thing, wanting to live there is quite another. I guess instinctively we all prefer “stability over floating flexibility”, as director Kristin Siebert says, land over sea, grounded houses over floating houses. As desirable living by the sea might be, living on it, is a different matter.

The film does a fine job connecting and juxtaposing places and communities from the global south and global north, sharing similar fate and trying out similar solutions.

If floating cities are a real future option for communities challenged by climate change like Malé, the capital of the Maledives, we need to look at the socio-cultural and emotional aspects of what makes people feel at home. And that might be essentially the same in the Pacific as in Germany or Holland. Breaking with a culture of habitation of several thousand years is no easy task!

(thanks to Janina Kriszeo for the lead!)

Click on image for video link!


This is an areal view of the Capital of the Maledives. The City has outgrown the island space it is built on. A new artificial island is currently under construction and land is constantly added at the shores of the city-island.

Retreat to the Metaverse?

The other night a friend told me about the island state Tuvalu creating a second version of itself online. The story had escaped me and when I heard it from him, it sounded reasonable enough. Having read about managed retreat and communities seeking drastic measures to adapt to climate change so much lately, it seemed like just another, if somewhat desperate, attempt in adaptation. After all, a time of massive transformation challenges is also a time for imposters, megalomaniacs and alot of human hybris.

Instead, the beautifully done and cleverly minimalist website is a very poetic critique of these kind of techno-topias. And it is a striking example of a digital mourning site, a very sad and moving yet also sharp commentary on failure and loss. The upload queue is really heartbraking: everything we are, all the culture, all the memories, the customs, the sites and rituals, all uploaded one by one, as if it was just cargo on some ship. Not even a proper ark!

If more nation states had ministries of justice like Tuvalu does, who seem to actually understand something about the value of belonging and identity, and that are able to speak so eloquently about it, we wouldn’t be in he mess we’re in. We urgently have to integrate sentiments of loss, belonging and identity in climate politics, not to instrumentalize or exploit them, but to do justice to what essentially makes humans humans. Otherwise, we will be saving lives but loosing ourselves.

Thanks to Rainer Schweigkoffer for the lead!

Praise Song for Oceania

This is a beautiful poem by CRAIG SANTOS PEREZ, a coentemporary writer from the Pacific island of Guam. The typeset is quite impressive and transforms the words into a visual art piece as well as a poem. I won’t be able to reproduce it here, so I’ll just quote one stanza and encourage you to check it out in full beauty on this website.

praise your capacity to remember

                         your library of drowned stories

                                                 museum of lost treasures

                                                              your vast archive of desire

Thanks to Hilke Berger for the lead!