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This artivism project was organized by the Ocean Health Cooperative, a volunteer-based collective of nuclear engineers, marine biologists, ocean researchers, environmental lawyers, and citizens who work to protect our oceans.
[Global, and Pacific; 5/15/23]
In a global effort, eight internationally acclaimed eco-artists have joined forces to oppose the controversial Japanese plan to dump nuclear wastewater into the Pacific ocean starting Summer 2023. Their collaboration seeks to shed light on this critical issue that has not received sufficient attention in the media due to competing political priorities, and to use the transformative power of art to effect meaningful change.
On the tail of World Endangered Species Day, some of the artists highlight the potential harm to several key endangered species, namely the Okinawa Dugong, Eastern Hokkaido sea otter, sperm whales, Indo-Pacific whale sharks, giant manta rays (threatened), and spinner dolphins (protected) which inhabit the bays of Japan and surrounding Pacific regions, these artists aim to raise awareness and inspire action among the public and policymakers. Other artists focused on representations of what the ocean signifies, or what we may have to go without once this radioactivity bioaccumulates in sea life.
These artists, whose work has captivated audiences worldwide, believe that the time has come for society to prioritize the preservation of our planet over short-term convenience.
An Unsafe Plan
The proposed Japanese plan has been deemed “inadequate, incomplete, inconsistent and biased” by a third-party panel of expert scientists, assembled by the Pacific Islands Forum, the leading political and economic policy organization of the region comprised of 18 countries, and has been opposed by the National Association of Marine Laboratories, a nonprofit that includes over 100 research and academic institutions that focus on marine and coastal science.
At the G7 summit May20th, 2023, Japan looked to seek approval of G7 nations. Germany opposes the plan, although the rest of the G7, sadly, has endorsed this plan. Today’s safety standards have not caught up to the latest science, so this decision is short-sighted.
Let our leaders know there are cheaper and safer alternatives to consider (bioremediation, electrocoagulation), and that we don’t want this waste in our oceans.
- Zeppelin Moon (aka Amber Fossey) (UK; Nautilus Award winning author & illustrator, wildlife). Okinawa Dugong, Eastern Hokkaido sea otter
- Amanda Cotton (US; Underwater photographer, Women Divers Hall of Fame) – sperm whales.
- Claudia & Hendrik Schmitt (Germany; Award-winning underwater documentary filmmakers) – Indo-Pacific whale sharks.
- Asher Jay (US; USNC United Nations Women Design Star, National Geographic Explorer. Creative Conservationist.) giant manta rays
- David Pu’u (US/Hawaii; Nat Geo photographer, photojournalist, oceans & surfing). Spinner dolphins.
- Randy Olson (US; World renowned Nat Geo Photographer, wildlife).
- David McLeod (Australia; World renowned 3D animator)
- Hannah Rothstein (US; Viral eco artist)
Zeppelin Moon (aka Amber Fossey)
About this piece: “There is no life on earth without sea life, we came from the water and it is our duty to respect and protect the oceans.
The animals I chose to draw are the dugong; which once native to the Japanese waters of Okinawa is now endangered.
Also a sea otter; the wild sea otters of Japan were thought to be extinct from fur harvesting but some have been spotted again (certainly remain endangered).”
By bringing attention to these endangered animals, Amber, aka Zeppelin Moon, draws attention to the fact that these creatures face a grim future if the dump goes forward. Let’s protect them, not wipe them out.
Bio: Amber Fossey was a doctor before becoming an artist and a Nautilus award-winning author (prize for books about social and environmental justice).
She loves to tell whimsical stories inspired by animals and believes in compassion and equality for all life, as we are all deeply connected.
US-based artist; Dominica Sperm Whales.
About this piece: “A sperm whale family (unit) swims together off the coast of Dominica. This group of sperm whales, with their deep family ties, understands the importance of protecting those around them who mean so much to their survival. But as much as they rely on each other, they also depend on the health of the ocean ecosystem that sustains them. By taking urgent action to protect our oceans, we can safeguard the majestic creatures that call it home. It’s our responsibility to do our part to ensure the oceans and all the life within them are protected for generations to come.”
Bio: Amanda Cotton, Wildlife Photographer specializing in the underwater world. As an ocean enthusiast, Amanda’s goal is to help the general public embrace the beauty nestled below the waves, in hopes that with awareness comes concern.
Her work has been published in major publications and news sources worldwide including National Geographic, BBC, Discovery, Smithsonian Magazine, Times Publishing, CNN, Scuba Diving Magazine, Sport Diver Magazine, Natural History Magazine, Earth week, and Science Daily; as well as many international dive industry advertising and marketing campaigns.
Working with organizations such as Scholastic Books, The Conservation Fund, Consortium For Ocean Leadership, Women Diver’s Hall of Fame, Marine Life Protection Act, and Rourke Publishing has allowed her imagery and writing to have a positive impact on the oceans through education and outreach programs designed to improve awareness toward the plight the oceans now face.
Amanda is honored to be a Member National of The Explorers Club and was inducted into the Women Divers Hall of Fame in 2015.
Claudia & Hendrik Schmitt
Germany; Indo-Pacific whale sharks.
About this piece: “Whale sharks are the largest fish in the world, gentle filter feeders that have been swimming in our planet’s Ocean for millions of years. Their presence is a sign of a vital marine ecosystem. During the Anthropocene and due to human impact, they’ve become endangered. If whale sharks disappear, we will not only lose a beautiful marine species, we will also have lost the ecosystem they thrive in.
Us humans must realize that for us to also thrive on this planet, WE also need a healthy Ocean. Protecting the Ocean is not just about the beauty of the marine world, it is about our very own survival on this planet.”
Bio: Claudia and Hendrik Schmitt are award-winning underwater filmmakers and passionate for the protection of our ocean. Confronted with the vulnerability of the ocean and eye witness to the problems our ocean is facing, they decided to become ambassadors of the underwater world. They use their cameras and skills not only to create beautiful films about their diving adventures, but also to focus on documentary films about environmental issues like pollution, climate crisis, overfishing and species extinctions – and on the ocean heroes who are dedicated to the ocean’s protection.
US; A Manta Moment
About this Piece: “This is a print reproduction of a hand illustrated, mixed media Asher Jay Original. A Manta Moment abstracts the complex musculature of an exquisitely engineered creature of the deep, in a moment of wild abandonment. The image captures the drape of this enigmatic being as it gently glides with its large wings stretched expansively, as if to emulate the dimensions of the blue ocean itself.”
Bio: Asher Jay is a National Geographic explorer, international, adventurer and public figure whose compelling paintings, sculptures, installations, animations, ad campaigns, and films all have a single purpose: to incite global action on behalf of wildlife conservation.
Asher’s travels to the frontline have made her witness and story-teller, combating illegal wildlife trafficking, promoting habitat sanctuaries and illuminating humanitarian emergencies. Her core message, again and again: biodiversity loss during the Anthropocene – the Age of Man.
US/Hawaii; Spinner Dolphins.
About this piece: “These images are from a production shoot for Hobie off the Kona coast, Big Isle, Hawaii, where I was teaching the crew how to swim and interact with cetaceans. All dolphins shown are spinner dolphins.
It was a pretty adventurous day for us all. These shots were from a recon I did, after having a pretty active interaction with an alpha male spinner, who came straight up off the bottom screaming, and grabbed me, taking me to the surface. I swam back down and shot this. He is the third dolphin from the left. After this, the pod let us swim with them. All of the male and female athletes on this shoot were elite watermen-women.
I do not believe it is possible to protect the Ocean without having a deep and intimate relationship with it. As someone raised in the sea by a Hawaiian Father, I was brought up to understand that as a Hawaiian: the Sea is my home. I learned its ways, and strongly advocate for the passing along of that type of understanding to culture at large. We are to care for every aspect of the Ocean, even as we would the house in which we live. Housekeeping matters very much where the Ocean is concerned.”
Bio: David Pu’u is a Photographer, Cinematographer and Writer with broad experience ranging from editorial publication, to television and feature film production. For the past 20 years David has been a leader in the imaging community through his contributions to both new technology and uses of high-speed motion capture in film and digital 3D formats, which have been featured prominently on the global stage. His work can be found The Surfers Journal, The Surfers Path, LongBoard Magazine, Deep Magazine, Nalu Magazine, Surfers. De Magazine, Blue Magazine Japan, Surf Life Japan, Surf Life for Women, Santa Barbara Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, New York Post, Men’s Journal, Standup Paddler Magazine, White Horses Australia, Fluir Brazil, Surfing Life Japan, and more.
US; Oglalla Sand Hill Cranes.
Randy, an award-winning National Geographic photographer, is supporting the Fukushima artivism project by drawing attention to how important it is to protect ALL our water, and the animals who depend on it.
About this piece: “This photograph demonstrates how important water is and how scarce it is becoming, from a National Geographic story I did on the Ogallala aquifer. This photo is from one of the few places you can see unpolluted, plentiful fossil water from the aquifer, and also see how it’s NOT JUST IMPORTANT TO US… but to the livelihood of a half million birds and other species of wildlife.
There are only six great aquifers in the world, and ours in North America is the Ogallala aquifer.
This photo is an example of where we are in the Anthropocene, and how we decide which species we save. If the Crane Trust hadn’t dredged this river in Nebraska back to the Pleistocene, these majestic sandhill cranes would have no place to congregate en masse and breed little cranes. And no surprise, this aquifer, like all water it seems, is under stress…Texas and Oklahoma have already pumped out or poisoned their portion of it.
Every spring 80% of Lesser Sand Hill Cranes and some Greater Sand Hill Cranes (560,000) fly to the Platte River in greater concentrations than anywhere in the world. Fossil beds in parts of Nebraska contain the remains of prehistoric cranes from 10 million years ago. Their main migratory path is north-south constrained by the Rocky Mountains in the same way as the aquifer was when the mountains were formed.
Sand Hill Cranes land on Crane Trust property feeding on adjacent farmland’s waste corn. Ironically, it is because modern agriculture took away the constrained rivers they need to survive.
The Crane Trust counted 413,000 Sandhill Cranes on this evening—more than they’ve ever counted before, so this image is what it must have looked like millions of years ago. Conservation groups tirelessly work to keep 20 miles of the Platte River a perfect habitat for the 560,000 cranes that fly through. One of the biggest migration corridors in the world hinges on a core of volunteers, and the money they raise to dredge the rivers back to the place they were millions of years ago.”
Bio: Randy Olson is a multi-award-winning National Geographic photographer in the social-documentary tradition. Most of his work centers around resource extraction and how that affects indigenous communities or pristine ecosystems.
His 30+ National Geographic magazine projects have taken him to nearly every continent, winning: the Alfred Eisenstadt award for Magazine Photography, an Alicia Patterson Foundation Fellowship, and a Robert F. Kennedy Award, among others. The National Geographic Society published a book of his work in a Masters of Photography series. Olson was the Magazine Photographer of the Year in the Pictures of the Year International (POYi) competition, and was also awarded POYi’s Newspaper Photographer of the Year—one of only two photographers to win in both media in the largest photojournalism contest operating continuously since World War II.
In 2011, Randy founded The Photo Society (thephotosociety.org) to provide support for, and exposure to members as the economics of print dwindles. The National Geographic photographers elected Randy to represent them on the Photographers Advisory Board (PAB)
Australia; Ripples to Waves
About this piece: “This changing piece represents the wholeness of our oceans and the interconnected nature of all earth’s water. Actions can be felt around the globe and we must do what we can to keep our oceans clean and pure for everyone.”
An original piece, made By David for this Fukushima artivism project.
Bio: David McLeod is an Australian artist & designer. Creating still and moving image, David’s work is driven by a curiosity for exploring new visual territories in CG. He has had the pleasure of working with a variety of clients, including: Apple, Nike, Dropbox, Toyota, Adobe, Wacom, Diesel, Calvin Klein, Omega, Mastercard, Canon, Greenpeace and Wired.
US; Save the Pacific
About this piece: “Inspired by vintage advertising, the work at left uses the idealized aesthetic of the 1950s to depict an unsettling scene. This contrast gives the piece its power, drawing users in with the unexpected and leading them to consider the work’s overall message.
For the piece at right, I wanted to make a simple, streamlined piece that had an immediate impact. The large radioactive symbol sits atop a red background (red being the color typically associated with danger or warnings), and the symbol’s traditionally circular center is transformed into a slice of sushi. This sushi slice evokes Japan, and making it part of the radioactive symbol illustrates how dumping radioactive wastewater into the Pacific will affect marine life and, in turn, the food we eat.
Keeping our oceans clean and healthy is a major part of ensuring a livable Earth for future generations. For one, the oceans provide a major source of Earth’s oxygen via phytoplankton. They’re also an important food source for many people. When we care for our oceans, we care for ourselves.”
Bio: Hannah Rothstein is redefining art in the eyes of the Millennial Generation. Her internet-viral work spans many media, from watercolor to digital art, and has been published in The New York Times, TIME, The Guardian, Vogue Italia, and more. See more of Hannah’s work at www.hrothstein.com and Instagram (@HRothsteinArt).]
Thank you to these incredible artists who are helping spread the word for our ocean health. Have art you’d like to make to spread awareness? Check our artivism page for more info.
More information on the situation, along with research and citations, can be found here.
More information on several known alternate solutions can be found here.