Plastic in the Oceans
By AL-QAWI NANAVATI
Originally from Mumbai, India, I have long been an artist and am currently pursuing a graduate program in Printmaking at the University of Iowa through an Iowa Arts Fellowship. My recent visit to Toronto happily coincided with the presentation by Prince Hussain Aga Khan of his exhibition The Living Sea: Fragile Beauty at the Aga Khan Museum. I then spent a considerable amount of time viewing the exhibition in the Ismaili Centre Toronto’s social hall and patio. I left the two events feeling inspired and motivated to do whatever I can to assist Prince Hussain in his goals of educating us and raising our awareness about the disturbing state of the oceans and its sea creatures.
The two images shown below captured my attention the most after hearing Prince Hussain speak about his passions and purpose behind the show. The images are mounted on a large panel in the patio of the Ismaili Centre. Titled Plastic Bag and Plastic Waste, they were taken in two different parts of the world, the Philippines and Sardinia, 3 years apart. I thought a lot about these two photographs long after I left the show. They were extremely poignant and show us a mirror into what we are doing to our planet.
Story continues below
Prince Hussain has caption notes accompanying the two photographs. For the first photo, taken in May 2017 in the Philippines, the Prince writes: “This was the most depressing thing I’ve ever witnessed.”
For the bottom photo, taken in August 2020 in Sardinia, Prince Hussain laments: “Unfortunately few, if any, effective solutions exist to rid our oceans of this ongoing problem. Most would be difficult to bring to scale. As long as mankind isn’t ready to give up plastic or capable of producing reliable alternatives, our marine environment (and others!) will suffer.”
The image of a snared dolphin that sunk my heart
By DR. NURIN MERCHANT
The photograph by Prince Hussain Aga Khan of two dolphins swimming side by side had the greatest impact on me when I visited his exhibition The Living Sea — Fragile Beauty at the Ismaili Centre Toronto.
My eyes were immediately drawn to one of the dolphin’s tails, which had a black rope (presumably from fishing equipment) tightly ensnared around it. The rope had been cinched so tight over time that it was now embedded in the dolphin’s skin. My heart sank — such an intelligent yet helpless creature experiencing so much pain and suffering due to mankind’s irresponsibility with its creation.
I would like for the readers to think about something we can all relate to for a moment — pretend that one day you are walking barefoot on a beach, somewhat far from home. Suddenly, OUCH! You feel a sharp pain, and notice that you have accidentally stepped on a piece of glass that has become deeply embedded in the sole of your foot. Somehow, no matter how hard you try, you cannot remove the glass. No one is around to help you, so you are forced to walk all the way home; each step is a painful burden as the glass digs in, deeper and deeper. A few hours later you reach home, fetch a pair of tweezers, and thankfully succeed in removing the shard.
This dolphin has no one to help it. In the scenario you just imagined, just like we use our feet to propel us forward, the dolphin uses its tail. Unlike the scenario though, this dolphin has likely been living with this injury for months, not hours. And one day, it is very probable that he or she will die from this injury.
This photograph highlights the damage that we continue to inflict upon nature and juxtaposes it with nature’s strong will and resiliency. I see it every day in my career as a veterinarian — animals are far more resilient and perseverant than humans, but this is because they have no choice but to survive, but to persevere.
We must be their voice. And we must always remember: nature’s resiliency cannot compete with our destruction. One day, just as this dolphin — an animal recognized by many scientists as a non-human person due to their high level of intelligence and ability to be self-aware — will succumb to its injuries, so will our ecosystems and the species who call it home (ourselves included).
Each and every one of us has a duty to protect, preserve, and conserve Nature and our home, Planet Earth. Without it, there is no us.
Date posted: May 28, 2023.
Last updated: June 01, 2023 (reformatting.)