HELP THE KELP, 2019
As part of the SS PaloAlto project, ArtDialogue is created a sustainability driven exhibition and interactive event at the site of the Cement Ship at SeaCliff in Santa Cruz. Hosted by CA State Parks and UCSC Art & Design Place-making Initiatives, the event will took place on October 26th, 2019., and was open to the public.The SS PaloAlto project aims to spark dialogue and curiosity in the community about the intersections between sustainability, marine science and the arts. Artists of all ages and backgrounds were invited to submit art and science projects that use natural systems and phenomena as a model to rethink human interactions within our environment.
How can we maintain balance in the systems that feed us? How can our trash and other failures of consumption, be repurposed to serve and repair the environment they originally polluted?
In the heart of the Monterey Bay lies an artifact reminiscent of a post-apocalyptic scene. Since 1932 the SS PaloAlto on East Cliff in Santa Cruz has been rotting and taken over by marine life, a skeleton of a World War One ship. From Warship to amusement park and restaurant to fishing spot, the SS Palo Alto’s has been repurposed over and over again since its origin in 1919. The goal has always been supporting human activity. However, in 2005, the ship was found to have leaked oil into the bay, which threatened wildlife and catalyzed environmentalists to stage a large clean up project. Now, the physical artifacts of war and a failed economy (the great depression) serve as an artificial reef for marine life. The SS PaloAlto may look abandoned, but it is a necessary home for a diverse population of flora and fauna. Habitat restoration is more important than ever, with global climate change throwing marine systems out of balance, causing crashes in entire species populations.
One example of this is kelp. Kelp, a form of seaweed that reaches 150 feet, creates massive underwater forests that provide habitat for many species of mobile invertebrate and fauna. However, we are seeing these underwater cities turn to deserts all around the world. With the disappearance of kelp, comes a habitat loss for entire ecosystems. The destruction of the forests and the life they sustain is an indirect impact of human action. Warming waters cause the ocean to acidify and throw nutrient levels out of balance. However, kelp and their respiration process could also be the answer for bringing down CO2 emissions. In fact, seaweed was recently discovered to produce up to ninety percent of Earth's oxygen. Unfortunately human actions such as overfishing and CO2 emissions have a synergistic effect on kelp beds and their degradation.
However, a hope exists in the Monterey Bay. After nearly ninety-five percent of kelp disappeared, an extensive conservation effort over the last decade by scientists, and supporters catalyzed the rebirth of our kelp beds. With the seaweed comes countless other species who have a home once again.
The SS PaloAlto and kelp forests function to restore habitats for marine life. While humans are the cause for disrupting the balance in the ecosystem we can also be the solution. All we have to do is learn from the kelp.
By observing, researching, and illuminating flora, fauna, and other natural phenomena like kelp that support the ecosystems they inhabit, we can create new narratives and methodologies on which to base our relationship with the environment. Using creativity and interdisciplinary thinking we can turn our erosive artefacts into tools for education and corrosive artifacts into restoration projects and habitats of the anthropocene.
more info at www.sspaloalto.org