Plastic Century: a taste of the polluted oceans


Would you drink from a cooler of water littered (literally) with old toothbrushes, candy wrappers, film, drinking straws, and other plastic detritus? What if that cooler represents our oceans, circa 2030? Plastic Century is a simple-but-provocative art installation that demands you to consider, in a visceral way, how plastic is impacting our environment. On display this week at the California Academy of Sciences, Plastic Century was created in honor of Jacques Cousteau's 100th birthday by my pal and Institute for the Future colleague Jake Dunagan, futurist Stuart Candy, artist Sarah Kornfeld, and oceanographer Wallace J. Nichols. From Fast Company:

Plastic Century asks onlookers to drink water from four different coolers, each filled with bunches of plastic. But there's a catch–the four coolers are labeled by year, extending from 1910 all the way through 2030. And, unsurprisingly, the amount of plastic in each cooler rises along with the date.

The creators of Plastic Century came together a month and a half ago when CAS commissioned their piece. "We wanted to see what would it look like if we figured out a way to make artifact, an installation, where people could engage with this difficult topic but where they had options that came out of it," Kornfeld explains. "This is something that people can look at and feel on a visceral level." The emotions that come from drinking trash-filled water–disgust, revulsion, sadness–are offset by the knowledge that 2030 hasn't arrived yet. There is still time to fix things.

"Plastic Pollution in the Water? Drink Up!"