Talking trash and making monsters with Tierney Thys

On November 20th, marine biologist Dr. Tierney Thys met with students and artists/scientists from Monterey County and Fresno, California schools to talk trash as part of PopTech’s Spark initiative. Thys explained how trash makes its way to the ocean, gathers in ocean gyres and endangers the lives of countless marine creatures. In fact, some forms of pollutants, like plastics, can become exponentially more dangerous as they transform from physical threats to chemical threats. In fleshing out ways to combat this growing problem, participants considered various solutions including the four Rs: Refuse single-serving plastic containers as well as Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

Keeping those ideas in mind, the monster-making began. Drawing from five wheel barrels brimming with beach trash collected by the community days before the event, participants quickly transformed the mountains of plastic, Styrofoam, cigarette butts, juice boxes, wrappers and lids into sculptural masterpieces. Students wrote and recorded descriptions of their creations.

Emma Finch, a 12-year old participant, described the sculpture she titled "The Three UnWise Men”:

This piece exemplifies three types of foolishness we see in the world today. On the far right is the Polluter, an “Average Joe” who is in denial about environmental concerns and continues living the “disposable” life. Front and center is the Pyromaniac, an unsavory individual whose incessant smoking harms himself and others. On the
far left is the insidious Perpetrator of Lies. This is the guy who will tell you that global warming is fake and smoking is good for you. He’ll do anything to make a profit.

On December 15, all works of art will be exhibited at the Monterey Plaza Hotel as part of National Geographic’s Marine Recreation Community Workshop. Thys hopes to continue her work with Trash Monsters by partnering with the Ocean Conservancy as well as making Trash Monster events an annual part of the International Coastal Cleanup.

Images: Tierney Thys

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