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Oakland Earth Expo: Went to Teach & Learned a Few Hard Lessons

Posted By Beth Terry On April 17, 2009 @ 8:00 am In Direct Action,Events | 20 Comments

I would love to show you the photo of a plastic-bedecked Beth flanked by a class of enthusiastic middle schoolers during Oakland’s Earth Expo on Wednesday. I’d also love to show you the photos I captured of an ironic stray plastic bag in flight over the Expo grounds. Unfortunately, I can’t show you these images because I carelessly left my camera unattended on the display table for a few minutes, and it got bored and ran away.

If you are the person who helped liberate my camera, can you please at least send back the memory card? It’s not worth much, but I’d sure like to have those photos. I’ve already replaced the camera with a much smaller model, one which I’ll keep securely in my pocket next time. (More plastic waste for the tally this week. Another of my less than mindful moments. *Sigh*)

I’m very grateful to the helpful folk who took pictures and sent them to me: Oakland Zero Waste Initiative Team Leader, Mark Gagliardi; Oakland Environmental Services Assistant, David Finacom; and Oakland Tribune photographer, Laura Oda. I gave them my sob story, and they came through for Fake Plastic Fish! So, here are a few views of the day. Click images to see larger versions.

The costume was effective, but I wish I’d had a mirror to put it on. I didn’t realize most of the plastic hanging from my belt was twisted around to the back until I saw these photos. I plan to add more plastic pieces and make sure they are better distributed next time. (The base is made from two black plastic garbage bags.)

I had fun hunting for fake plastic fish to put on the hat. Thrift stores… Freecycle… nothing new here! Notice the plastic in the mouth of the poor sea turtle.

The display was divided into two sections: one illustrating the problems with plastic and the other reusable less-plastic alternatives. The Fake Plastic Fish banner is a piece of old sheet and Magic Marker. I’m kind of proud of myself because I wrote it freehand at about 3am the night before the event. Um… not proud that I stayed up until 3am. Just that I didn’t screw it up!

On the problem side, I included photos and info about litter, harm to wildlife, non-biodegradability, chemicals, and the fact that plastic is made from non-renewable fossil sources. I also had my sample of water from the Pacific Garbage Patch to share.

The right side was a revelation. I had originally planned to either post pictures of disposable plastic items and their reusable alternatives or figure out a way to attach the actual items to the board. But honestly, I ran out of time.

As I walked home from BART Tuesday night after work, fretting about how I was going to be able to get all this work done in a few hours, I had a eureka moment. I already planned to ask attendees to fill out pledge cards committing to give up some plastic from their lives. Instead of my ideas, I’d fill up the board with theirs! The green pieces of paper are all ideas from attendees on how to live with less plastic.

My own ideas were represented by actual reusable items (bags, containers, utensils, etc.) on the table and in the give-away basket. (Items in the basket were generously donated by Whole Foods Oakland, Green Sangha, LunchBots, GlassDharma, LaundryTree, & the Ecology Center.)

Here’s Fake Plastic Fish chatting with Oakland Recycling Program Specialist Peter Slote and a festival attendee, examining the Garbage Patch sample.

I also met one of my heros, Councilwoman Jean Quan [8], who co-authored Oakland’s Plastic Bag Ban ordinance [9]. Unfortunately, I didn’t recognize her at first in her summery dress and big straw hat, and since she was taking pictures with a huge, professional-looking camera, I asked what media organization she was with. Oops. I hope that if by some remote chance she reads this, she’ll know how grateful I am for what she’s trying to do for our city.

And I finally got to meet Eli Saddler of Oceanhealth.org [10] who wants to join me at the Bay to Breakers in a sea turtle costume.

This photo is the artistic creation of David Finacom, expo organizer and apparently great photographer. It was a beautiful day.

I had information on the table for attendees to take with them as well. Green Sangha flyers, Meditation on Plastic [13], & Don’t Think of a Plastic Bag flyer [14], and IATP’s Smart Plastics Guide [15]. I completely ran out of my own Fake Plastic Fish business cards. Maybe next time I should bring the whole box.

Next time, also, I will try harder to get at least one volunteer to help me. I would have liked to have visited other tables at the event, but without help, I was pretty much confined to my station.

Two more things about the day… one fantastic and one not so…

A Fake Plastic Fish reader who works for the City of Oakland approached me. We’d never met. I don’t think she’s ever commented here. But she told me her daughter had forwarded my blog to her after reading about it on Fark.com [16] and that Fake Plastic Fish had become her daily read. I really almost cried. Just the idea that something positive had emerged from that stupid Fark incident [17].

And then, at the end of the day, another one of my friends came to lend support and offered to take pictures with her cell phone after hearing about the camera incident. She set her purse down on the ground for a few minutes to take the photo, and while she wasn’t looking, it got up and followed my camera! Holy crap! Cameras are easily replaceable. Wallet and car and condo keys, much more of a hassle. Sheesh.

No, we were not in a “bad” neighborhood. We were right in the shadow of City Hall. And these things happen anywhere there is a big crowd of people and enough inattention for quick, practiced hands to do their work. My friend got her purse and keys back eventually. They were found in some bushes. She’ll simply have to deal with replacing credit cards.

All in all, it was a wonderful day. I bring up the two thefts not to bum you out and not merely as cautionary tales for your benefit (Be Aware!) but to leave you with this question:

What is the connection plastic pollution and petty larceny? Who is the victim and who is the thief? The answer might be more complicated than it seems.

Article printed from My Plastic-free Life: http://myplasticfreelife.com

URL to article: http://myplasticfreelife.com/2009/04/oakland-earth-expo-went-to-teach/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://myplasticfreelife.com/images/Oakland_Earth_Expo_2008_003_medium.jpg

[2] Image: http://myplasticfreelife.com/images/Oakland_Earth_Expo_2008_005_medium.jpg

[3] Image: http://myplasticfreelife.com/images/Oakland_Earth_Expo_2008_002_medium.jpg

[4] Image: http://myplasticfreelife.com/images/Oakland_Earth_Expo_2008_006_medium.jpg

[5] Image: http://myplasticfreelife.com/images/Oakland_Earth_Expo_2008_007_medium.jpg

[6] Image: http://myplasticfreelife.com/images/Oakland_Earth_Expo_2008_008_medium.jpg

[7] Image: http://myplasticfreelife.com/images/Oakland_Earth_Expo_2008_001_medium.jpg

[8] Councilwoman Jean Quan: http://www.jeanquan.org/

[9] Plastic Bag Ban ordinance: http://clerkwebsvr1.oaklandnet.com/attachments/16942.pdf

[10] Oceanhealth.org: http://oceanhealth.org/

[11] Image: http://myplasticfreelife.com/images/Oakland_Earth_Expo_2008_009_medium.jpg

[12] Image: http://myplasticfreelife.com/images/Oakland_Earth_Expo_2008_004_medium.jpg

[13] Meditation on Plastic: http://www.greensangha.org/Plastics/Medn_on_plastic_SFZC_9-06.pdf

[14] Don’t Think of a Plastic Bag flyer: http://www.greensangha.org/Plastics/DontThink11-05.pdf

[15] IATP’s Smart Plastics Guide: http://myplasticfreelife.com/plastics_guide.pdf

[16] Fark.com: http://forums.fark.com/cgi/fark/comments.pl?IDLink=4201775&startid=48644106

[17] stupid Fark incident: http://myplasticfreelife.com/2009/02/what-fark/

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