The month has managed to roll by to its final Friday, which means it’s time for We Are the World Blogfest, the day for promoting positive news. It delights me to participate as an agent of pronoia along with dozens of other ambassadors highlighting feel-good news stories for us all to celebrate.
Cohosting the project this month are: Shilpa Garg, Peter Nena, Eric Lahti, Roshan Radhakrishnan and Inderpreet Kaur Uppal. Do check out their posts, along with everyone else participating, and feel free to join us here.
The story I’m sharing this month reflects a number of my favorite things – art and science, the environment, toxic waste clean up, innovation, creativity, and sustainability.
The magic of this story started with a collaboration between Guy Riefler, an environmental engineer and professor at Ohio University, and John Sabraw, artist/activist/environmentalist (and fellow professor at Ohio University).
One of the heartbreaks affecting the Appalachian area of the United States is the continued devastation to waterways caused by toxic contamination known as acid mine runoff from abandoned coal mines. In southeastern Ohio alone, more than 1300 miles of streams are affected.
Riefler and Sabraw have partnered in a pilot program to extract this toxic acid mine drainage from polluted streams and turn them into paint pigment. Sabraw is using these paints in his work, bringing attention to ecological issues. The ultimate goal is produce enough pigment to be sold on a commercial scale, creating revenue that will be invested back into remediation of the streams. A huge portion of iron oxide paint used by artists is imported from China, and sourcing a supply locally would be advantageous, and the process is actually rather simple. They’re also building a pilot facility that will not only demonstrate the process on a small scale, but will also serve as an immersive, educational installation, and hopefully an inspiration to other affected areas as well.
You can read more about the project on Sabraw’s website, which incudes a couple of videos, one a short over-view and the other of his TED talk. Check them out here
These kinds of initiatives really excite me, give me great hope, and reassure me that there are folks out there thinking outside the box and innovating fresh solutions to problems that plague us. It’s good to celebrate them. I hope someday to be standing by one of the cleaned up streams, perhaps painting en plein air with tubes of reclaimed iron oxide paints. How wonderful will that be?