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?
What a marvelous collaboration…I’ve just taken my delightful granddaughter on her first visit to a ‘real’ art supply store. She was dazzled by all the different supplies and especially the vast array of paints that filled two isles… Can you imagine if they were all made using ingredients sourced from areas of contamination!!!!
Sounds like a most wonderful outing, and I imagine you both had a marvelous time. It would certainly be fabulous to someday be using paints knowing they not only were reclaimed from toxins, but also that their purchased helped in the river cleanup. Win-win-win!
Great post! Something good from something bad…how perfect! We have alot of plein air artists around here…perhaps I will join you in that endeavor! Aloha Friend…
Perfect indeed Vicki. And I often think of your woods and imagine the magic that is there to be found (and painted).
Such a wonderful post, Deborah! Such good news to know that there are knowledgable people taking positive steps. En plein air and reclaimed paints by a healthy stream sounds perfect! I’ll meet you there. <3
It’s very encouraging isn’t it Pattie?! And I can indeed see us painting stream-side — how perfect will that be?
That is so smart!
It shows that mankind needs to tap deeper into creativity, as we go forward, experimenting and searching for different ways to save our earth! The answers are there waiting to be discovered…
I agree with you Michelle. I’d love to see us collectively supporting, encouraging, and teaching each other to think outside the box. We are in such great need of creativity and innovation.
I’m in Ohio but I’ve never heard of this project. Sometimes the most good comes from the most unexpected places, doesn’t it? The photos of the artwork are beautiful. Great story for the #WATWB.
Unexpected indeed Ally. And I love the collaborative aspect of this project as well. It just reinforces for me the beauty of both bouncing ideas off one another, and the importance of supporting each other. So much good can come from approaching things that way.
That’s a great idea. It’s a perfect example of life gives you lemons and you make lemonade.
This is definitely a win-win situation Deborah! Thinking out of the box (or not even being in the box) brings extraordinary innovations. I know that here in SA much use is made of eg plastics – making attractive, strong and colourful bags; using old tyres from cars, painting them (hopefully in nontoxic paint) and making attractive cat/dog baskets … thank you for this post 🙂
It’s so true Susan. One of my favorite dreams is the establishment of think tanks devoted to innovative eco-friendly, actually do-able solutions to our problems. Only not the elite think tanks now mostly established to preserve certain agendas, but actual innovation studios that invite creative thinking. Maybe someday…
Hi Deborah – love these sorts of stories and how excellent. When we were kids we used to holiday in St Ives … and often went across the bay to the Godrevy lighthouse area (beach and rocks) and possibly Virginia’s Woolf’s lighthouse -as she used to holiday in St Ives … and an old mine used to seep down into the bay painting the shells pink – gorgeous colours … but of course we knew it was toxic – but not the hows or whys … we were kids. It is now no longer toxic – they probably redirected the mine works .. not sure.
But loved this … and it’s been noted in South Africa and in the UK that some plants can absorb the toxins and bring life back to old (gold and china clay) mine workings.
How fantastic they’re producing oil paints … wonderful – cheers Hilary
How interesting about St. Ives and the shells Hilary – you are a font of such fascinating information. And the plant info as well. The older I get, the more intrigued I am by nature’s own efforts to contain and correct the harm we create.
I love it when people think outside the box to remedy something that’s gone bad. I hope their project is able to do what it needs to clear up the waterways and to produce a healthy income for the region.
Such thinking and action excites me as well Lynda, and fills me with endless hope. I believe we have the capacity to be far more innovative as a collective, but we often give in to pressures that lead us in other directions. So I’m always delighted and eager to celebrate those change-makers who persevere.
What a fantastic collaboration to make the best out of waste. Thanks for sharing this positive story, Deborah!
Thanks for stopping by Shilpa. It’s such a delight to share these WATWB feel-good stories isn’t it?
What a fantastic initiative, dear Deborah. What I love most about this project, it is focused on how to turn something negative into a positive. It is so easy to complain, but actually doing something to contribute to a better world for all of us…how can one not love this.
Thank you for sharing this amazing heartwarming good news.
It is inspiring isn’t it Patty?! Sometimes I think about what a huge impact could be made if everyone really allowed themselves to follow what they felt passionate about and pursued it unflinchingly. What contributions to the greater good could each one of us be capable of?