The midterm proposals of the “Biotech and Design” class are truly fascinating. They cover a diverse range of topics that all peak my interest, and, most importantly, it seems that all of them are seeking to do something to better society and the planet. It was difficult to narrow down this blog to a mere three proposals, but, alas, the assignment description has required me to do just that.
Following the lecture on plastics, I decided to spend a day observing the plastics I encounter throughout the day:
This lesson challenged me to reevaluate my own relationship with a material so common in the modern world that we throw away tons of it every year without a second thought. Dr. Gimzewski, a chemistry professor at UCLA, gave us a lecture about the chemistry of plastics and its use in modern society.
Tuesday, April 30th
You See the Difference, a Turtle Does Not
Sitting in a coffee shop while studying this weekend, I noticed the person at the table next to me drinking an iced coffee with a reusable metal straw. In fact, many places around the country are beginning to ban the use of plastic straws (Gibbens 2019). It’s nice to see that more people are trying to make an effort to reduce plastic use, but it is a bit ironic that the lid and cup of their drink were both still made of disposable, one-time-use plastic.
They say ignorance is bliss. In regard to the horror that is plastic, I would not say I used to be totally unaware, but I most certainly was ignorant when it came to my own use of this deadly material. To say that last Thursday’s class with Dr. Gimzewski was impactful would be an understatement.
This week, I was not able to attend seminar due to a last minute scheduling for me to host an event for my art collective, CMMND. Although I missed our discussion, I think I can provide some insight on a topic that is directly connected to our class: the intersection between art and mental health. I took this opportunity to conduct further research on how art conveys emotions and as well as the more biological relationship between the music and health.
Last weeks class on the excessive use of plastics was very interesting, we talked about how billions of plastic items were choking the ocean, lakes and rivers and piling up on land harming our plants and wildlife. We discussed how more than 480 plastic bottles were sold worldwide in the 2016 and nearly 2 million plastic bags are used every minute which is approximately 1 trillion plastic bags annually. Moreover in 2015 over half of the world’s plastic thrown out was plastic packaging and that accounted for 141 million metric tons.
When I first heard the term bioplastics, my first question was “why haven’t we already transitioned to using a more sustainable substance to replace plastic?” I then learned that even though a material is bio-based, it doesn't necessarily mean that it is biodegradable. I found out that in order for a material to biodegrade, it must be able to undergo a process where microbes, bacteria, or other living organisms decompose it back into nature.
During our talk this week, our speaker brought up a great point that needs to resonate with innovators in our era; think about what should be, not what is possible. I have kept a theme with my blogs this quarter and blogged about aspects of our lectures that resonate with me. We are here to learn about art, and I really think that art’s sole purpose is to resonate with us, and I think the speaker or artist has done their job if their work accomplishes this.
I apologize for the delay in my blog post, I did not realize we needed to do one this week. Last week, we got to learn from Xin Xin about a presentation on bioplastics. I was very excited because I got to learn about something that I did not have much knowledge on, which was the idea that there are alternative things to plastics. In particular, bioplastics can be made at home by common people like me at home with very natural ingredients.
Last week, we joined Xin Xin in a presentation/workshop that I really did not know much about, so I got to learn a lot about the topic of bioplastics. Initially, we got to talk a bit about the history of war and biochemistry and how it has led to the world that we live in today. I got to learn about Bioplastics and how they’re a substance derived from plants rather than petroleum. This idea was very new to me and it made me think about our lives in today’s world.
This week, under the guidance of Xin Xin, we did a bioplastic workshop together and I really enjoyed the process. Compared with the indigo dyeing workshop two weeks ago, this workshop is even more interesting to me, as we were actually “cooking” out the bioplastics by ourselves. The informative lecture given by Dr. Ggimzewski last week introduced bioplastics as an alternative solution to the fuel made plastics. The bioplastics are made from starch and scientists use sorbitol and glycerin to plasticizes the starch into a plastic.