To ride ocean currents, seahorses clutch drifting seagrass or other natural debris with their tails. The debris acts as a sail, whisking the tiny seahorse along with the current. In the polluted waters off the Indonesian island of Sumbawa, this seahorse latched onto a plastic cotton swab instead – “a photo I wish didn’t exist,” says photographer Justin Hofman.
Planet or Plastic? is a photography exhibition by National Geographic, which shines a spotlight on the fragility of the natural environment as a result of the global plastic waste crisis. Opening on 12 September, Planet or Plastic? is the first exhibition to launch at ArtScience Museum since it re-opened after Singapore’s Circuit-Breaker.
Featuring 70 powerful images from photographers around the world, Planet or Plastic? tells the story behind plastic from its invention just over a century ago to its mass consumption today. The exhibition endeavours to raise awareness of society’s dependence on plastic by visually depicting the global plastic waste crisis and highlighting the innovative individuals and communities who are working on solutions to this urgent problem. The show builds upon National Geographic’s multiyear global initiative aimed at reducing the amount of single-use plastic that reaches the ocean.
“Plastic pollution is one of the most important global environmental challenges of our generation. But it is an issue that we can all do something about. This exhibition informs us about how we got here, the scope of the problem, and how we can each be a part of the solution. National Geographic has made a commitment to reducing our reliance on single-use plastics and our hope is that after seeing this exhibition, visitors will join us in that commitment,” said Kathryn Keane, Vice President of Public Programming at the National Geographic Society.
Plastic has eased space travel, extended the shelf life of fresh food, allows for the delivery of clean drinking water to those without it, and even saves lives when used in airbags or helmets. Despite its utility and convenience, an exorbitant amount of plastic products are disposed of improperly with some 6.3 billion tonnes of plastic waste1 left unrecycled.
Included in the exhibition is an emotive image taken by award-winning underwater photographer, Jordi Chias, which depicts a loggerhead turtle ensnared in an old plastic fishing net in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Spain. The turtle could stretch its neck above water to breathe, but it would have died if the photographer had not freed it. Chias won the ‘One Earth’ award at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year in 2010 with this image.
One of the major hurdles to recycling is properly cleaning and sorting the materials. In Dhaka, Bangladesh, women sort through a mountain of discarded plastic bottles gathered by waste pickers, which will be melted down and remade into new plastic products. In the photograph taken by Randy Olson, it shows places which provide employment and help remove discarded plastic from flowing into the sea.
Tickets: Adult SGD 19, Singapore Resident: SGD 16
Venue: ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands
When: 12 Sep 2020 - 28 Mar 2021,