Trash Talk Lecture: Terrible and Charismatic Waste: A Close Reading of Ocean Plastics

Cambridge, January 9, 2011 - Plastics are in every ocean in the world; their complex and largely uncharted effects are intertwined with life on land. Plastic is a unique pollutant that defies current theories of pollution and the pollution-control practices we depend upon.

The Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnology and the Harvard Museum of Natural History present the free lecture, "Terrible and Charismatic Waste: A Close Reading of Ocean Plastics," on Thursday, February 9, 2011 at 6:00 P.M. at the Geological Lecture Hall (24 Oxford St., Cambridge). The lecture will be followed by a public reception at the Peabody Museum (11 Divinity Ave.).

In 2001, plastic outweighed plankton in the Pacific Ocean by six to one. Today, that ratio is thirty-six to one. Ocean plastics are outpacing the knowledge and methods designed to investigate and manage them.

While collecting samples from the ocean to measure these plastics, scientists and crew members catch fish for food, and find that their dinner has eaten plastic. They know that plastic chemicals leach and accumulate in the food chain. They decline to eat their catch, but collect the plastics and place them in sample jars.

This illustrated talk will focus on a single sample of ocean plastics taken from the North Pacific Ocean and follow the threads of how it was collected, how samples are used in science and advocacy, their place in the popular imagination, and how an individual specimen can and cannot scale up to illuminate a new global pollution that will characterize the twenty-first century.

The speaker is Max Liboiron, ABD, Department of Media, Culture and Communication, New York University; Regional Co-Director of the Plastic Pollution Coalition.

Additional topics in this series include waste ecologies and urban disaster cleanup.  Join us this Spring for an exploration of the anthropology of waste!

About the Peabody Museum
The Peabody Museum is among the oldest archaeological and ethnographic museums in the world with one of the finest collections of human cultural history found anywhere. It is home to superb materials from Africa, ancient Europe, North America, Mesoamerica, Oceania, and South America in particular. In addition to its archaeological and ethnographic holdings, the Museum’s photographic archives, one of the largest of its kind, hold more than 500,000 historical photographs, dating from the mid-nineteenth century to the present and chronicling anthropology, archaeology, and world culture.

Hours and location: 9 A.M. to 5 P.M., seven days a week. The Museum is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. Admission is $9 for adults, $7 for students and seniors, $6 for children, 3–18. Free with Harvard ID or Museum membership. The Museum is free to Massachusetts residents Sundays, 9 A.M. to noon, year round, and Wednesdays from 3 P.M. to 5 P.M. (September to May). Admission includes admission to the Harvard Museum of Natural History. For more information call 617-496-1027 or go online to: The Peabody Museum is located at 11 Divinity Avenue in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Museum is a short walk from the Harvard Square MBTA station.

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Media Contact:

Faith Sutter
Communications Coordinator
Peabody Museum
Tel: 617-495-3397


Midway: Message from the Gyre, 2009. Photo by Chris Jordan

"Terrible and Charismatic Waste: A Close Reading of Ocean Plastics," part of the Peabody Museum Trash Talk series of free lectures, is Thursday, February 9, 2011 at 6:00 pm at the Geological Lecture Hall, 24 Oxford St., Cambridge.

A public reception follows at the Peabody Museum, 11 Divinity Ave., Cambridge.

Limited free parking available at the 52 Oxford Street Garage.

Public information: 617-496-1027.

Co-sponsored by Harvard Museum of Natural History.