Refuse, Recycle, Reuse: 12 Artists from 12 Most Affected Countries Work with National Geographic Abu Dhabi to Drive ‘Planet or Plastic’ Awareness
Posted on 2019 Jan,28

12 artists from the 12 countries most responsible for the 9 million tons of plastic being dumped into the world's oceans every year, embarked on a unique partnership with National Geographic Abu Dhabi to drive awareness of our planet’s plastic pollution crisis.

National Geographic Abu Dhabi has dedicated one month of its 2019 calendar to each artist from those countries suffering the most. Each illustration is truly unique, representing the artist’s unique cultural and artistic sensibilities. And while each art piece is diverse, what unites them is a shared warning on the dangers of single-use plastics.  

Harrowing stories are brought to life with first-hand accounts of floating plastic bag fish, straws piercing the bodies of marine life, bottles bobbing along their shorelines, reefs choking under tons of washed up garbage and sea animals floating belly-up bloated from ingesting plastic.

These works, although addressing a serious and all but bleak reality, are presented colorfully, creatively, and playfully, making them accessible, yet driving home the message of National Geographic’s 'Plastic or Planet' campaign.

With Egypt alone consuming 12 billion tons of single-use plastic bags annually, Egyptian Artist Ahmed Karam’s illustration showcases a tiny dolphin trapped in a large plastic bag. Speaking on the issue, Karam says “This is a big problem that we are ignoring and that I wanted to represent in my art. By deliberately creating the dolphin smaller than the bag, trapped within it, I am illustrating how we minimize or diminish the issue. This will only result in a bigger problem, one that will be far more complicated to manage if we don’t act now.”

A staggering 60% of single-plastic pollution produced from just five countries: China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. Artists from those countries were the most vocal with a strident call to #pledgeaction today.

“The message I want to send out is that plastics are more dangerous than we think,” said Thai Artist Bom Cherdsak, whose work was inspired by a dying pilot whale off the coast of Thailand, after choking on 80 plastic bags.

Partnering with National Geographic Abu Dhabi allows artists’ message to reach millions of people around the world, to impact and inspire everyone to make simple changes in their lives to save the environment. “The power is in our hands and we can make better choices every single day to reduce the amount of plastic that enters our oceans,” said Wilmari Botha, South African illustrator and contributor. She chose to illustrate the dangers of plastic on coastal birds who have also become the victims of plastic bags, bottles and straws.

Indian Artist Pavan Rajurkar arresting visual shows the large price that marine life pays for just one plastic bottle dumped in the ocean: “The plastic waste we create has a life-span which exceeds the life of all the organisms on earth! Our negligence has a heavy price. National Geographic’s Planet or Plastic campaign gave me an opportunity to send out a message across the globe. Any small behavior changes on the part of people who see my illustration will give me the satisfaction that I am contributing to saving planet earth.”

Sri Lankan Artist Ruwangi Amarasinghe’s larger than life illustration exposes the devastating impact of marine litter: “The only way to reduce pollution is by making changes to our own lifestyle: drinking from a refillable water bottle instead of using plastic disposable ones, refusing to use plastic straws when having a beverage in a glass, carrying our own lunchbox to take away food, bringing our own bag to pick up groceries. All small changes which can make a huge difference if we implement them daily.” 

The National Geographic Abu Dhabi 2019 Calendar is another initiative in National Geographic’s 'Planet or Plastic' global campaign, aiming to prevent one billion plastic items from reaching the oceans by next year. To spread awareness and mobilize action to #chooseplanet, National Geographic Abu Dhabi is making the calendar and all 12 art pieces freely available to all. They can also be easily printed on a t-shirt or made into a poster.

Download in English or Arabic.

The 12 artists featured in National Geographic Abu Dhabi 2019 Calendar are: