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What if....You could understand big numbers!

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Last updated by Joy Kitt

Chris Jordan, Cellphones from "Intolerable Beauty"

How do you feel when you read an article or watch the news and they tell you that millions (1000000) of insects are plaguing someone's crops, or that hundreds of thousands (100000) of fish are being caught or that hundreds (100)  of birds have been trapped in an oil spill? Is it hard to really understand just 'how many' that is?  Well, artist Chris Jordan has created some artworks in a series called "Running Numbers" and another called "Intolerable Beauty" from rubbish like bottle tops, cans, keys, all sorts of things, to try and give people a clear idea of what these numbers really mean.  If you click on one of his artworks and then zoom in you can begin to pick out the individual cans or bottle caps etc.  Under the pictures he tells you what the effect of these big numbers are. For instance, in the piece called  "Caps Seurat" he states that the 400000 bottle caps he used to make it represent the number of plastic bottles used in the US each minute...EACH MINUTE!

This art could start a conversation with your students about where all this rubbish comes from, do we need plastic that much, what did people use to contain things before plastic, what could we do to use less?  What do your students buy that comes in plastic packaging?

The Nature of Science and the Key Competencies both ask that we help our students to participate and contribute to society so how could you use Chris Jordan's insights to help them do that?  Ask them what they think could or should be done? Find out what is happening. Do they know about the Pacific Gyre that Chris Jordan talks about in his work on the Midway? These photos are very graphic and may be upsetting but maybe we need to be shocked to care enough to do something? (The Midway is a group of islands in the middle of the Pacifc as far from land as you can ever get where the birds are starving because when they go fishing they are scooping up plastic instead of fish.)  In researching this page I found to my horror that there are five gyres.  Something has to change to help stop the flow of plastic into the environment.  What do your student's think?

Chris Jordan, from "The Midway" series