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Arresting photographs of pollution.
May 22, 2009 7:36 AM   Subscribe

Swimming in sewage.
posted by erikvan (54 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
But if you survive the swim, you probably have a first-class immune system. Related.
posted by exogenous at 7:43 AM on May 22, 2009


I am never going to sleep again. Or swim.
posted by runningwithscissors at 7:43 AM on May 22, 2009


.
posted by PenDevil at 7:49 AM on May 22, 2009


Good lord.
posted by jquinby at 7:50 AM on May 22, 2009


for all that its sewage and hence "yarg," the pictures are rather pretty in a strange way. All the little coloured bits of plastic in the flotsam give a nice texture.
posted by selenized at 7:52 AM on May 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, these are amazing photographs; they tell a huge story.
posted by not_on_display at 7:56 AM on May 22, 2009


THIS is why we can't have nice things. Wow.
posted by black8 at 7:58 AM on May 22, 2009


Reminds me of Burtynsky.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:58 AM on May 22, 2009


Strange definition of "nice", selenized.
posted by The Ultimate Olympian at 7:59 AM on May 22, 2009


We just put all our rubbish in landfill where it doesn't create such unsightly photos. So that's alrighty then.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:00 AM on May 22, 2009


Asians sure love to swim in trash.
posted by swift at 8:01 AM on May 22, 2009


At first I wasn't going to look, because the first pic alone very nearly made me vomit...
but I am glad I forced myself to look at the whole thing.
it is so depressing though...how can this all be changed? can it be changed?
/sigh
posted by Jeeb at 8:05 AM on May 22, 2009


I once fell underwater in a river in Thailand while rafting and I've never freaked out and popped so many antibiotics in my life. Such scary stuff in that water, and I knew I didn't have any resistance built up to it. I feel insanely lucky I didn't end up deathly sick or with a parasite.

Side note: Kathryn Hepburn fell into a Venice canal for a movie scene once and suffered from a permanent eye infection from it. They may seem pretty, but those canals are just above ground sewers. They smell like hell in Summer.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:05 AM on May 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


I swam in the Nile once and had Pharoah's Revenge for four weeks afterwards. While I wouldn't advocate either the swimming or the resultant dysentry I can exclusively reveal it is a remarkably effective weight loss technique.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:09 AM on May 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


The headline reminded me of a scene from Jim Carol's "Basketball Diaries" in which they were jumping from a ledge into the East River, downstream of a sewage plant and they had to time their jumps carefully so that they didn't jump into a line of sewage coming down the river. The pictures erikvan posted are so much more disgusting.
posted by caddis at 8:14 AM on May 22, 2009


I can relate. One time when I was swimming in Lake Travis (Texas) I totally bumped into a dead catfish. It was, like, seriously gross.
posted by total warfare frown at 8:16 AM on May 22, 2009


India is really the poster child in terms of scale and dirtyness. Although ironically go inside a home in India and it's very clean, even in the slums (except for water) - there is just no sense of public service, step outside your door, and the world is yours to trash.
posted by stbalbach at 8:19 AM on May 22, 2009


Where's Wall-E when we need him?
posted by emelenjr at 8:20 AM on May 22, 2009 [4 favorites]


> it is so depressing though...how can this all be changed? can it be changed?

I doubt it. Animals (i.e. humans) only change comfortable habits when they're forced to. The situation will only change when nature changes things for us, and I highly doubt that will be a pleasant process to live through. Every day you read more warnings about how global warming models are more dire than previously believed, and no-one really fundamentally changes their behaviour (including me; hell, I just bought a car). I mean, sure, we're all switching to cloth bags over plastic and other feel-good measures around the edges, but the bottom line is that pollution keeps getting worse, global warming certainly appears to be getting worse, we're still building and buying and throwing away tons and tons of crap we don't use, and doing everything we can to preserve our existing, car-centric way of life. Because it's comfortable. That's why bears paw through trash at dumps instead of hunting for fish in streams, and that's why most people will not change their habits until it's probably too late. The only real "hope" is that Peak Oil crashes our ecomomy...that would certainly reduce emissions, the amount of stuff in landfills.

Of course, I'm not a scientist, just a really pessimistic dude, and I could be wrong. But personally, I'm putting my money where my beliefs are and not having kids because I'm too fucking scared of what the future holds to expose anyone to it.
posted by you just lost the game at 8:25 AM on May 22, 2009


Cholerific!
posted by Nelson at 8:25 AM on May 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


AWESOME! Just in time for lunch.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 8:26 AM on May 22, 2009


They may seem pretty, but those canals are just above ground sewers. They smell like hell in Summer.

Related to that, miss lynnster...always check you've hired your sphincter-puckeringly pricey gondola at high tide.

Otherwise, you drift along eyeballing the stinky green slime thickly coating the lower walls of the canals, which isn't terribly romantic.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 8:32 AM on May 22, 2009


Thanks... I just posted this to everything I can post to!
posted by HuronBob at 8:39 AM on May 22, 2009


I once knew a guy who swam across a cesspit for $20. Nearly died. Idiot.
posted by Biru at 8:40 AM on May 22, 2009


here it comes: the 'why do you hate america?' post
i was appalled by the condition of the rivers in southern china 10 years ago, and can't imagine they're any better now. (the cities had their own pollution problems, but the rivers are what really grabbed me.) i have nothing to cite here, but can't help but believe that the more american businesses move their operations to other countries, the more we're contributing not only to the ecological death of those regions, but to our own demise.
posted by msconduct at 8:43 AM on May 22, 2009


And I thought it was a bad sign when my canoe ran into a sofa in the Chattahoochee. This is shameful.
posted by notashroom at 8:45 AM on May 22, 2009


Awful stuff like this always brings back to mind Vonnegut's last interview in Rolling Stone:

"I'm Jeremiah, and I'm not talking about God being mad at us," novelist Kurt Vonnegut says with a straight face, gazing out the parlor windows of his Manhattan brownstone. "I'm talking about us killing the planet as a life-support system with gasoline. What's going to happen is, very soon, we're going to run out of petroleum, and everything depends on petroleum. And there go the school buses. There go the fire engines. The food trucks will come to a halt. This is the end of the world. We've become far too dependent on hydrocarbons, and it's going to suddenly dry up. You talk about the gluttonous Roaring Twenties. That was nothing. We're crazy, going crazy, about petroleum. It's a drug like crack cocaine. Of course, the lunatic fringe of Christianity is welcoming the end of the world as the rapture. So I'm Jeremiah. It's going to have to stop. I'm sorry.

Later, remembering his hyperagitation about global warming, I telephoned him at his Long Island summer cottage, curious about whether he saw Al Gore's documentary An Inconvenient Truth. "I know what it's all about," he scoffed. "I don't need any more persuasion." Not satisfied with his answer, I pressed him to expand, wondering if he had any advice for young people who want to join the increasingly vocal environmental movement. "There is nothing they can do," he bleakly answered. "It's over, my friend. The game is lost."

posted by Stonewall Jackson at 8:50 AM on May 22, 2009 [9 favorites]


The truth is, Cthulhu lies trembling, wracked by dreams of a mega-destructive and hugely resilient swarm of beasts. The creatures called humans do unspeakable things; projects of apocalyptic destruction of such terrifying scale and widespread cruelty they are unimaginable, even to the darkest outer gods.

The nightmare is real, Cthulhu.
posted by fuq at 9:01 AM on May 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


"It's over, my friend. The game is lost."

He must have died such a very depressed man. Sad.

I'm with Gore though - yes, what we've done is terrible. But there's still hope. Hope may be a dangerous thing, but its what we have.
posted by allkindsoftime at 9:15 AM on May 22, 2009


allkindsoftime - if only.
posted by odinsdream at 9:23 AM on May 22, 2009


who needs to saill all the way out the great pacific garbage patch, when these guys have it right in their back yard.

ugh.
posted by fuzzypantalones at 9:27 AM on May 22, 2009


Good lord.
posted by jquinby


Based on those photos, that's the last thing he is.
posted by gman at 9:28 AM on May 22, 2009


All the little coloured bits of plastic in the flotsam give a nice texture.

Really? Let me show you some nice hi-res closeups of chunky vomit...

Also, ugh.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:35 AM on May 22, 2009


The hospitals in Varanassi are full of Japanese backpackers who've attempted to immerse themselves in Hindu culture by immersing themselves in the Ganges.
posted by gman at 9:42 AM on May 22, 2009


Based on those photos, that's the last thing he is.

Damn god, and all his packaging and industrial byproducts!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:53 AM on May 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Good lord.
posted by jquinby

Based on those photos, that's the last thing he is.


Uh, He didn't do that.
posted by Hovercraft Eel at 9:57 AM on May 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, don't be blaming God for this.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:00 AM on May 22, 2009


The problem of pollution is really an imbalance of power. The people in these photos who have to swim in garbage or live next to rivers of filth have no power to change their circumstances - while those who do make decisions about things like waste disposal, the ones who have the power, they live far away from the problem. I think the most effective way to change things like this for the better is to level the playing field a little and give everyone a little more control over the system. Greater, more effective democracy doesn't always result in less pollution, but it's a necessary precondition before anything can really get done.
posted by Kevin Street at 10:15 AM on May 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


THIS is why we can't have nice things. Wow.

No, this is why WE have nice things.

Thanks for taking one for the team, Third World. I'm sure we'll make it up to you someday.
posted by sourwookie at 10:29 AM on May 22, 2009 [10 favorites]


If God made humans, and humans made all that waste, then who made Huckabee?
posted by gman at 10:30 AM on May 22, 2009


Logic bombs made Huckabee.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:46 AM on May 22, 2009


This is so infuriating. I think the last time I littered was when I was a kid and I dropped a gum wrapper and my dad (who was also an outdoorsman) schooled me for hours on it. Didn't just yell, we spent all kind of time at garbage dumps, in depressed areas downtown looking at trash in the streets, him explaining to me the mindset and the results of that mindset.

These people don't want to hear about how it's their planet too and they're responsible for it, they just want the power to make someone else clean their mess.
(And who the hell is so lazy they can't get out of the pool to take a leak?)

"I'm with Gore though - yes, what we've done is terrible. But there's still hope. Hope may be a dangerous thing, but its what we have."

I don't need hope. Even if Vonnegut is right, and it is all over - what are you going to do, just keep doing it? Well, some people are sure, that's why they're idiots. Buying into what they sell (this b.s. progress is a new car, bigger house, more crap, uber convenient, etc. etc.).
posted by Smedleyman at 11:57 AM on May 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


how can this all be changed? can it be changed?

To the second - the answer is yes. To the first, I give you this:

When deer overpopulate and eat all of the food in the forest, a 'crash' occurs. A substantial number of the deer starve and die, allowing the food plants in the forest to re-grow. As humans, we possess the ability to create this 'crash' without all of the annoying randomness.

Enjoy contemplating the details of how we, as westerners, could create this crash.
posted by Fuka at 12:14 PM on May 22, 2009


Enjoy contemplating the details of how we, as westerners, could create this crash.

Oryx and Crake.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:21 PM on May 22, 2009


If you're feeling at all hopeful about our short and mid term future I suggest reading Climate Wars by Gwynne Dyer or Heat by Monbiot.

Reading these and others I think we need to face the impending reality that forthe most part we're pretty well hooped.

Whenever I say this I'm accused of all sorts of things. Normally by some smug fucker clutching a cloth bag and wearing recycled underpants. Like that shit makes a fucking difference.
posted by fingerbang at 12:53 PM on May 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


This reminds me of Woman of the Dunes. In the book sand is described as a self-proliferating substance, blowing about and grinding other things into sand. Looking at these pictures, I can imagine the whole world eventually being covered with little shards of non-biodegradable garbage.
posted by debbie_ann at 12:53 PM on May 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


> it is so depressing though...how can this all be changed? can it be changed?


Yes, it just takes education, political will, and money. The Great Lakes have been significantly cleaned up over the last 40 years, 30 years ago people in Japan were suffering regularly from cadmium poisoning and Tokyo was a smoggy, gritty dustball. The Ohio River used to catch on fire.

It just takes time.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:26 PM on May 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Reading these and others I think we need to face the impending reality that forthe most part we're pretty well hooped.

Nonsense. There are ways of curtailing pollution and investing in research/technology that can start to reduce existing levels or turn it into a resource. Throwing your hands up in the air and saying we're doomed isn't going to help.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:00 PM on May 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Okay, yeah. Those photos of people swimming in sewage-filled rivers?

This was pretty much my reaction.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 2:45 PM on May 22, 2009


Maybe we are doomed; you can make a compelling case for that. But since we don't know for sure, why give up yet? There is always time to curl up in a corner and wait for death later. In the meantime, we should keep trying as long as there's any hope whatsoever. Despair is natural, but useless.
posted by emjaybee at 2:46 PM on May 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mother Nature is going to be so pissed when she finds out human beings left the house a mess.

We're all going to be, er ... grounded.
posted by bwg at 5:02 PM on May 22, 2009


This is so infuriating. I think the last time I littered was when I was a kid and I dropped a gum wrapper and my dad (who was also an outdoorsman) schooled me for hours on it. Didn't just yell, we spent all kind of time at garbage dumps, in depressed areas downtown looking at trash in the streets, him explaining to me the mindset and the results of that mindset.

If only it were so simple. Perhaps we should be extending our definition of "not littering" to include such things as:

*Considering the impact of your purchase: What are the environmental and social impacts that went into the creation of this product?
*Am I living within the means of the world? How big is my ecological footprint?

more specifically:
*Properly disposing of fluorescent light bulbs, which contain mercury, a potential contributing factor to all those dead fish in the picture near the bottom of the original link
*Realizing that there is a step beyond the garbage can. Ever heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, twice the size of Texas?

I'll stop now. You may already account for these, but since many folks don't, I thought I'd mention 'em anyway.

And while we're suggesting books, I'll recommend The Omnivore's Dilemma and Cradle to Cradle.
posted by aniola at 1:23 AM on May 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


I suppose the dead fish were more near the middle of that link. It just took forever to get that far. Those photos are indeed arresting.
posted by aniola at 1:29 AM on May 23, 2009


"like the frog in the boiling water... we don't resist a gradual change until it is too late." trite, but so apt. We simply swim in our own shit till it kills us.

(As I look sadly out at the beaches on O'ahu ... with litter and froth and sewage now passively accepted by most everyone as simpy part of the beach experience.)
posted by Surfurrus at 8:01 PM on May 23, 2009


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