Artivism with ‘Sea Walls’: How Global Street Art Can Protect Our Oceans3 min read

By now, we’ve pretty much figured out that climate change and the pollution of our natural habitats is a human problem. Most of all, it’s a problem that results from our mindset. We’ve been producing and consuming around the clock without checking our priorities. As a consequence, our oceans are suffering. Shockingly, we have cut fish populations in half in the last fifty years. What’s even worse is that there will likely be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050 and there are now over 500 underwater dead zones. Hence, the ‘Sea Walls‘ street art project, set up by the PangeaSeed Foundation, wants to grab our attention and turn things around. But how, you may wonder? Well, by bringing the oceans to the streets.

A mural of a whale in New Zealand, his insides filled with plastic, part of the Sea Walls street art project
A Sea Wall mural in Napier, New Zealand (Photos: Samuel Mann, CC BY 2.0)

How The Sea Walls Artists Want to Save Our Oceans

Since the pollution of our oceans is a mindset problem, our strongest weapon to change our behaviour are … powerful stories. When we change our way of thinking, we can’t help but change our behaviour. This is also the basic principle of the global Sea Walls project, which has produced over 350 murals in 15 countries so far. Every mural tells another story, but the underlying philosophy remains intact: the oceans are our life support systems.

The connecting factor is the public mural. These urban artworks are proving themselves to be a global formula of successful ARTivism. Murals are easily accessible, their visual communication doesn’t rely on a single language, and they spark crucially important conversations in the streets.

What is ARTivism and how does it work?

The method these artists use is ARTivism: a combination of activism and creativity where public art is used as a platform to start conversations about ocean conservation in the streets. It’s an incentive to educate yourself and others about how we are influencing our oceans. Easily accessible art is the connecting factor, designed to “raise public awareness of critical environmental issues”1.

Every mural communicates a visual, non-verbal message that doesn’t rely on a single language or specific cultural clues to spread the word: we need positive change for the oceans. The very first mural appeared in 2013 in Sri Lanka, addressing a local problem: overfishing of threatened manta rays. The ball started rolling from there. Whether it’s a see-through whale with insides full of plastic, a group of dolphins trapped in a gumball machine, or a hyper-colourful coral reef plagued by plastic bags; the message is clear. It’s an international mission to combat a global problem and the time to act is now.

How Can You Help?

Are you a creative climate activist with an (undiscovered) knack for street art yourself? Why not give it a try! You can apply to contribute an artwork yourself via this page. If you’re not an artist, don’t worry. Here are a few other ways to support the project: spread the word and vote for climate-minded politicians. Additionally, you can try buying products with less plastic packaging, bringing your own reusable bottle everywhere, and only eating sustainable seafood products.

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