Swaantje’s generation

‘I grew up in the 70s and 80s, and it was the time when pretty much everybody was convinced that when it comes to the protection of the environment, we were all messing it up. What people would tell us as children was, us adults, we have messed it up, so now it’s on you’, I’m told by Swaantje Güntzel, an artist who engages with plastic and waste in her performances and in the images she creates. As a child, she was barely able to deal with the burden of this topic. She experienced depression and tried to be an activist, but always felt small, alone and powerless.

She wasn’t the only one. ‘In the last weeks I talked to so many people from my generation, that told me that they went pretty much through the same back then in the 70s and 80s. They were sitting in their rooms in small towns and villages allover Germany, in that case, completely frustrated because people were telling them, you are the one who has to put up with all this responsibility right now, it’s all on you and you have to find ways to save the planet. And they were all sitting in their rooms thinking, how can I do that, how can I cope with this burden?’

What’s different today is that young activists now have a worldwide network through social media. They are no longer alone. ‘I think this is the reason why people of my generation feel so alleviated right now,’ said Güntzel, ‘that something is happening and that all this frustration, and pain, and feeling helpless is going somewhere – and this is why so many of them are supporting the cause.’

Check out Swaantje’s art and read more:
in English
in German

Inheriting the Anthropocene

Artist Swaantje Güntzel clears a squaremeter of beach of microplastics in Lanzarote (Spain). During her intervention, she counted 1370 pieces. Image: Jan Philip Scheibe

Edited version of the article translated by Sebastian Smallshaw and published by Salzburg festival

Kamilo Beach is wild and beautiful. Shallow tide pools formed from black volcanic rock extend to the deep blue sea, while lush green vegetation hugs the white sandy beach at the southern tip of Hawaii’s Big Island. There are no tourists as far as the eye can see in this remote place.

Nonetheless, Kamilo has a worldwide reputation. The ‘plastic beach’ has become a symbol of the impact of human mass consumption. Continue reading “Inheriting the Anthropocene”

Are bioplastics better for the environment than conventional plastics?

Published on Ensia, republished by Undark, Revelator, The Wire

Confusion among terms like bioplastics, bio-based and biodegradable plastics makes it hard to discern — and make — the environmentally responsible choice.

Have you ever stood in front of a supermarket shelf and wondered if you should buy that product made from bioplastics rather than the conventional kind? Many people assume all bioplastics are made from plants and can break down completely in the environment. But that’s not the case. Continue reading “Are bioplastics better for the environment than conventional plastics?”