View all

Archaeology of the present, for the future

As part of a National program in Norway which will see 40% of the coastline cleaned from plastic waste this year, with a focus on hard-to-reach areas and areas with vulnerable nature and wildlife, we see here Rune Muladal, one of the coordinators of Naturtjenester i Nord, responsible for the cleaning of some of the more remote coastlines of Finnmark around Laksefjorden, during a mission this June. With a mountain of bags full of collected plastic on the side, we here see him untangling the rusty telephone wires that used to connect the now uninhabited town of Tømmervik, with a nearby whaling industry centre of the bygone era. The town was named thus due to the driftwood that washes ashore from the Russian timber industry - giving rise to an interesting dependency on the sea's currents for firewood in a region without many trees. Unfortunately, this means the area equally is a final resting place for plastic waste - predominantly of the fishing industry. As we collectively rolled up the telephone lines, that left to rust and out of use were prone to ensnare wildlife, and as we dug up fishing nets and other waste from beneath stones and sand that was later all collected by helicopter, we were doing a type of archaeology of the present, or perhaps undoing an archaeology of the future: Removing the residues of a wasteful past and present, towards a pollution-free circular economy of the future. As a dutch person, cleaning up the waste of the fishing industry felt as a type of karmic work at a site where some of my ancestors may have hunted whales to near extirpation, and one ancestor was in fact on board of Willem Barentsz ship in his search for a Northern sea-route. An unbreakable link exists between what was, what is, and what will be - as the telephone line that springs from one side of image to exit to the other side, illustrates. It is our job to clean up our mess, and make sure that what we put into the world, has a way of transforming sustainably, just as what we harvest from the world, does not get returned as waste (such as in the case of fossil fuels), and does not get depleted. This means we must make closed loop systems of our resource use - a good beginning is to compost our past, by cleaning our shorelines. A better next step will be to cancel out the use of plastic all-together.


Laksefjorden, Barents Sea, vicinity of Tømmervik

Camera details




You have to be logged in to download this image.
Login here

You have to be logged in to comment.