Tuesday, April 06, 2010

518. The Ironies of Floatopia Isla Vista and the Marine Life Protection Act, Some Initial Thoughts....

By the time it's spring quarter, my mind opens up with happiness. The days are getting longer and it's getting warmer. Summer is just around the corner... and from the history of the Blue Horizons science-film summer bootcamp... I am developing an itch, a bug, to film something... go outside and pursue a few film projects.... It seems like this filming in spring and summer is becoming an annual ritual in my life, as if filming coincides with my annual metabolism. Then again, summertime is when no one bugs me, and I can give the university the finger (politely) and say yipee! I can do whatever the hxll I want! And when I realize what I want to do, it ends up being something related to the university.... But at least I want to do it!

Last week I slaved away at a grant (that I don't want to publicly talk about yet, because grants are a bunch of to-do lists and I would rather show people to-done lists, which end up being boootiful and edutaining... or at least I try to make them pretty and edutaining). This grant also included a proposal to produced two public service announcements (PSAs). And alas, my dentist, Dr. Dart, announces to me this morning: "Don't go to Isla Vista this weekend! It's Floatopia!!! Facebook has the announcement!" And perhaps to my dentist's dismay, my eyes beamed and I announced, "I gotta go! I gotta go!" I gotta "undercover" film the event! It's footage I need for the PSAs! He looked at me strangely, and then I continued justifying myself to his assistant, Lynn.

I want to film a short, short film that has a complex thesis. It has multiple twists, which is what I like, which is what I thrive on. Which is the epitome of Biological Incorrectedness.

In short, "Floatopia," which is based off of "utopia," is an epic annual spring beach event in which the twenty-somethings college crowd have found a loophole in the "no-drinking-on-the-beach" law by floating on Costco-grab-inflatable-rafts right along the shore... with beers, wines, and other forms of alcohol at hand. The tradition is fairly recent (within the last few years, apparently started in Isla Vista), but the participation has expanded tremendously into thousands upon thousands of people.... Floatopia events are now being held (or considered in being held) at Pacific Beach, San Diego, and San Luis Obispo (SLOtopia!)... and I'm not sure if anything's happening in Orange County or Los Angeles.... (tragic, Wikipedia knowledge, I should probably compile a series of news reports and police records to increase the accuracy of what I'm saying).

So, here comes my mixed up thesis. For one, I think this concept is epically brilliant! It's the continued Animal-House-like tradition of finding any form of loophole in the existing law to come out and having a smashing, alcohol-binging public party! I also think it's amazing how communities can come together and organize public events, create their own fun and adventure independent of "the grid" of consumed entertainment. Self-generated entertainment, Michel Gondry style (I think drinking beers on floats by the masses in the shallows of the ocean could only be a brilliant Gondry music video, it's absurdly hilarious!). In fact, I think Floatopia is SOOO clever that I bet right now some fortunate, high-paid Hollywood screenwriter is now working on a script to make this event as some form of modern Animal House film! Look, I just gave the idea away for free. Talk about the corruption of people in LA getting paid for ideas... *whatever* Sigh. As long as I get some nice, minimum wage academic-public-outreach related job in the future, where I can freely spread ideas and still pay my rent and health insurance (ahem, thank you Obama), then I'm happy.

And so there is a sad second part of the thesis. Unfortunately Floatopia in Isla Vista has a sucky side.... It has negative consequences. I just finished participating in a year-long political process in the design of marine protected areas in southern California, and a group of hardworking, educated citizens (fishermen, scientists, conservation groups, government agents) decided to place a marine protected area right outside of UC Santa Barbara and Isla Vista. It's part of the Integrated Preferred Alternative (IPA) plan and it will probably become official in 1-2 years. I just find it so ironic that people have worked so hard in this political process to largely restrict fishing, and place reserves in areas to reduced exposure to water pollution, but what about the general public? What about public awareness, public use of the ocean? How is that managed and restricted? Apparently extra enforcement will be placed this weekend out on these beaches, plus restrictions at beach access points, but this county and local enforcement... for a "public nuisance" event, not state law. And god knows about human impact of this event. Most visible is the trash left behind. Secondly, my fishing buddy told me that I should interview a bunch of people coming out of the water and asked them if they peed in the water. When you drink beer... you pee... a lot. And so, we come to directly, visibly see how the ocean is treated as the collective toilet bowl... most of the time perceived indirectly... and now... both can be visibly, tangibly linked.

Three messages.

One positive. Floatopia as community building and self-entertainment. The Epic College Party experience, Animal House, Gondry style.

One negative. Negative environmental impact on masses of people of the ocean, trashing, peeing in water.

One twisted. Political irony. Another living proof that the MLPA process was largely a fish-o-centric process, in which it was largely emphasizing fishing restrictions without much consideration of many other human impacts on the ocean... including the smashing Floatopia events.

The audience would be two-fold (1) to inform participants in the MLPA process of other ocean hazards besides fishing, and (2) to inform college students about the negative environmental impacts of Floatopia, the incoming marine protected areas in their backyard, and their reconsideration of the way how they choose to party, with a level of environmental consciousness?!

A good article I found was KCOY (and of course, even a graduate student resorted to being educated through Wikipedia).

Some questions to ask partygoers (1) Why do you participate in Floatopia? (2) How did you hear about it? (3) Did you pee in the water? (4) Do you know what a marine protected area (MPA) is?

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