Short-Sighted Optics

For several years, I have been regularly walking on the same stretch of beach in Northern San Diego County. I know it well by now, but even so, each time I am there it feels like a different place. The tides move in and out, the sand shifts, storms blow through, and the cliffs erode. The coastline is in a constant state of transformation.

Just as the beach appears to be a different place with each visit, the marine debris I find can be strikingly different from one day to the next. Yesterday, there was an abundance of cellophane food wrappers and plastic straws.


On some visits, the beach will be covered in micro-plastics and nurdles—tiny plastic pellets used in the manufacturing of plastic products.


During low tide on one small section of beach, I can depend on finding, worn aluminum cans, unidentifiable heavy black rubber molds, and eyeglasses in varying stages of disrepair.


I wrote a post on Creative Forgiveness after a visit to the beach during which I picked up a couple dozen, pens, pencils, and markers.

pens and pencils2

I don’t fully understand the shifts in tides that bring such a variety of things to shore, but I do know that I always leave the beach carrying at least a couple of bags overflowing with refuse.

People are often surprised to see me hauling so much trash off the beach. Somehow they aren’t able to see it when it is there in the sand right in front of them. Once I picked up a blue medical glove lying between two surfboards, while the oblivious surfers stood nearby. (I wrote about the medical waste I found that day in a blog post entitled Yuck.)


However, I am not excluded from the ranks of those who are short-sighted.

In fact, I have only recently begun to realize the impact our throw away culture is having on our oceans and our planet. I am among those who have had difficulty seeing the long-term effects of our addiction to single use plastics.

But now that I’ve seen it, it’s been impossible to look away. With that in mind, I created Short-Sighted Optics—a used display case filled with sunglasses embellished with  colorful pieces of plastic that I found washed up on the beach.


With Short-Sighted Optics, I ask two questions:

  • Are you blind to the problem of plastic pollution?
  • Will you be part of the solution?

I invite you to take a Short-Sighted Selfie, and I hope you will make a Plastic Pledge.

What will you chose to see and do?


The Out of Place: Detritus of Land and Sea exhibit, including Short-Sighted Optics is on display in the China Brotsky Gallery at the Thoreau Center for Sustainability in the Presidio. The gallery is open Monday – Friday from 9:00am – 5:00pm at 1012 Torney Ave, San Francisco.


This entry was posted in #Litterati, Creating, Creativity, Environment, Marine Debris, Teaching, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Short-Sighted Optics

  1. kd0602 says:

    I love this post Janis. I think so many of us–even with good intentions–are also short sighted. I know that walking the beach regularly has made me much more aware and helped me change some habits that I thought were benign, after all, I recycle and I don’t litter. Hope you will keep writing and reminding us all how every person matters.


  2. Tania Sheko says:

    I love your post, Janis, your commitment to pick up rubbish on the beach, and your creative response! I’m not sure I would pick up such a variety of plastic things on the Australian beaches near me but then again, I may just be short-sighted.

  3. Would like to talk to you about this project. We would like to do something similar… my email is below.

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