Yes, slippers are my favorite footwear and have, in the past day or so, inspired some serious thinking about the ocean and the theory of polyculturalism. Polyculturalism, as I detailed in my speech given this past summer at the Hong Kong International Literary Festival launch of Swimming in Hong Kong, acknowledges origin, but prioritizes exchange. It’s a very 21st century way of viewing our interaction across cultures and nations and is explained in more detail by Vijay Prashad.
Given how nations and group identities are in flux in this changing world, it may help to think about polyculturalism in terms of the slipper, slippah, or flip flop, the ubiquitous preferred footwear for those who spend time near the water.
Slippers originally hail from Asia, though are no longer confined to this area and worn everywhere. There are plenty of slippers doing the international ocean current circuit traveling the globe. In other words, these slippers are everyone’s joy and problem. Slippers are worn by everyone and cross the socioeconomic spectrum in terms of their desirability. There are variations, but it is a low-cost, and dare I say, disposable type of footwear that is easily tossed by many people after a short period of use. We have a Slipper Problem. Our ocean is filling up with the very thing that we use to better enjoy the water! Slippa No Mo!
Here are two endeavors in San Diego, California and Nairobi, Kenya, addressing The Slipper Problem: through algae and art. Algenesis Materials was founded by the two University of California San Diego professors who led the research. Watch this video about the flip flop. Ocean Sole is a Nairobi-based creative business that is extremely inspiring check out this video: Ocean Sole.
Fact is, I see more pollution on the beach than I used to see as a kid here–little pieces of plastic and yes, some random slipper left on the beach. Having lived in Hong Kong, where the beach and ocean fill with the debris and pollution from the Pearl River Delta factories (no doubt making the slippers), I see this all as a harbinger of what will come unless considerable effort is made now.
I’m thinking, every single person in Hawaii WEARS slippers. We are a SLIPPA-LOVIN’ POPULATION!
What can we do here in Hawaii, that uses our access to the ocean, our love and respect for the environment, our education and workforce in a way that stimulates the Hawaii economy. How can we improve our life here, and in turn, change the world?