A silent monstrosity has taken up residence at Ocean Beach, San Francisco. It's hard to imagine that in a city of about 800,000 souls the vast majority choose to turn a blind eye to the atrocity when they visit this fabled, wild and dangerous stretch of coastline. Aaron Hazelwood, plumber, skater, and plastic hater, just may be this monster’s closest companion and biggest foe.
Aaron’s improbable odyssey began simply enough, walking his dog at the beach. As he used his palm to smooth over some sand to make a place to sit down and take a rest, he grazed over a buried hypodermic needle. He picked it up, relieved to not have been cut and looked around him — plastic garbage strewn all over. Were there more? His place of peace and reflection suddenly felt dangerous. He went home, picked up a rake and headed back to clean up: straws, cheese spreaders, tire caps, toothbrushes, bottle caps, army men, bubble blowers, shotgun shells. This was the moment that touched off his tireless, solo campaign.
This humble, accidental activist is a man who cares deeply about the coastline, neatly sorting his finds into orderly buckets, baskets and drawers. Sometimes he’ll take select pieces from his collection to create assemblages for friends and post to Instagram. Rather than falling into a trap of despair over the constant flow of new waste washing up, Aaron draws on irony, optimism, creativity and a penchant for finding small treasures (he’s particularly fond of the Army Men) to transform a desperate environmental issue into his own personal story of triumph over the day-to-day heaviness of life. Through this process, one of the more wondrous facets of humanity emerges — the ability to transform a desperate environmental problem into a narrative through action, art, and dedication to a cause.