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Junk Raft Armada in Spain

Where fun, water, "rubbish" and flotation devices meet...

Junk Raft Armada afloat

There's a million different actions that communities are taking around the world that are helping us get away from a fossil fuel addicted, ecosystem destroying, highly inequal ways of living. Here's one in Spain that appeals to the inner vagabond in me.

An international mix of activist, builders and performers, collectively known as The Junk Raft Armada, are gathered in Calafou, Spain to build a fleet of three or four junk rafts. In July 2013 they will embark on a trip down the Rio Ebro, spreading important ecological messages along the way. Ranging from 22 to 45 years old, they are concerned about our planet’s ecological state. Since the first crew met, they have wanted to do something about it - here is the plan.

Their “rubbish idea” started in 2012 and since May this year, crews have been working on gathering materials from the streets of Barcelona. Inspired by the bizarre, by recycling and re-purposing, the crew of the Junk Raft Armada wants to explore innovative ways to give new purpose to scrap and demonstrate viable, sustainable alternatives to travelling and living.

The rafts are being constructed from old furniture, pallets, crates, steel and bits and pieces - all items discarded by Barcelona. The eco-pirate ships are being decorated with everything from bottle caps, old beads, furniture, shade cloth, plastic, toys and other treasures we gathered on our scavenging trips through the urban jungle.

Flotation for the rafts also gets gathered on the streets; hundreds of plastic bottles (from 5l water containers to 25l oil barrels) have been sown together to (literally) keep the project afloat and hundreds more are still needed.

You might be wondering, is this just an excuse for some summer rafting fun? Nope, they're deadly serious. Here's what Antony says:

“As you know I’ve been asking people for donations for the junk armada project. I received some feedback from a friend who felt it was not helping environmentally and we just wanted an excuse for a jolly river trip.

At the moment we are working and living in a post-industrial work commune – tied into very large anti-capitalist industrial structures, co-operatives and outreach programmes. Within the industrial Catalan region things are bad, very bad. Huge numbers of factories, full of resources, materials, and working spaces are derelict.

Junk Raft Armada logo

What the residents of Calafou are doing is how I like to think of recycling; re-using forgotten materials and sharing skills, swopping, growing, developing and building networks / communities. In my opinion recycling has been stereotyped in order to make it easier to consume in an ironic way – believing that the plastic is taken care of once you put it in the right recycling bin is part of the problem. We need to start thinking where it goes (usually a landfill or the ocean!) and how we can prevent it from getting there.

This project has been the steepest learning curve of my life. We have learnt a huge amount from the people at here which we will naturally share with local communities along our journey. We are working hard to communicate the right messages.

Obviously stuff like handmade recycled crafts and boats aren’t going to change the world. Parts of the Ebro are completely ruined environmentally and although this might not be about cleaning rivers and chasing purist ideals, it’s about trying to change people’s respect for material and our vital natural resourced.

I want to help people see what they can create from trash and help them to understand their resources. By sharing our experiences to a large community online we are hopefully encouraging people think about alternative approaches to waste. Simple things, like checking for wood in skips before buying it, or sharing skills and working on projects yourself rather than going to a professional.

This has been the most challenging project I’ve ever worked on, but I know it will help sculpt what I choose to do with my skills going forward and hopefully help to change the status quo.”

Junk Raft visitorsThe multi-talented crew are busy planning performances to share with the people along the Ebro, wherever they step ashore. The interactive performances will be full of fun, fire, dancing, songs and costumes and props made from recycled materials. This will be their medium to spread essential messages, educating people about the vast amount of waste that our society generates and how much of it is ending up in our vital waterways.

The rafts set sail from Tudela on the 20th of July and they hope to reach Caspe by the 20th of August.

For more information visit their website or Facebook Page. If you would like to make a contribution to help keep this initiative afloat, please go to the Indiegogo Campaign.

About the author
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My journey towards and within transition involves me a) asking myself what I have done, unwittingly or otherwise, to contribute to the global crises of climate change, oil addiction and inequality; b) really acknowledging my “contributions” c) trying hard to understand the consequences and impacts within our complex ecological, social and economic systems d) working at both the personal level and also alongside my fellow citizens to come up with ways of making sure my/our contributions switch from exacerbating these situations to ameliorating them, and/or making sure they stop; e) trying as much as possible to work at root cause level.

Transition, with its creative, positive and “can-do, will-do” approach is, for me, the most appropriate mechanism for doing this work.