There are lots of websites and blogs and thinkers and theorists out there (TreeHugger included) who are considering the environmental problems facing our world, but not few acknowledge the habitat destruction of this diminuitive animal: the hermit crab. Due to global ocean pollution and human over-harvesting, these hermit crabs are facing a severe housing shortage; there aren't enough shells discarded by marine gastropods to go around, and it doesn't look good for these little guys. The drive to remain housed for this species is so strong that biologists routinely find them living in discarded glass jars, the tops of soy sauce containers and any other form of refuse in which they can hide. Thankfully, artist Elizabeth Demaray recognized this problem, and did something about it. The Hand Up Project, attempting to meet the new needs of natural life forms is her solution to the global hermit crab housing shortage. With the aid of a paleontologist and a mechanical engineer, she designed these structures with the intention to make artificial shells that are better than what nature can provide. The improved forms have a large internal space to weight ratio, which the animal seeks, and because they are non-biodegradable they will out live the life span of the species itself, thereby assuring many generations of hermit crabs ample hand-me-down housing. The aim of this project to make die injection molds so that the houses can be mass produced in large quantities. The ultimate aim of this work is to offer this species help while at the same time emphasizing the contemporary plight of natural life forms everywhere. The beta version of this project has succeeded in re-housing a forth of the crab population present in a version of this piece that was on display at the University Art Museum in Berkeley, CA, so the crabs don't seem to mind.
While we'd prefer to see recycled plastic being used, and aren't completely sure about the ethical implications of scattering plastic orbs about the world's sea shores, it's the process that's important. Demaray saw a problem and designed and implemented a solution to improve the quality of life for the less fortunate, so for that we say "Way to go!"
Her other projects have included planting indigenous grasses of New York and New Jersey in window boxes in Queens, knitting sweaters for plants and upholstering stones. via tipster Marc Alt ::The Hand Up Project