Ocean as World Bathtub

It struck me that the film Beasts of a Southern Wild, which takes place in a fictional area of Louisiana called “The Bathtub,” needs to be put in conversation with the recent entry of a giant inflatable duck into the bay of Hong Kong, by artist Florentijn Hofman. Its presence changed the way that people experienced scale in the harbor, and became a vehicle for more broadly thinking about interconnection between waters of the world and related environmental issues. After it collapsed, “The duck’s demise reflected the city’s every anxiety: One blogger pondered if it had succumbed to lung disease from the Pearl River Delta’s infamous air pollution. Images of the duck, wearing one of the face masks made ubiquitous here after the 2003 SARS virus crisis, proliferated online. Others wondered if it died from the newest deadly strain of avian flu found in China, which University of Hong Kong researchers have discovered can be both airborne and transmitted to pigs, as reported in Science” (NYT).

What does it mean to think of the world’s oceans in terms of a bathtub?  What does this metaphor do?