In less than an hour I am leaving to face the adventure of a lifetime; one where I am leaving the comforts of first world ‘America’ where waste management infrastructure are something most people take for granted; and I am headed out to sea, to fight plastic pollution through direct mitigation efforts in the Asia Pacific. Today as I awake, preparing to spend time with family and friends the anxiety is beginning to set in. The idea of traveling 1/2 way around the world is a little daunting to be honest. It’s also a little daunting for many others to process as well. Why would some “white American” raised in a comfortable situation leave the comforts of the world to go clean trash on the other side of the planet?
We as a society tend to have an overall awe for first responders. Tragedy tends to bring out the best in all people. While we see a paramedic rushing to the scene of an accident, or a firefighter running into a burning building or forest there is a huge awe for those who race to the scene. There are even more people who come into play when we look at events like tornadoes or hurricanes. These massive forces have the ability to wipe out everything in their pathway and when it comes to populated ares, the ability to impact large quantities of humans as well. Where larger catastrophes come into play there are always stories of the fine people who showed courage and strength in these situations. Generally in the days following the storm, people show up to answer the immediate call. There are needs like: finding survivors, picking up debris, and rebuilding. Regardless of where in the world these things happen, calls for support draw out many who have the knowledge, skills or desires to be of service and help others in need. For me, this is the most logical way to explain why I am going on this journey.
We are alive in a day and age where we are facing the largest natural disaster in the the span of humanity. Plastic pollution is killing our planet. Over the last week of August 2015, major news media began publishing stories acknowledging the work of scientists in London, Australia and the United States that was published roughly 8 weeks earlier. Headlines like this one by National Geographic recognizes that the majority of sea life is already eating plastic and the quantities of oceanic life eating plastic will only continue to grow. In past blogs I written about the Midway Atoll as an example of the impact plastic is having on the planet. This plastic doesn’t natural come from the ocean either. Most plastic is derived from the extreme processes involved in refining oil, and all plastic is essentially – OIL.
As one who was raised in Colonized North America I’ve always been interested in the ways we manage our waste. Unlike the indigenous people who lived on this land, generally leaving no trace of waste behind, the populations of immigrants who have come or been raised on this land have not held the same cultural values on the natural and visual life found on our planet and in many ways have become unsustainable consumers of the oil and other resources buried deep inside. In most cases, these resources are the foundation and focus of many corporations who’s sole focus is the development of corporate profits. This process has brought you convoluted relationships of the mind and reality. One key example of this is this video:
The reality of this trip is that we’ll never get ALL the trash out of the ocean. However, in addition to reducing the amount of plastic that we consume the time has come to treat the at risk biospheres as disaster zones. The natural life of many parts of our world are dying, specifically because of the plastic wastes we create. From destroying virgin land to extract oil to the current situation where all forms of life, including humans, are consuming one of the permanent byproducts – plastic; it is time for some of us to mitigate our impacts. Today I head out to answer that call. I hope you will join me in the adventure.