Hi folks- welcome to my blog. It's less bloggy than most, it's more of a tool for looking up information on PLASTICS, especially as related to marine debris. Plastics have become a big problem for the planet because there is SO MUCH of it and it doesn't go away... ever. Over time it gets brittle and breaks apart into smaller and smaller pieces, but the strong synthetic plastic polymers continue to exist. The oceans are particularly vulnerable to this phenomenon because the cold water and lack of bacteria make it even more difficult for breakdown to occur.
Maybe by now you have heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an area roughly 2 times the size of Texas in the middle of the N Pacific Subtropical Gyre which is becoming a plastic soup. It's a sad state of affairs, but fixable in that all we have to do, I mean ALLLLLL of us, is be more sensible in our habits and consumer choices. Bring Your Own Bags to the grocery store; Bring Your Own Mug to the cafe; choose less packaged products when possible. It's doable, for a worthwhile cause...
Poke around below to find out more.

Nurdles (pre-production plastic pellets)

Nurdles (pre-production plastic pellets)
Manufacturers need to be responsible for cleaning up their own spills

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Transporting Potato Salad

The moment two years ago that I saw the picture of a plastics-impacted belly of a dead albatross chick an internal switch flipped. I recall sitting in the audience with my jaw half dropped, grief and agitation slowly seeping from my core outwards. I pictured the sad way the bird must have died, slowly wilting from starvation, maybe with its parent watching in confusion and distress. I contemplated with quiet rage our collective human carelessness and ignorance- millions of pieces of garbage with a half-life of five centuries float out to sea, to the home of millions of marine organisms for whom our “throwaway” stuff is not “away.” I considered the overwhelming cultural and societal hurdles – how the hell do we walk away from the mind-numbing convenience of single-use disposable plastic packaging and disposable food and beverage containers to the fundamental sensibility of actually valuing and using and reusing natural materials again?

We have the phenomenon here of shifting baselines- the baseline for the last and current generation is that plastic is, well, normal. It’s not. A combination of petroleum byproducts and synthetic chemicals now house most of our food and drink. That’s an aberration of normal, or what should be normal and has been for thousands of years until now.

I was discussing this with an unconvinced neighbor recently, she was profoundly stumped, “Well then what am I supposed to get my potato salad in when I go to Safeway?” I gave her three answers: 1. Make your own potato salad (she wasn’t amused); 2. Bring your own container (she rolled her eyes and mumbled “yeah, right”); 3. Tell Safeway to use bio-plastics or Spudware and help get eco-friendly products into the mainstream. She asked, “But are they as good as regular plastic?” It was my turn to be stumped. I politely but somewhat exasperatedly came back with, “How strong of a container do you need to transport potato salad 8 minutes from the store to your house?” We were quiet for a moment, her eyes narrowed, and she narrowly yielded “I guess I’d never thought about it that way before… but still…” With the courteousness that neighbors do well to maintain, we gently moved on to the weather, then ambled apart towards our own homes. “But still…” lingered in my head, “but still what?” I thought. Would she be any more convinced if she saw the end result of our fixation with plastics? If she saw the pictures of the dead critters, read the oil consumption numbers, heard descriptions of the noxious chemicals seeping out of the plastics and into our food? When the time is right, I will invite her to a presentation, and I will describe her reaction here.

This is my first blog of a couple dozen or so I’ll be posting over the next year. I look forward to becoming A BLOGGER. I'm not one yet, but it's now integrated into my new calling. I will be writing about a project that I’ve recently embarked upon, one that is a direct result of attending the Marine Debris- Rivers to Sea conference in Redondo Beach, CA in 2005, where I saw that impactful albatross carcass photograph, and my switch flipped. I could not go on status quo, it seemed imperative that more people had to know, have to know. And so, co-supported by the Surfrider Foundation and the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, I’ve put together a slide presentation about marine debris and I’m taking it on the road.

Project: In one year give at least 75 PowerPoint slide presentations about plastics in the oceans, discussing various issues as related to marine debris, including: the effects on sea life through ingestion and entanglement; health implications of toxic chemicals both absorbing into and leaching from plastics; petroleum based vs bio-plastics (e.g. corn, sugarcane, potato based); political and legislative hurdles; and finally- solutions and activism.
Audience: Classrooms in middle schools, high schools, colleges; community organizations; city councils; interested businesses; any group who’ll have me.
Location: Central California corridor-- a swath of communities from the coast of Monterey, into Salinas Valley, up through the ‘burbs of Sacramento and into the mountain towns around the High Sierra & Truckee. I’m going inland because 1) everything flows downstream, 2) visitors to the coast need to understand the end result of beach trash, 3) at some point all affect or will be affected by this burgeoning issue.
Goal: Educate. Advocate. Activate.

I welcome all feedback, questions, conundrums, suggestions, musings, etc. More to come, including links n pics n such n such (as I learn to use this thing). Thanks for reading, ride on, keep in touch and... BYO!

1 comment:

Casandra said...

Incredibly well articulated, I couldn`t have put it any better myself. I too am recently haunted of the common use of plastics and the effect they have on the environment. Additionally I have become accutely aware and overwhelmed by the feeling that our planet is doomed because of consumerism and our seemingly oblivious nature to quickly say "well, I can`t do anything". Creations of convenience that were once a mere fragment of our imagination have become an unnecessary necessity. I suggest watching this short video which discusses the very thing you discuss in your blog, if you haven`t seen it already! (