Wednesday, 26 August 2009
Lat: 39° 05’ N Lon: 130° 09’ W
A lesson taken from the Kaisei voyage is that the simple life yields greater joy than a busy, throwaway culture in which we all get wrapped up.
The Kaisei is now bounding toward the Bay Area after three weeks of research, documentation, and experimentation in the North Pacific Gyre. My primary duty on this mission has been simple: sail the boat. While doing this, I saw exactly what I expected to see: the plastic was about in the concentration that credible media had reported; the pelagic wildlife I was expecting to see was here; and the weather was as expected and sometimes better.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m coming home with some memorable experiences. I’ve seen beautiful sunrises give light to shocking areas of plastic accumulation, held handfuls of plastic particles filtered from the surface of the ocean, and shared the simple joy of sailing while storytelling with ocean enthusiasts from around the world. You do not need to sail to the middle of the Pacific to know what to do about plastic in our oceans, in our streams, and on our shores, but sailing to it makes the message even more compelling.
Most people reading this blog know the personal solution already; Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Many of us have found new ways to live with less stuff; how to make things last; and how to properly dispose of what we use. If you have done this, you know that we are all works in progress and that it’s only with constant attention to details that one can succeed. On the other hand, how do you make a whole culture pay constant attention? It seems that, while we’ve been chanting, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle,” somehow our throwaway culture has marched forward unaware.
While on this voyage I’ve been thinking a lot about scale. It’s hard not too, when the horizon stretches full circle in all directions. How does the individual effect the whole? How do large-scale cultural shifts happen? It seems that all cultural shifts occur in waves. Waves that build momentum over generations – only to crest in larger, lasting change when social, political, and economic conditions align.
I believe we are lining up to harness such a shift in consciousness, regarding persistent products such as plastic. Businesses are racing to be greener; individuals are learning about the effect of persistent products; the United States has an administration that is now willing to support change. We now know that the production and delivery chains developed 60 years ago have resulted in worldwide harm to people, the environment, and even the economy.
We know that the harm that we do today will poison our planet for untold generations. The questions I now ask are, “Exactly who will take the lead today and harness this wave of opportunity?” Who will lead the way, to re-engineer our production chains at a macro level? Who will bringing together the thousands of individuals and groups who have done so much to effect change already? I believe I am not alone, when asking these questions and many more.
I got involved in this project, because I saw an international organization stepping into a leadership role at just the right time and place. The first mission of project Kaisei was a success. We did meaningful science, documented plastic debris in the Pacific Gyre, and successful tested a number of prototype devices for cleaning up the ocean surface. But, like all successful missions, we return largely to the same place that we left, having only relearned our objectives. What happens next remains to be seen – but we all come back knowing what we’ve seen is very real and that immediate action needs to be taken.
Each and every one of us must take immediate action.
– Dennis Rogers