Monday January 23, 2017
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Monday January 23, 2017
Posted: Mar 18, 2014

“We didn’t know”

Under Current

After a short break to catch up on a laundry list of other responsibilities, a return here to the blogosphere.

I’ve been reflecting on four years of flotsam fighting. I picked up my first bag of beach debris in early March 2010. My then-toddler daughter and I had visited Ocean Park just after some big storms. The beach was littered up and down with shells, wrack, and a shocking amount of plastic.

I resolved that day to do "something," though I didn’t know what.

Today, four years later, I still don’t know what. I do know now how naive I was. I had hoped I could do my part to keep the world’s beautiful places from getting fouled. But that’s already happened.

Waves of plastic now routinely pummel shores in Hawaii, Alaska, California, Brazil, Australia, China, Ireland, the UK, Norway, the Mediterranean, Africa, India, Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand. Maine. 

Plastic fishing gear is dumped on the world's oceans by the ton daily. It entangles the beautiful wild creatures that we claim to love, like this sea lion pup in California.


When a creature dies from plastic choking it, the creature will rot away, but the plastic will -still- be there.

An unending stream of plastic now washes up on the remote and isolated Arctic island of Svalbard. 


You know Svalbard, that frozen distant land, home of the “Global Seed Vault” that will ensure humanity’s survival by preserving global seeds. Yes, it’s fouled too.

Here in Maine the lobster industry loses some 38,000 plastic-coated traps (with their plastic bait bags, vent doors, trap tags, bumpers, cleats, edge protectors, etc.) a year. They wash up on our shores. Their bits wash up on Irish, English, and Portuguese shores. There is no money in the state coffers to retrieve them, and no fines imposed on their litter. No responsibility, no money, not anyone’s problem.

Drive down a Maine street on trash collection day. Look at the bulging & overflowing bins, and the plastic litter trails left behind by a gusty Maine morning. Look at the melting snowpiles & see all of the plastic debris that will wash into gutters, then rivers, and then the ocean. That's our world -- our choices.

We are a culture of cheap. We have learned that plastic is cheap on the front end. Yet we choose to ignore its costs on the back end. And the beautiful places of the world suffer.

Industry keeps telling us that plastic is better for us. "It's greener. It's recyclable. It's helping to make a better world." Our plastic recycling systems send more than half of what they collect overseas to developing nations with no regulations. There is no market for that material here. Because it is junk. Yet we believe the industry rhetoric. It's easier to believe them than to change. 

So, four years on, what do I hope to do? I’m one person. So really, not much. But what I can do is learn what we’re doing, and share what I learn. What I can do is make sure that nobody from my generation can ever look our grandchildren in the eye and say “We didn’t know.”

Because we do know.

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