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October 22, 2009

This Weekend is All About Plastic

 

I’m leaving tonight for a last minute trip to Los Angeles to participate in activities of the newly formed Plastic Pollution Coalition, of which I am privileged to be an advisor. Whether you live in the L.A. area or not, there are ways to participate.

  • Is Plastic Washed Up?We think so. And it’s the title of a film series being screened at UCLA this Friday night, 7 pm -10 pm, James Bridges Theater, University of California, Los Angeles. Come out and see screenings of:
    • Tapped, a documentary about the bottled water industry from director Stephanie Soechtig, which I reviewed on Fake Plastic Fish a few days ago and which has generated much controversy in the comments.
    • Strange Days on Planet Earth: Dirty Secrets. A National Geographic / PBS film with Edward Norton.
    • Preview: Bag It: Is Your Life Too Plastic?, a film by Susan Beraza about the global production, use, and disposal of plastic bags and other plastics. The film crew spent the day with me learning how to live with less plastic
    • Preview: Midway Journey, sneak preview of footage just captured on Midway Atoll by Bill Weaver and Jan Vozenilek.

Is Plastic Washed Up?

  • The next day, Saturday, is Climate Action Day. Since I’ll be in L.A., I hope to join Green LA Girl and a host of other bloggers at the Blogger Beach Cleanup on Santa Monica Beach. It’s not really just for bloggers! Sign up on the 350.org site and come on down!

So what if you’re not in the L.A. area?

1) Find a Climate Action Day event to participate in.

2) Check out the comments on my blog review of Tapped and weigh in. A representative from the bottled water industry has been arguing the merits of bottled water, and several readers have jumped in to rebut his claims. What do you think?

3) Get motivated to protect the planet from plastic pollution by watching artist Chris Jordan’s newly released photos of plastic-filled albatrosses photographed during his recent trip to Midway Atoll:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gbqJ6FLfaJc

Or see the full size images on his web site.

I asked Chris to give me his emotional reaction to witnessing so many dead animals filled with plastic pieces. Here’s his unedited response:

I have tried several times to put words together to express what I experienced on Midway, and so far I can’t seem to do it. My mind simply does not want to accept what I saw there, and what the tragedy of the albatross means for the health of our oceans. The resulting feeling is one of rage and grief, mixed with shock, despair, and overwhelm. Since I returned home, I have suffered from anxiety, insomnia, mood swings, and a constant feeling of my mind racing. It is as if I have been given an impossibly difficult paradoxical puzzle to solve, like watching a movie that is hard to put together, and working mentally afterwards to try to make sense of it. My mind is going as hard as it can to figure out an answer, and yet another part of me knows there is no answer; in fact I can’t even figure out what the question is supposed to be. And in the grand scheme, this wasn’t even that major of a tragedy. I can only imagine what it must be like to visit the site of a mass human killing.

~cj

These birds are just some of the first victims in what will surely be tragic consequences for all life, including humans, if we don’t end our mass consumption and destruction of this planet. Depressing? Sure. But in the words of Colin Beavan, we just have to keep putting one step in front of the other and do the work that must be done.

What do you have planned for this weekend?



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12 comments
Aly R.
Aly R.

Wow, I have followed your blog on and off for a while now, and have decided to start implementing some major changes to my life. My mission now is to try and spread the message as much as possible, your efforts are the beginning of what NEEDS to become mainstream. I mean, I wish that major news networks were showing the footage of the albatross chicks with plastic in their bellies. Thank you for your efforts, thank Chris Jordan for his efforts... thank everyone who is realizing that we can no longer be in denial of this grave issue that is confronting us.

Jeffie
Jeffie

Yes of course, the sponsorship explains everything... But as you said, there's still reason to write. For me the point of writing such emails is not to make someone change their mind and their company overnight but to plant seeds, or to help by watering the seeds someone else has planted! :) It would be great to have a section of FPF for letter writing campaigns, I can't wait!

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

@Jeffie, your letter is fantastic! Thank you for taking the time to compose and send an email. What a world we would have if every consumer (of products, media, information, etc.) would speak out when they feel something is wrong. I checked the site. Did you notice that the orgnization is sponsored by ExxonMobile as well as The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation, which is in memory of the founder of Dow Chemical? I think there is a reason that plastic is not criticized on the site. But that's no reason not to write to them. I hope, in the future, to add a feature to this web site for readers like you to contribute letter-writing initiatives just like this one. In fact, I hope to do it soon and post your letter as one of the first ones. It was too late for Climate Action Day, as I was already out of town and away from my computer. But any time is better than no time, right? Thank you from the bottom of my heart for caring. .-= Beth Terry´s last blog ..Just Say “No” to 7-Eleven’s Plastic-Wrapped Bananas. =-.

Sara Bayles
Sara Bayles

I am really looking forward to meeting you today at the Blogger Beach Cleanup I am co-hosting with Siel of green LA girl. She takes the lion share of the credit for organizing and promoting though! She's a powerhouse! I would love to talk to you about the Plastic Pollution Coalition. I spend a lot of time picking up plastic, and thinking about how to stop it from getting into our oceans and out of our lives ideally. While in Mexico last week two friends of mine took a walk and collected approx. 20 lbs. in 20 min. of trash, mostly plastic. I started brainstorming about how to get to a solution that is big enough to tackle this problem. Would like to talk to you about some ideas! Thanks for your blog, and your work with PPC, it made my day to find both sites.

John Costigane
John Costigane

Hi Beth, The Plastic Pollution Coalition is a fine development to detail the problems and hopefully promote better systems for the future. You deserve a central role as a leading consumer since consumers can change the situation when other agencies stay silent. Political backing for Zero Waste here in the UK has given the trend a welcome boost, after years of indifference from that sector. Things are moving in our direction now so it is important to keep the pressure up, and more will surely follow.

Jeffie
Jeffie

Hello. I wasn't sure where to post this comment, so I'm just putting it right here... I went searching online for info on plastics production, just so I could be more clear on what kinds of pollutants we're dealing with, etc. The first one I clicked on was this: http://www.reachoutmichigan.org/funexperiments/quick/plastic.html I was finding it pretty informative, but then I got to the end and realized there was no mention of the pollutants or any other ill effects of the ubiquity of plastic in our lives. AND it's directed at kids, seeming to encourage an admiration of and dependence on plastic. (Imagine life without it! The horrors!) I think the exercise is meant to help kids realize how much we use plastic every day. But it doesn't even hint at the downside of that fact. So I wrote them a quick email about my concerns. I just thought you and your other readers might be interested in writing too, for Climate Action Day? It's just one website, but what the heck. It probably reaches lots of kids, and it doesn't take much time to write a little email. Anyway here's the contact info: Director and Board President: Jeannine LaSovage, lasovage@reachoutmichigan.org Webmaster: Martha Toth, webmaster@reachoutmichigan.org Address: 5575 W. Liberty Rd., Ann Arbor, MI 48103-9304 and what I wrote. I'm not very good at these things, but I try:) "I wondered why you didn't include in the page "How Plastic is Made" the harmful side of plastic production, use, and disposal??? The page seemed to be a one dimensional ode to plastic. Being under 40, I have to agree that many things are hard to imagine without plastic. But that's part of the problem! Are you intentionally telling children that life can not be comfortable or indeed bearable without plastic? The benefits of plastic do not cancel out its detractors, namely the many forms of pollution it causes our bodies and planet. Can we not teach our children (and ourselves) that as a matter of fact a lot of the plastic we use is superfluous, and that it would be a benefit to all if we could learn to stretch our minds to find alternatives? It would be a simple addition to your web page, a little bit of balance. I hope you will consider it."

Eleanor Sommer
Eleanor Sommer

Terry, You have inspired enormously over the year I have been reading your blog. I'm so glad you are going to the LA event and that you are on an advisory board. We need others taking such actions. While I agree that your plastic bead moment might have been a tad obsessive, it was cathartic and an important realization for you and the rest of us. Most of what consumers do re plastic is symbolic, as are most of the "recycling" efforts. There is a huge issue regarding food packaging that no amount recycling will help, except in the symbolic manner. Manufacturers can't afford to ship glass, and until we figure out a plastic-free alternative, I am pessimistic that much will change. When I look around me I am surrounded by the stuff. Depressing to say the least. But I feel the tide changing. Awareness, even to the extent of removing plastic beads from shirts, will help change this disastrous situation. .-= Eleanor Sommer´s last blog ..Herbs Without Patents =-.

Beth Terry
Beth Terry

@Marian, I totally hear you! In fact, I debated whether or not to even share that little obsessive moment I had. But I'm nothing if not honest on this blog. And sometimes I just get carried away. I think we have all shades of green here. I have been criticized for not being green enough (buying non-organic cotton, having Amazon.com ads on my blog, eating meat) and I have also been criticized for going too far and being a treehugging wacko. Others are in-between. I don't want to alienate people, but at the same time, I do want them to start seeing all the places that plastic exists and to have it sink in that it is everywhere. The real reason I took the beads off that top was that I noticed some of them were missing and it worries me when tiny pieces of plastic get lost in the environment because in a way they are of more concern than the big ones. These are the pieces that get eaten and make their way up the food chain. Or are like the tiny plastic microbeads that are put into facial scrubs and meant to be washed down the drain. Tiny pieces are important too. That said, I did stop after the first shirt. I realized I was going overboard and that by spending time pulling beads off a shirt, I was procrastinating from perhaps more important work. On the other hand, sometimes we just need some mindless activity to help us recharge. I guess the main thing I'm trying to say is that there are many different sides. I totally get your point, and many others as well. All I will promise is that I will just keep being honest. This blog is information but also personal, and I like it that way because it shows how one person, who is just ordinary, is trying to do her part and hopefully others will take what they want from my experience and make their own decisions about what is important to them and what is not. Thanks for commenting! .-= Beth Terry´s last blog ..Tapped: Even More Arguments Against Bottled Water =-.

Ruby
Ruby

To answer your question, there was an early -350 event I went to today, a class on Urban Farming. I came home asking my husband if we could redo our front yard and grow vegetables instead there. Our backyard has three big trees which shade the house during the summer and doesn't allow us to grow much. Every day I am learning new ways to move in the right direction of living eco friendly and I am enjoying it immensely! Thanks for your blog. Peace

Rob
Rob

As I see it the biggest argument against Bottled Water is the fact they are charging more than $1 for a 12-16oz serving of tap water. People's Frugality should be going into alarm! It's just crazy! .-= Rob´s last blog ..Rob Eats dog food =-.

Marian
Marian

Beth, I have been reading your blog for a little less than a year. And while I've always considered myself a careful consumer who tries to think about the environment, I honestly gave little thought to how ubiquitous & damaging plastic is. I recycled my plastic items as I could & often bought wood or ceramic things instead of plastic but that was as much for aesthetic reasons as environmental. Now since reading your blog I am making a much more conscious effort to reduce my use of even small, incidental amounts of plastic. Having said that, it seems to me that when you removed the plastic beads from your sweater, you sent an unintended message that said "Unless we get rid of every last bit of plastic, things are hopeless". That kind of message tends to make many people refuse to even think of altering their lifestyle one bit. I have a relative who uses yards of paper towels each day, throws away all uneaten food after each meal, drives an SUV etc. etc. How do we reach these folks? I think that these folks are the majority in some communities and a large minority in others. So perhaps its counterproductive to sweat the vy small stuff. I had to wonder why you removed the beads from your sweater while you were still wearing it. To me it seemed that you were just pushing up the date when you'd have to deal with recycling those beads. I wondered why you just didn't resolve not to buy something in the future w/ plastic beads or buttons. To me, today's post was vy thought-provoking and useful and seems to be very worthwhile info to get out to people. I think its an item a lot of people can relate to.

Lisa
Lisa

I wish there was something like that around me! I should have planned something in my town but I have been so busy. There is an event about an hour from me but it's a bike ride and not sure there is anything else going on with it so doubt I will go.

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