Captain Charles Moore is one of my personal heroes and the man whose work discovering, studying, and bringing the world’s attention to plastics in the oceans changed my own life completely two years ago. So you can bet that when I was invited to attend his presentation at Google in Mountain View last week, I rearranged my work schedule, rented a Zip Car, and got my butt down there.
Captain Moore’s story is the subject of the article commonly known as Plastic Ocean. If you haven’t read it yet, stop what you’re doing and read it now! But be sure to return to this page afterward to listen to his important message for all of us.
Moore is not much taller than I, but his presence is captivating and the force of his conviction, palpable. Wearing a necklace made of plastic found out in the North Pacific Gyre, he is a man who has looked into the abyss, not once but repeatedly, and returned to warn us about it. His eyes twinkle, but they also look deeply tired. He has been trying to get us to wake up to the damage we’re doing to our precious planet for over ten years, and the world is just now starting to listen.
Moore’s presentation included many samples of the types of plastics found in the Pacific Ocean and that wash up daily on the world’s beaches, as well as a hat knitted out of some of that plastic, which he sometimes wears.
And he is a living testament to his convictions. His bag, knitted from plastic grocery bags, is a reminder of plastic in the environment, while his naturally-corked stainless steel water bottle demonstrates his dedication to reducing his own personal consumption of plastic. I must say, I’ve taken many, many steps to lower my plastic footprint, but seeing that cork in his Klean Kanteen blew me away.
Natural alternatives to plastic may be well and good to an extent. But Charles Moore’s message is not about running out and buying “green” products. Just the opposite. In fact, from the things he said during his presentation and in the meeting with him afterward, I don’t believe Charles Moore believes that plastic itself is the main problem in the first place.
The plastic pollution problem is the visible manifestation of the crisis of our civilization. (There’s so much more that is invisible.) Progress is not what we’re after here. Everything has to be redesigned. We need a new paradigm that subtracts from the consumer lifestyle rather than adding to it. We’re after difference. The Great Refusal.
I asked Captain Moore what he thought was the most important thing we as individuals can do. Here is what he said:
Today is World Oceans Day. But according to Moore, the crisis we are facing is about more than the oceans or plastic or pollution. Plastic pollution is a symptom of a way of life that is completely unsustainable.
Today, I plan to get still and meditate. How about you?
Read/view the group’s statement on plastic pollution developed by activists, artists, and environmentalists after Moore’s presentation at Google.