Sullie Saves the Seas, a story for children and adults
Ocean lover Goffinet McLaren has just released a new book for kids — as well as adults — about a seagull named Sullie who organizes all his marine animal friends to combat plastic pollution. I asked Goffinet to tell her story of how she came to love the sea and to write Sullie Saves the Seas.
Goffinet McLaren’s story
I was born and grew up in the small historic town of Carrickfergus, on the water`s edge of Northern Ireland. Surrounded by the sea, I became aware at a very early age of the importance of caring for the ocean and it`s inhabitants. As I grew into adulthood, my sense of right and wrong ripened into a positive passion to make a difference to our planet.
In 1979, I moved to the United States, where I married my husband Ian. We have one son, Moutray.
In 2006, Ian and I retired to Litchfield on the beautiful coast of South Carolina where I could renew my association with the sea and it`s precious marine life. From the first day, however, I realized that something dreadful was happening! Litter of all sorts, and particularly plastic products, was being washed into the sea — carelessly left upon the shore by thoughtless tourists. A cold chill went down my spine as I instinctively knew that plastic in any shape or form, would not be good for marine life.
Concern for the welfare of marine life was the impetus for a letter writing campaign to any celebrity that I thought might listen. I thought that I had discovered another “Inconvenient Truth.” I wrote to Al Gore, Oprah, Michael Moore, Anderson Cooper, and Fabian Cousteau to mention but a few.
Unfortunately, my letter writing campaign had little response! But I felt that if the pristine beaches at Litchfield had a problem, then beaches all around the world had to have a problem. One day, I googled “Trash in the ocean” and up popped Capt. Charles Moore, the sea captain, who accidently discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. I called over to Long Beach immediately and Capt. Charlie not only responded to me but empathized with my concerns. I read everything that I could about Capt. Moore’s research and became an instant disciple. I then started writing letters to papers and giving power- point presentations to anyone who would pay attention.
One day, Algalita called to tell me that Bonnie Monteleone was hosting Capt. Charlie at a presentation in University of North Carolina, Wilmington. My husband, myself and a news paper photographer set off for Wilmington with great enthusiasm. My worst fears about plastic in the ocean were confirmed—as a result of plastic ingestion, millions of birds, seals, dolphins, turtles, and even whales, suffer heart breaking deaths, a phenomenon that I now refer to as “a holocaust of ocean life.” I was haunted by all that I knew and resolved to bring more awareness to the plight of marine life. I also noticed that when I spoke with families on the beach, the children paid attention but adults just wished that I would go away— and often said so!
One day, as I was picking up plastic, I noticed gulls pecking at some abandoned plastic bags. I remembered the gulls back in Ireland living on fish. It occurred to me that the gulls could really explain all the changes that have taken place on the beaches since I was a little girl and Sullie was instantly hatched!
I resolved to write a book in a positive attempt to educate children and young adults about the consequences of plastic pollution. My story is targeted at a children`s audience, but in the hope that adults will read it too and fall in love with Sullie’s heroic adventures as he leads his bird friends in a mission to reverse the conduct and turn the bad behavior on humans themselves.
So far, both kids and adults have responded most positively to Sullie’s mission. You can read the reviews on Sullie’s face book page.
I’m a daily beach walker and trash gatherer in our beautiful fishing village of Bodega Bay, CA. Plastic and trash on the beach is a real bugaboo for me. There’s nothing more heartbreaking than seeing a place you love disrespected by garbage. As with all beaches, the summer is the worst in Bodega Bay for plastic and trash. The items I find most are:
Soda cans and bottles
Plastic bottle tops
Cheap plastic beach toys
Bottled water containers
Styrofoam pieces from cheap Styrofoam coolers
Cigarette and cigar butts
Blue plastic dog poop bags :(
Fishing lures & fish hooks
Chum containers (to lure fish) crab pots, clam bags, and Styrofoam boat bumpers
I’d be curious to know what ‘Indigo’ finds when she brings her groups of students out here from Cardinal Newman.
Inspired by the work of photographer, Chris Jordan’s photographs of the albatross chicks on Midway island, I photograph much of the trash we pick up and the dead birds I find. I have a particularly disturbing photo of a pelican that swallowed a massive double fish hook attached to yards of heavy fishing line. Some days it’s all I can do to not despise our human race for all of the damage and suffering we inflict.
I’m a volunteer in the kindergarten class at our local school. Sullie Saves the Seas would be a perfect addition to the classroom. Thanks so much Beth, for Ms. McLaren’s story and for continuing to educate us about plastic in our environment.
We could learn so much more if we listen to the birds
we spent the day after New Year 2010 picking up fireworks/trash that cluttered Pensacola Beach near where we were visiting. what a quick lesson in how stuff accumulates. will definitely be pointing out such things to the grandgirls, but I think Sullie’s creator has the right idea on how to reach many kiddos!
So many great ideas and leading by example is definitely a big one. There are so many simple, every day lessons that kids pick up on very quickly. The best part is when they teach the adults in their lives! :)
We’ve made it easy for our four year old grands to separate trash and plastic by using two different colors for the bins. The blue trash can is for paper trash and the white one is for plastic trash. They love to help by putting trash and plastic in the right bin and the colors help them know which to use. And while they are helping, they are learning by example. Grandpa and Grandma recycle, Dad and Mom recycle, they will recycle.
Thanks for all you do for plastic awareness! ~~Rhonda
Whenever my 4 year old nephew spends time with me, I make a point of letting him participate in making decisions regarding what we should and should not be doing. For example, if we are in the grocery store I might point out why we are choosing Product A over Product B—reducing the amount of plastic packaging being amongst the reasoning. He lives near the ocean and that makes it easy to discuss with him that we don’t want to ‘poison’ the birds and fish that live in/near the water with plastic or other trash.
What a beautiful book!
I am definitely getting one for my youngest.
I also have a strong emotional relationship to the ocean. I grew up on the cost of Norway, where my parents have a tiny summer house on a very remote small island. Every year, upon retuning after the winter my Dad and I would take the same walk around the Island. We would always stop at the same little beach. It issa very beautiful place: white sand amid rugged rocks. I loved it because of its promise of summer to come and all the treasures to be found.
One year when I was about nine (1978 ish..) the winter storms had been particularly bad, and upon arrival on the beach we found it littered loads of plastic containers, fishing nets and other plastic debris. My father started talking to me about the inconsideration that caused all this. His thoughts about it and the knack he had for talking to me about real issues in a way that I could digest as a kid made this memory stay with me.
Now with kids on my own I try to pass some of this on. I try through practical approaches and explanations to make them aware of how much we throw away and how we, as a family have a moral obligation to use less plastic. This sometimes results in arguments with the older kids, but I choose to hold my ground and explain that just because so and so has her lunch in clear disposable plastic bags we use our home made cloth because we care about the environment.
We teach our son about plastic by leading by example. We try to avoid plastic bags and packaging. He uses ceramic and stainless or glass drinkware and dinnerware. We recycle the plastic that does come into the house. I have explained to him why we don’t have latex balloons and how they end up in the ocean for turtles and other animals to mistake as food. When we make plastic free decisions, we tell him why and the consequences of of using the plastic version.
We live on a corner lot, and other people’s trash always ends up in our yard. My daughter likes to help me pick things up, and she’s starting to learn that trash doesn’t disappear just because it’s been thrown away.
Being teacher, I think it is very important to teach children about the environment and what we can do to keep it healthy. The environment can be a great thematic unit which incorporates the environment, recycling, planting trees, organic farms, and so much more that involves math, English, Science, and History. Kids really love the real life stuff especially scientific experiments. Hopefully our teaching will impact the world and the next generation will bring around change.
We have taught our son that everything as at least two lives. The plastic that we do get must be used again and again. We always take our cloth bags to the grocery store. We pick up that garbage that ends up on the street in our neighbourhood. We teach by example and he’s learning. He points out when people are throwing things away after a single use when we are out and about. That’s when he learns that we do things differently.
You gotta love Sullie and what he stands for. Such a great story for kids to read to understand that we are all stewards of our little blue marble in space.
Very cool to come across this, interestingly I’m reviewing a book at the moment called Arctic Rising, which is a sort of Dan Brown style thriller, but with an inherent environmentalist message. Seeing as how kids books are so effective at unlocking empathy as a vehicle for learning about green issues it’d be nice to see if more adult writers were trying to do the same- unfortunately most seem to fear that having an obvious agenda means they won’t be taken seriously, but I can’t see why this should be so….
We mostly teach by example here, Whenever we go to the store we bring our own bags, of course, and make choices about what to buy (mostly bulk). The boys see me making bread, making yogurt etc and know it is partly because it is healthier and partly to reduce the amount of plastic we bring in the house.
We live in a really windy area and often see plastic bags stuck in trees and talk about these “Livingston prayer flags” as they are known locally. We talk about how plastic never goes away etc.
We do a lot of learning through story books, so this would be a great addition to our collection. Thanks for hosting this giveaway!
I’m part of a group called Sustainable Shepherdstown. I’ve started a monthly “good habits challenge”. They are simple tasks that could have a big impact if lots of people get on board. It’s my hope that these good habits become permanent. January was turn off the lights when leaving the room. This month is go outside for at least 1/2 each day (connection to nature is the first step to protect it). Next month is no plastic bag month. But I’m also going to include the challenge of cutting back or out plastic in as many aspects as possible. With these challenges, I write information on the importance of each one. The local book store has also agreed to give a discount on a featured book for each month. (I have two books in mind to suggest for next month:)). I also line up a relevant movie to show at the local theater. Next month we’re considering “Addicted to Plastic”. You can find Sustainable Shepherdstown on facebook or at Sustainableshepherdstown.org.
I’m also part of an outdoor education program at the Elementary school. Each grade has a garden they take care of and learn various lessons from (too many to go into here). In April, we have Earth month. 5th grade’s lesson is “trash class”. They collect a weekend’s worth of trash. We sort it, talk about bio-degradation, the Pacific gyre, and ways to make less trash. The children are a big part in solving our unhealthy ways we live on this planet. Hopefully some of them can get through to their parents.
Everyone has posted such wonderful ideas. It is good to know that people continue to work to make our world a better place. I don’t want to duplicate any ideas so I have just included a couple of extra things that came to my mind. I have been working with children and their families for 30 years. One of the things that baffles me is that families are forgetting to teach their children responsibility and manners. One of the most basic rules of any household should be: If someone uses something (in this case plastic), they need to put it in its proper place when they are done with it. Children have such pure hearts and are eager to do what they are taught, but the adults have to remember to teach them and practice good habbits at home, school, and all other places they may gather. When working with families, I do a lesson with the parents and the children in called: Be careful of what you see, hear, and do. Once your mind is exposed to something, that picuture is always in your mind so it is very important to expose your children to the things that are good and responsible.
I run a monthly environmental kids club – that is free for all to attend – and is intended for children ages 5-12 years old. Kids can do a lot to cut down on plastic use – the most effective is educating their parents about it and then helping their parents change their ways – like reminding mom and dad to bring re-usable bags to the store. As kids get more involved, they can spread the word to friends and start actions within their schools. Since kids may not be able to purchase the things they use at first, they will have to talk to their parents about options, consider cheaper ways to source re-usable instead of single use, and natural vs petroleum based products. At the kids club we have talked about the health of rivers and oceans, we have done litter pick ups, and we have played games that teach us about waste and its impacts.
love stories that entertain while educating without sounding preachy… a great way to engage kids is to pick up plasctic garbage, especially the grocery bags blowing everywhere when out walking and running errands… if they grow up seeing you do this they will readily do the same… helps to always carry a bag to put it in til get home to process for recycling… and hand cleaner or wetones!
also joining local audobon society clean up projects at beaches and habitats where it is often easier to see the damage to wildlife and nature!
start a school project! i remember newspaper drives when i was young and there so many more during the great wars… and there are so many new more comprehensive projects readily instituted in schools to teach about our impact on the worlsd and simple things we can do. even just a move to plastic free luunch rooms… enticements or rewards to have cloth napkins and reuseable bags, wraps, dishes, utensils… have kids make their own mess kits as a series of art projects over the course of the year and encourage them to use it, include why thats important during the art project process… ask kids! they have awesome ideas and many even have good thoughts on implementing them that are much simpler than adults!!
I too live by the sea and find all the plastic heart breaking. I have spent most my life on the west coast of the U.S by the ocean and have seen so many changes. I often pick up plastic trash on my beach walks where I encounter children. Kids are naturally curious and will ask my what I am doing and why? I explain and they often will either add a few things to my bucket or scamper off to get something from their folks to fill. Getting children involved is so critical. The post and book has made me think about how I can reach out more. Thanks!
I have come to realize that children are very visual and learn by visual stimuli reinforced by some sort of physical activity. Perhaps showing children photos/videos of plastic pollution caused devastation on several levels such as environmental, ecological, and societal would be a good way to express to children how the effects of plastic pollution are far reaching rather than isolated incidences. After seeing the visual aids the message of plastic pollution can be reinforced with some sort of activity such as a community clean up. The children can count the number of plastic items collected in order to see how plastic pollution effects their own community. Of course teaching children about plastic pollution should not end with the effects; the resolutions are just as important. Therefore, teaching them about reducing, reusing, and recycling (with more emphasis on reduce, reuse) is crucial.
I really enjoyed this challenge. I started reading this blog in January, starting with the very first post, to find ideas about living more sustainably myself. I have cut my families plastic consumption at least by 1/4th, yet I have not thought about how I would explain why we are reducing plastic to my 3 year old. This challenge has brought to light my own personal challenge that I will be tackling with the plan I have detailed in this comment.
Thanks for sharing about this book — awesome! I am a great lover of kid’s books, work in a library, and have been active with the “Green Team” at my daughter’s elementary school over the last few years. Something we’ve done for the last two years is have several parents volunteer to read Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax” to every class in the school for Earth Day. Last year, along with that, we also began getting the kids to start thinking about the amount of trash the school produces every day at lunch. We need to take the next steps on this project — but we began by having one day when the kids separated their lunch waste into: compostable, recyclable, and trash; and then we weighed it all and shared the results with each class when we went in to read “The Lorax” and we discussed ideas for how to reduce the amount of daily waste. I think this book sounds like it would be a great addition to that program!
Hi I’m a senior at Cardinal Newman High School in Santa Rosa, CA. The issue of plastic in our seas has always been an interest of mine. When the time came to choose a Senior Service Project, which my school requires, I had no trouble choosing that as my social issue. I have since connected with Coastwalk a local non profit that works with the California Coastal Commission. I adopted a beach for my school and have been taking out groups once a month to the beach to raise awareness on the issue and to clean the beach. I find that the best way to gain awareness is to get classes of students out into the environment and witness the physical amount of trash in our water ways. The action of participation seems key to me and is how I became inspired by the issue.
When I first discoverd 9 year Milo Cress and his “be straw free” campain, I was really inspired and couldn’t wait to tell my kids about him. Americans use enough straws in ONE year (according to his research) to fill up 46,000 school buses! That is a staggering image, and one that seems to really hit home with everyone who tries to imagine it. When a child that young really “gets it’, I feel very hopeful for the future. We are in a constant dialogue about creative ways to reduce our waste, and it helps to have other KIDS backing you up!
I think the best way to teach is little mini-lessons mixed with real life like when you’re picking between choices at a store, taking back recyclables, or picking up litter. On our last family vacation we also saw a great visual aid. It was a display table with a glass top showing items you might find from an archaeology dig. If you pushed one button, you saw items from 1000 yrs ago (like arrowheads and pottery bits), another button showed items from 100 yrs ago (horseshoes and other metal/glass things) and then the last button showed items from recently and it was almost all plastic.
Mostly, I engage children by talking about the animals that can be harmed by plastics, especially sea turtles. They seem to have a natural affinity for the animals, and really grasp the problems of plastic pollution. My favorite was after giving a talk at a preschool, 3 and 4 year olds were still bugging their parents to pick up plastic bags months after the talk. The parents said they couldn’t drive anywhere because if a plastic bag was on the side of the road, they had to pull over to “save the turtles!”