So it's begun! Pulling 560 (I mean over 1000 pounds) of garbage out of the ocean. I now realize this is officially a crazy idea. For many reasons. But I'll tell you this, I have come to learn that there is a unique sect of people who I now refer to as "people of the plastic". I had no idea how passionate people were on the topic.
This past week was spent meeting with experts and local divers and getting over the embarrassment I felt when people gave me a slightly horrified expression every time I asked (with glee), "So where's the garbage and how much is there?"
I've spent time answering the deeper questions: why am I doing this and what do I want to accomplish? Graham Hill echoed the thoughts of a few others when he asked, "Why stop at 560 pounds?" (see video). And challenged me to zero out my life time of impact. (So now I need to figure out how old I think I'm going to be when I die. This just went from a magnificent to morbid in one quick turn.)
Meanwhile, I came to the realization that this is a crazy idea.
#1 Reason this is a crazy idea. I'm afraid of the ocean. There. I said it.
I've always been afraid of deep water, never been able to look at the bottom of the pool when I swim in the deep end. Jaymi Heimbuch of Planet Green was kind to cover the project, but there was a phrase in that article that haunted me, the one where she said diving is a passionate hobby. Any normal person would assume that. But the truth is, being a steward for our oceans is my passion; diving is just a way...in. And believe me, when I was out there bobbing in the chilly waters of Monterey, releasing all of the air from my BC so I would sink to the bottom of the ocean, I thought about that point (a lot). I also thought about the crazy rogue wave at the Maverick Surf competition that took out 45 spectators two days before our dive. And I started wondering why I couldn't have picked a project that meant doing an activity I was good at...like...walking.
Luckily, (and lets say that three times together), Enrique Aguirre and Rebecca Jackrel, two talented wildlife photographers who were testing their gear in preparation for their trip to photograph whales, invited me to come along and refresh my skills, and even offered to teach some safety tips. Thank God for this, because it would have been really embarrassing to show up at my first garbage dive meet up and not remember...everything. Rebecca made a fun video of our experience that shows off the amazing marine life that can be found in that area (big thanks Rebecca!).
After being down there for a few moments my fears did surpass, and the sheer awe of being in the belly of our planet took over. There was a moment when I was surrounded by purple fans and coral and couldn't resist thinking this would be a bomb-digity room for a 14 year old girl.
#2 Reason why this is a crazy idea: The plastic/garbage is REALLY small. If you watched the video you probably caught that we retrieved 1 whopping plate shard out of the ocean. Not a surprise given we were in a state park. But I was quickly reminded of the crucial problem of itsy bitsy garbage. I was walking down the beach when I started noticing that all of the kelp washed up on the beach were covered in garbage. So I did what any normal garbage obsessed person would do and grabbed a handful so I could check out the ratio of normal ocean debris to garbage.
In this officially non scientific experiment of grabbing a handful of ocean debris out of a kelp bed washed up after a storm, I ended up with a whopping..I don't know, it looks like it is almost 1/3 garbage, 2/3rd ocean debris. And yes, if you are examining closely, you will notice I didn't get all of the garbage out (ran out of patience with the itsy-bitsy pieces of Styrofoam).
And while I have been reading about the Pacific Gyre Patch for years, and understood it was comprised of small and large plastic particles, it was en entirely different experience to walk down this beach at night, when it was pristine, and then walk down it the very next morning, to find it covered with dead animals and garbage.
Video below has been around for awhile but illustrates the point.
Today's inspiration for why to reclaim the oceans of garbage:
I'm going to claim the experience of walking down a beloved beach that was covered with garbage over night as today's inspiration for why I am doing this project.
Today's action we can all do:
Join the plastic pollution coalition (click the link to get to the pledge card and learn more about the affects of plastics).