Midway Trash-a-Thon

Chris and Manuel find comic relief as they rummage through a pile of plastic garbage collected on the beaches of Midway Island.

Video by Jan Vozenilek

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  1. Posted September 15, 2009 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    dark comedy — well done!

    Would any of you Midway journey-ers be able to bring back small items of marine debris that have either graphics or writing indicating from where the item might possibly have originated? For example, perhaps a cigarette lighter might say “Joe’s Bar & Grill; Santa Monica, CA”…or perhaps there’s an item that has Korean script on it. Such items would be very useful to include in lesson#2 of a marine debris curriculum kit produced by the Un. of Hawai`i’s C-MORE oceanography group: http://cmore.soest.hawaii.edu/education/teachers/science_kits.htm
    I live on O`ahu and would be HAPPY to collect these items from you when you travel back through Honolulu. Aloha!

  2. Posted September 15, 2009 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    I think the days of asking, ” If you were stranded on a deserted island, what would you take with you?” are over.

    Instead, now and in the future, our ascendants will ask,”If you were stranded on a deserted island, what could you reuse?

  3. Manuel
    Posted September 15, 2009 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    Thank you both for your comments. Nice ironic twist, Sherry.

    For Barb: My team mates and myself, as well as most of the leaders in the communication of this issue, prefer not to use the term “marine debris” which we find vague and euphemistic. “Marine debris” are coconuts, wood, leaves, seaweed… “Debris” just happen, and are caused by the forces of nature. What you see here is PLASTIC, and we have to call it what it is. PLASTIC. And these objects and fragments didn’t “just happen” like “debris”. These are man-made and pervasive. These objects are here to stay with us for hundreds of years. That’s why we use the term “plastic pollution”, which is descriptive and accurate. I just want to encourage you to reflect about the power of words. If you want to grab the best lingo and get some quotes, I suggest you listen to this statement: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxdwVQtNfng

    To answer your question, marine currents operate in complex ways. Objects from Asia get to Midway much faster than objects from the US. That is why most of the recognizable objects found here are likely to be Asian. US objects can be found badly fragmented, almost unrecognizable, because these have been at sea for many years, swirling aroung the gyre. Eventually both Asian and American become tiny fragments of plastic, which absorb toxic chemicals and are entering the food chain we depend on.

    To collect plastic pollution one doesn’t need to come to Midway. Just go to the nearest beaches and coves, inspect the high water mark, and start collecting away.

    Thank you for your work educating children. Aloha and Mahalo!

  4. Posted September 15, 2009 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    Maika`i! Thanks so much for the robust response, Manuel!!

    Far be it from me to promote government bureaucratic definitions, but just for the record, here’s NOAA’s official take on what “marine debris” is: http://marinedebris.noaa.gov/info/welcome.html#def

    I’m so lucky to be able to walk Waimanalo beach on windward O`ahu almost every morning, and I do collect marine debris, but not much of it has graphics and/or script indicating where it might possibly be from. Therefore, on behalf of school children in Hawai`i, California, and elsewhere — who will be using the NSF-sponsored (another bureaucracy!) marine debris curriculum kits (see the link I quote before), is it at all possible for you or other Midway journey-ers to be able to bring back with you marine debris with such graphics/script? As I said before, I’d be more than happy to volunteer to pick it up for you when you transition through Honolulu airport. ????

  5. Manuel
    Posted September 15, 2009 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    I know what NOAA says. It is the same terminology that the American Plastic Council uses. But I’m not here to polemize. This is not the place, nor the time. I’m here to explore the rich metaphors of Midway and the albatrosses with four talented and committed artists.

    If you want your kids to learn where plastic pollution is coming from, just take them to Traders Joe’s, Kmart, Walmart,.. or maybe just the school cafeteria. Or maybe just to their own refrigerators. The Great Plastic Garbage patch in in our stores, our homes and increasingly inside of our own bodies. That is the message they need to hear, not that the plastic is coming from a land far, far away. Aloha and Mahalo.

  6. Posted September 15, 2009 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

    Goodness, Manuel; I sincerely apologize for any “polemicization;” it was certainly unintended on my part!

    I’ve reread my earlier comments, and for the life of me, I don”t think I ever indicated that I *don’t* agree with you: that trash is coming from “Traders Joe’s, Kmart, Walmart…the school cafeteria…their own refrigerators….our homes…,” because I truly agree with you.

    I was referred to your Midway Journey, and just kindly wanted to ask you to bring back some manageable-sized pieces of washed-ashore-plastic-trash. Sorry to have burdened you.

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    The MIDWAY media project is a powerful visual journey into the heart of an astonishingly symbolic environmental tragedy. On one of the remotest islands on our planet, tens of thousands of baby albatrosses lie dead on the ground, their bodies filled with plastic from the Pacific Garbage Patch. Returning to the island over several years, our team is witnessing the cycles of life and death of these birds as a multi-layered metaphor for our times. With photographer Chris Jordan as our guide, we walk through the fire of horror and grief, facing the immensity of this tragedy—and our own complicity—head on. And in this process, we find an unexpected route to a transformational experience of beauty, acceptance, and understanding.

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