Dear friends and followers of Midway Journey,
As my team and I prepare to travel back to Midway Atoll, I cannot help but note the macabre juxtaposition of the environmental disaster that is happening in the Pacific Ocean, with the one that is happening in the Gulf of Mexico. The two phenomena are oddly parallel, involving (among other grotesque features) the deaths of untold numbers of sea birds, caused by millions of tons of our petroleum products that have poured into the ocean via our collective negligence. And in each case the birds can be viewed as messengers, serving as one small warning signal of a much larger calamity, with global consequences, in which our individual consumer lifestyles are unavoidably complicit.
My friend the artist Richard Lang says the opposite of beauty is not ugliness, but indifference. For me this means that to live ethical lives, we are called to turn toward the staggering enormity of human-caused catastrophes like the Pacific Garbage Patch and the Gulf Oil Disaster, opening our hearts to their horrors, and taking the risk that we might be overwhelmed by the potent feelings this process brings up in us. I can see no other acceptable approach, yet I fear that by dwelling on the awfulness of these tragedies—and the smorgasbord of others we survey in the news every day—we may lose our already tenuous connection with life’s beauty, mystery, humor, and joy. I want to learn to stand in the paradox of these conflicting realities, turning more fully toward each of them despite the anxiety involved, as they generate their respective teachings about what it means to live as an engaged citizen in our times.
These are some thoughts and intentions I carry in mind, as we journey back to Midway to document another chapter in the richly metaphoric intersection of the mythic albatross and the ten million tons of plastic pollution that swirl in the remote waters of the North Pacific. I invite you to follow our expedition as we blog from the island on midwayjourney.com, and as we release our photographs, writings, and the documentary film that will follow.
Happy July to all, with warm regards from Seattle,