Sunday, April 12, 2015

All is not quiet on the western plastic ocean front!

Many of our followers are keen to our traveling art exhibit zigzagging across the country stopping at various cities along the way. The 25 feet of ocean waves has helped bring awareness to the pandemic of plastic pollution. We have met so many caring people along the way, many unaware that become extremely interested in the discussion. We just hit an epic location in Boulder Colorado, UCAR, on top of the Rockys but those stories can wait because this one shared by Linda Leitch from Canada is worth stopping everything for to read, learn and help.

The beaches on Haida Gwaii have always been a magnet for the flotsam and jetsam that circles the Pacific. The archipelago sits off shore from the mainland and reaches out into the currents and wild winds of Open Ocean. Some beaches collect the debris and display it for a while and then it’s simply swept back into the sea to continue its journey, but some beaches here hold on to the debris and do not let it go. 
In the last few years we’ve watched with alarm as our favorite areas started to collect devastating amounts of new debris. A beach known simply to the locals as “East Beach” was being hit particularly hard, the belly of this beach is exposed to Hecate Strait and all her wild personality. 

East Beach is our backyard playground. This paradise is where we draw sustenance into our lives. It’s where we hunt deer, collect firewood, pick berries, and gather shellfish. This playground extends from the tip of RoseSpit Ecological Reserve, all the way through Naikoon Provincail Park and is accessible only by 3 day hike or with the serious use of 4 wheel drive vehicles.

Very few people will dare to navigate this shore by vehicle forit’s extremely remote and the potential always looms near that the beach will leave you mired while the tide creeps in and claims your vehicle. It takes a special skill set to drive out here, a kind of built in sense for where the beach will have hidden obstacles and soft spots. My partner Dann has been perfecting these skills since childhood, but still we have the occasional white knuckle moments.

Watching the garbage flood our home was unbearable and we were forced into action. 
Using our trusty rusty pick-up and a small trickle of funding provided to Canada directly from Japan we started to take truckloads of debris off the beach. This is no easy task. We work as weekend warriors, camping overnight in all conditionsbecause the distance we travel is far and difficult and often dictated by the tides

Sometimes we enjoy glorious sun filled days with sparkling calm waters beside us and sometimes we battle our way down the beach in dark cold storms that dump water and flood the creeks blocking our passage. There are times when the beach is perfect and firm for driving that have been balanced out by days when we are stuck knee deep in muck prying the truck out of the mire with our bare hands, but we ultimately always get moving again and we have never considered giving up.

To make the most of our time and funding we load our truck to comic proportions. Often I’ve described our truck on its way home as a “fortune telling gypsy wagon put together with marshmallows by a drunken Dr. Seuss.” Such are the oddities we carry.
As well as bringing the garbage off the beach we’ve documented what we carry and set up monitoring sites along the way to begin to gauge the amount hitting our shores for the future. This is important information that has never been collected here before.

The debris is dominated by Styrofoam varying in size from blocks that dwarf the truck to tiny microbeads of mess. Behind the Styrofoam are bottles of every shape size and purpose, fishing gear, and tiny ground up bits of plastic that maybe used to fit together into something useful, but are now an environmental hazard embedding into the shoreline and being eaten by the wildlife.

After bringing in 62 loads of debris over an 18 month spanwe’ve exhausted our funding, while more garbage than ever is swamping our shores
It was exceptionally kind of Japan to donate to Canada their humble offering after they were devastated by a tsunami, knowing that tons of debris would make its way across the ocean landing on our soil. 
It is with the same respect I reserve for family that I pick up the ripple effect of problems from that day.

However, garbage has been a problem here long before 2011, and the increase in garbage that we’ve been finding and piling into our truck has not been entirely from Japan.
There is a horror show of irresponsibility unfolding in our ocean from countries all around the Pacific. Often we find things with markings that indicate their country of origin. We’ve found things from Chile, Philippines, Korea, Russia, China, United States, and Canada mixed into the debris.

This is a problem that connects all countries and cultures living around the Pacific Rim together. This is a problem that will need us all to act together to change our habits and lifestyles. It’s up to every country and every individual with in each country to help out and work toward change.

As I am a Canadian, I feel exceptionally let down by the lack of response from our government in particular. We are cleaning in an Ecological Reserve and Provincial Park, places that we, as a country, decided long ago deserve protection. Sharing this archipelago, though further south of us, is Gwaii HaanasNational Park Reserve which is home to many culturally significant heritage sites to the Haida people. They, too, were operating cleanup projects with the funding from Japan and have also exhausted that funding, without any of the problem being solved

My partner and I are not radical environmentalists, and may not be the typical type of people you would find having passion for this problem. We are simple folks, maybe even a little reclusive,but this land is our garden, this ocean is our larder and so this problem belongs to us as much as anyone.

As a temporary measure, until further funding is found I’ve started a gofundme page with the hopes we can keep our truck rolling down the beach clearing this paradise landscape of harmful plastics.

Any help is appreciated. Share the link with friends, donate, use less plastic, and clean debris from our waterways every chance you can. By Linda Leitch

Monday, March 30, 2015

Found the other end of Rt. 40 and Maybe a Solution to Plastic Pollution

Plastic Ocean Project's traveling art exhibit successfully made it to California in December 2014 where it was on display at the Aquarium of the Pacific. In February it moved to the ARTery in Costa Mesa, CA and is now on it's way to Boulder Colorado.

A special shout out to Kurt Lieber from Ocean Defenders Alliance who put me up and got my van ready for the road. Here are some photos from my journey heading toward Colorado.  But I have one stop along the way.  Salt Lake City, UH. You might notice it isn't exactly on the way.  But it is on the way to helping solve the problem with plastic marine debris and worth every mile out of our way.  Stay tuned for more details.







Sunday, February 1, 2015

Last day of Surface Sampling in the Caribbean January 23, 2015


As I laid in my berth (bunk) rocking side-to-side listening to the haunting whisper of howling winds while water swished against the steel wall that separated my sheets from the salty sea, I recall the spectacular marine life display many of us witnessed yesterday of Humpback whales surfacing near the Dominican Republic.   We squealed at the sight of a mother and calf surfacing in tandem - so symbolic of this crew with three sets of mother and daughters. But the best was watching the juvenile whale breach seven times as if she equally enjoyed our visit.  Jen Palmer, who was a member of the Voyage of the Sea Odyssey crew, shared so many details on these and other whale species that we will be making a short film for educators to use.   One of the most significant details Jen provided related directly to our work - Humpbacks are baleen whales meaning the are filter feeders.  They do not have teeth and feed on the small animals in the ocean such as plankton.  Sadly they feed toward the surface, the very place we find plastic debris.  In fact, this cruise had been the first time we pulled out and/or documented more plastic bags than anything else in our marine debris study.  Plastic bags have a mandatory advisory printed on plastic bags stating that they should be  kept  away from children.  Yet, this juvenile whale’s mother will not have the option of keeping them away from her calf.  Plastic pollution is known to be lethal to most marine species including these mega ton creatures.   So you can imagine how delighted we were to hear from Jim Ries, executive director for One More Generation, that Georgia has passed Georgia's 1st bag ordinance. More and more communities are stepping up and taking action on behalf of our marine and terrestrial animals. This map provides a global view of these ordinances that will help reduce plastic ingestion and entanglement. http://www.factorydirectpromos.com/plastic-bag-bans

During our research cruise, we had 12-year-old Olivia Ries, one of the founders of OMG (One More Generation) gave us her teacher training that she provides schools on how to engage students in plastic education.  You heard me right, a 12-year-old schooling adults on plastics.  She even taught me a thing or two.  Beautiful Nation Project videotaped her session so that they can be used as Peer-to-Peer online education for schools that are signed up with their curriculum, if you haven't signed your children, school, or after school program up yet, take advantage of this opportunity.  It is free and fun learning for all ages. www.beautifulnationproject.org 

Plastic Ocean Project, Inc. completed its 7th aquatic region of sampling that night.  We have sampled through the North Pacific with Algalita Marine Research Foundation, 5 years of sampling the North Atlantic with Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, South Atlantic with 5 Gyres Institute, South Pacific with the film crew from the upcoming film Plastic Oceans with producer Jo Ruxton, Pyramid Lake with the Native American Paiute Tribe in Nevada, and this week amid the British Virgin Islands, and International waters around the Dominican Republic with Beautiful Nation Project, One MoreGeneration, and Pangaea Explorations.  Why would we bore you with the rambling of names? It’s to illustrate how many impassioned groups out there willing to pool their funds to perform research, outreach, and education to schools and sea lovers.


Sorting samples Cayley, Pangaea, Tricia, POP, Inc., and Shannon, BNP


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."
                                                        -African Proverb

I saw this proverb on my in flight movie on the way to the British Virgin Islands. I read it and processed it after a minute, the movie was emotionally draining and processing this proverb took minute. Fortunately I had the luxury of rewinding. This trip is all about coming together as nonprofits as women and as mothers and daughters to change the world. Anyone who works in the nonprofit world can tell you sometimes coming together can be difficult. Some people view each other as competition, as in we are all competing for the same all mighty donation. To us we just want to make a difference and the only way we see that happening is if we come together.

We all come from different walks, but not so extraordinarily different. We all hail from the U.S. but we all have traveled pretty extensively so we understand some of the issues we face, but we have never lived it. How do you tell someone living in extreme poverty to think about the products they use in terms of the environment?

Jennifer Palmer, a lovely woman and marine biologist on the boat, has just come back from a four month trip traveling mostly through villages in Indonesia. In some of these places the only clean water is is through a water bottle. Or now the only way they could find laundry detergent was in single-use packets. Not only is this not cost effective, in an area that could use cost effectiveness more than anything, it is extremely wasteful and not ecomonically sound.  In a place where there is literally nowhere to put waste. Who is running the dog and pony show over there? To create change globally, we need understand the way others live.  As Tonia Lovejoy, founding member of Beautiful Nation  often asks, "How does where you live effect how you live?" This question is one of many this crew has been wrestling this past week.

These are the big questions with multifaceted answers, this trip is about making a roadmap to those answers by way of educating children around the world. Olivia Ries has been giving us been educating us through the OMG curriculum, helping us get the tools we need to go out into the world and educate others. Because we won't have all the answers, but we may spark the interest of the kids who will.

Monday, January 19, 2015

WOmen, Water, and Waves

We have very little access to Internet but we do have  Beautiful Nation telling our stories from three mother daughter teams and of course the other 8 who all have mothers that created these people who work tirelessly on behalf of Mother Earth. Please learn more by following this link! http://www.beautifulnationproject.org/blog




Saturday, January 10, 2015

Mama Let Your Daughters Grow Up To Be Sailors

This week POP, Inc. will be joining Beautiful Nation Project’s leg with Pangaea Explorations, sailing from Tortola, British Virgin Islands to Turks and Caicos. And we just got word that One More Generation (OMG) is going to partake in the voyage as well. To say this is but a dream would be an understatement. Between our traveling art show making it across the United States and our matching campaign with All At Once as part of Jack Johnson Ohana Foundation, we can say we had our best year yet.  With all of the wonderful things happening it goes without saying for me and Bonnie it has been a whirlwind of excitement with a touch of exhaustive hard work that has left us with hope.

The payoff of our work will be a little more work, but who can complain when the work is being done on a sailboat! We have the unique opportunity to be part of a crew that will be conducting research by trawling for marine debris as well as visit local schools leading discussions about our ‘plastic footprint’ and the challenges their communities face because of it. The goal of this voyage is to create a toolkit for students to give plastic a global value. Our crew has the right combination of passion, brains and creativity that could inspire real change on the islands and ultimately the planet.

Hope is what keeps us going, not just at POP, Inc., but also as human beings. We all have something we are striving for and while we work our way to get it, hope is at the end of the tunnel. This voyage is particularly special because we will have three sets of mothers and daughters on board. From Beautiful Nation Project there will be Tonia Lovejoy and her mother Debbie Winterbauer. Their shared reverence for the planet has helped mold a geosocial network that provides free educational resources for schools across the globe. Take a look here and see how you can join the network http://www.beautifulnationproject.org. Also joining the crew are Olivia Ries and her mother, Lauren. Olivia who is now 10 years old started One More Generation with her brother in 2009; to say she is a remarkable young person would be putting it VERY lightly. Olivia and her brother, Carter, have done more for conservation and education than most politicians, celebrities or maybe even the Dalai Lama. I am in awe of their dedication, creativity and their understanding of the importance of educating others, especially their peers. A simple google search of them returns accolades from all corners of the earth, or you can check them out here http://onemoregeneration.org don't forget to watch the video below and be in awe for yourself. The last of the mother daughter teams is me and Bonnie (who I affectionately call Bon Bon), she is the reason I am here on this beautiful planet and why we get to be in such inspiring company for nine days.

Bon Bon and I may have started our journey together in 1983, but our desire to save our oceans started more recently. In 2008, Bonnie read an article about the North Pacific Garbage Patch and just like that an activist was born. She began reading, listening or watching anything she could get her hands on to learn about the problem our oceans were facing in regards to marine debris. It became all she talked about with me and my brother, at first, I’ll be honest, it was a little overwhelming. But we all changed our ways; her passion to save our oceans soon became my passion and I have been working with her ever since. The trouble is we are 700 miles away from each other and very rarely get to work hands on together, this opportunity is something we have been hoping for, for a very long time.

One way or another each of us embarking on this voyage has been inspired by our family, and it is the hope for our future generations that keeps us going. I think this group is on the cusp of something magical and truly believe we will make a great difference. Keep a lookout for our happenings along the journey #ImonTHEBoat 

For more information about Pangaea Explorations visit their website http://panexplore.com

And again, these kids...AMAZING!

           
Written by: Tricia Monteleone

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Rock-O-ber: From rocking the art van to a hurricane

POP Inc.'s art exhibit at the Fort Fisher Aquarium, NC


What a rocking October for Plastic Ocean Project, Inc.  As of October 1st our traveling art exhibit arrived in California making it's 26th and final destination as part of the funding from Project Aware.  We had one year to complete the cross country exhibit and on December 1st, it will be on display at the Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach, CA. Project Aware does so much good, not only by helping protect marine life like sharks, but also fund diving campaigns and helps small non-profits like ours accomplish big goals. But we would have not been eligible for those funds if it weren't for our supporters voting for us to win the grant money to get our show on the road.  Through this initiative we have shed light on the proliferation of plastic marine debris to 1000s more people of all ages. Now to find funding to help bring it back across the US.





Pyramid Lake, NV
The exposure the exhibit has received has led to so many requests that we put together a smaller version that is currently at the Fort Fisher Aquarium, NC and will be on display until November 30 and will then move to UNC Chapel Hill.  But this is only our outreach front. Last month not only did we collect trash in the N. Pacific with Ocean Defenders Alliance, but we also sampled an endorheic lake meaning there is no outlet, water only leaves via evaporation.  Why would this be significant to study?  Because if you think about it, it is a microcosm of an ocean.  We can learn a lot about runoff, Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) and how plastic marine debris persists in this environment.  More on the findings later.

Mid-October, we spent two weeks sampling off the shores of Bermuda.  What made this years sampling even more unique was the fact that we had the opportunity to sample after a tropical storm AND a category 2 hurricane.  We now have five years of open-ocean samples collect in the N. Atlantic gyre with significant evidence from this last outing that put exclamation points on top of the results established over the past four years.  Just a couple examples.

1. Just like gyre circulation systems are a transport for plastic marine debris on a grand scale, surface eddies serve as mini gyre systems.
Visible convergence zone where plastic and marine life meet

2. Convergence zones where different temperatures of waters meet are aggregates for marine life as well as free floating plastics making plastic debris more readily available for ingestion and entanglement.  Here is a video where you can see a convergence zone notice the teal blue waters of Bermuda butting up against the deep colder waters of the open-ocean.  We could actually see with your own eyes all the trash along this edge. So if Boyan Slat wanted to find a sweet spot for his ocean cleaning device, he might want to start in regions like this - not too far from land.

Sampling in 4' seas in the N. Atlantic gyre
3.  As the sea state goes up, meaning as the wind speed and  wave height increase, the number of plastic pieces goes down, yet, we find the size of the pieces increase.There are other points to be made, but we will save that for our potential publication coming out early 2015.

But Plastic Ocean Project, Inc goes beyond research and outreach, we are also about collaboration.  We asked Beautiful Nation Project if they would like to join us on our fall N. Atlantic research cruise with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) Maureen Conte, PhD.  They accepted and for those of you with middle school children and/or educators, visit their website.  They are using ships of opportunity as a means of an educational platform to bring ocean science and the students around the world into your classroom.


N. Atlantic surface sample 
Also, we continue to support the efforts of 5 Gyres Institute who are promoting the banning of micro beads in consumer products in particular Plastic Tides who is currently paddle boarding up the Erie Canal to the NY State Capital from Ithaca IN WINTER CONDITIONS, to promote awareness to the ubiquitous quantities of plastic beads intentionally entering our water via companies that put them in their products.  Go Christian and Gordon!