Saturday, March 13, 2010

OLLI - We Can All Learn From Each Other

Osher Lifelong Learning Institute is exactly that. I presented "Unwanted Gifts from the Sea" to an audience of mostly seniors citizens - bright eyed and astute. We swept through my near hour long visuals of plastic debris taken from two gyres. I shared many photos as well as videos. Most of those significant items were on display disguised as gifts on a table that set before me. The group then came up to the table where the child curiosity took over and they examined with reverence. We then had Q and A for over an hour. Here is where it got really interesting. As I taught them - they taught me. I had to post some of the comments and questions because we all learn from each other and these are the highlights from those that often aren't heard, but have a lot to say and are well worth listening to - our elders.

Comment-We put a lot of emphasis on educating our youth about the problem with plastic over-use and improper disposal, but its the baby boomers who are the growing population. We are the ones that need to stop saying, "we're too old to change our habits." We need to reduce our use of plastic.

Question-How do we get the bottle bill in our state of North Carolina? My response - "There are 11 states in our country that have the bottle bill. The retail lobby groups have made sure it has NOT gone to number 12. We, the constituents, have to join together and push it through. NOTHING changes from the top down. Change starts from the grassroots up!

Comment-We were the ones that started this. We went from using wax paper to wrap our meats to plastic wrap and Styrofoam. Our generation created the plastic bags to replace paper, Styrofoam for eggs instead of baskets. Maybe we need to figure out a way to go back to the old way of doing things. My comment: the original idea of plastic bags was to reduce the number of trees being cut down, now we know we can use other resources, like bamboo, that regenerates at a much faster rate and can be transformed into many useful products that can replace plastic. We can use reusable bags instead of plastic bags.

Question-I use plastic bags I bring my groceries home in and then use them in my garbage pail so I don't have to buy bags. My comment-So you are recycling in a sense/reusing to avoid buying more - that's smart. What we need are biodegradable bags.

Comment-The term biodegradable is often times misleading. Not enough studies are being done on products that claim to be biodegradable. Even newspapers that ARE biodegradable were found in the bottom of a NY landfill - 30 years old yet in good shape and legible. Without the right environment for bio degradation to occur, it is moot.

Question-How do we get big cities like NYC to stop dumping its trash into the Atlantic? They cruise out 70 miles and dump their garbage into International Waters. My comment: If it's true, it takes people like you and me willing to start a ground swell that gets to our politicians that this is unacceptable. To create a movement against it requires outreach. First people have to be aware there is a problem for them to want to do something about it.

I started my campaign to educate people about the issues of plastic in the marine environment because I inadvertently learned about the problem. It disturbed me into action. It's going to take a whole lot of us to join together and make our voices heard saying "STOP trashing our marine environment." And its going to take people of all ages to make that change. Do I hear any volunteers? Start by talking about this issue to your friends and educate each other on habits you can change that will help reduce the use of plastic, to dispose of it properly (not out car windows!) and reduce the accumulation of trash where it doesn't belong.

Great session Osher - we need more programs like yours!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The World Is A Town . . .

. . that is what my husband would say when we would travel and see the similarities in people, places, and things that resembled home. After reading the blog I can say that about plastic in the marine environment. When Jennifer O'Keefe and I voyaged the Atlantic last summer looking for plastics we witnessed a fish trapped in a bottle - so did Marcus Eriksen and Anna Cummins on their recent voyage out into the Atlantic. When Jennifer and I were in Bermuda, we surveyed the shores and concluded that islands in gyres must accumulate wayward trash from plastic concentration zones in gyres. I made the same observation in Hawaii. Marcus and Anna found the same occurance on both Bermuda's and the Azores' beaches. When I was in the North Pacific Garbage Patch, I pulled a toilet seat out of the ocean, Anna found one on the Azore shores. Global, this problem is global and we all need to do our part to prevent more of this plastic entering our oceans that end up trashing the locations many people look to for vacation, relaxation, and beauty - our islands. Check out these three videos and see for yourself.


Dumped Beach Azores from 5 Gyres on Vimeo.