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Raise your Voice (2010): Midway – Message from the Gyre (2009) / Chris Jordan by Ars Electronica, on Flickr
Midway, 2009-2010, Chris Jordan
Chris Jordan, the photographer whose heartbreaking photo series Midway: Message from the Gyre showed the dead bodies of seabirds on remote Midway Island in the middle of the Pacific filled with plastic junk from bottle caps to single use spoons, has just successfully raised $100,000 through a kickstarter campaign that will enable him and his team of film makers to finish an incredible documentary they've been working on for several years.

I believe this movie is not only going to change the way we look at single use plastic and the nonchalance with which we're consuming and throwing things "away," but because of its magical protagonists (over a million Laysan albatrosses) and awe-inspired guide (Chris Jordan), Midway has the potential to shift our collective consciousness of and relationship with the planet we call home.    

But don't take my word for it, see for yourself...  


Midway is a multi-layered kaleidoscope of natural wonder and human history, and it also serves as a powerful lens into a shocking environmental tragedy: tens of thousands of 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 has witnessed and filmed cycles of birth, life, and death of these birds as a multi-layered metaphor for our time. With internationally acclaimed artist Chris Jordan as our guide, our film will walk directly into the fire of horror and grief, facing the immensity of this tragedy—and our own complicity—head on.

I couldn't help but cry when first I saw this trailer. They were tears of sadness at the unspeakable suffering of these magnificent creatures. They were tears of rage at the ignorance with which we keep manufacturing, packaging and disposing of so many single-use plastic products just so we don't have to touch something that was previously touched or avoid doing dishes after a party.

But they were also tears of gratitude and awe. For being alive. For sharing the planet with such beautiful creatures. For Chris Jordan's gift to transcend this tragedy of the commons into a deeply felt experience of hope, beauty and reverence for the mystery and miracle of our world.

These larger lessons are reflected in the only words uttered in the 4-minute trailer:

Do we have the courage to face the realities of our time? Allow ourselves to feel deeply enough that it transforms us and our future?

Come with me on a journey. Through the eye of beauty. Across an ocean of grief. And beyond.

What's cool about this project is not only that we can all own a piece of it by contributing to the kickstarter campaign (even though they've reached their goal you can still chip in until Wednesday), but that Chris and his talented crew have been sharing their adventures from Midway on their blog and with frequent video updates.

From the joy of watching chicks everywhere,

to the shock of seeing pieces of plastic everywhere, brought in through the stomachs of dead baby birds,

to the heartbreak of finding several pieces of plastic inside a dead baby albatross,

you can't help but feel connected to this island, in all its joy and pain.

It is a story that needs to be told, because ultimately, the story of these birds is all of our story, and we have the power to change its course. That is the takeaway I get from watching these snippets and seeing the incredible outpouring of support for this project.

We are a team of devoted artists who believe that the mythical story of Midway has the power to break open the hearts and minds of viewers worldwide. Our job is simply to honor this story as it has revealed itself to us, and deliver it to a global audience with the best quality filming, editing, production, and distribution that we can achieve. The process has been transformational to everyone on our team, and we look forward to sharing our results with you in 2013. Thank you for your contribution.
For a comprehensive guide on how to reduce the amount of plastic in your personal life, please check out Beth Terry's excellent new (plastic-free) book:
Plastic Free — How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too
For some more background on single-use plastic and how municipalities are trying to deal with the huge problem of disposables, also see my recent post:

As single-use plastic goes so goes the planet - a lunchboxy photo essay

For more resources, here are some great organizations to start with:

Plastic Pollution Coalition
5 Gyres
Keep it Organic
Rise Above Plastics
Think Beyond Plastic
Trash Patch
Turning the Tides
Algalita Marine Research Institute
o~O~o~O~o~O~o~O~o~O~o~O

crossposted at A World of Words

Originally posted to Ecomusings by Sven Eberlein on Mon Jul 16, 2012 at 08:11 AM PDT.

Also republished by J Town and DK GreenRoots.

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Comment Preferences

  •  plastic is also a petroleum byproduct (8+ / 0-)

    terry gross tried to go through a day without touching plastic and quickly realized it was not feasible.  she decided to just keep count every time she did touch plastic.  needless to say, it was a lot.

    Die with your boots on. If you're gonna try, well stick around. Gonna cry? Just move along. The truth of all predictions is always in your hands. - Iron Maiden

    by Cedwyn on Mon Jul 16, 2012 at 08:17:45 AM PDT

  •  The vast majority of Pacific Gyre plastics (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    citisven, paradise50

    comes from Asia.

    Just saying, we're not * massively * culpable in this particular clusterfuck.

  •  Thanks, citisven. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    citisven, hazey, paradise50, blue91

    Know what you mean:

    I couldn't help but cry when first I saw this trailer. They were tears of sadness at the unspeakable suffering of these magnificent creatures. They were tears of rage at the ignorance with which we keep manufacturing, packaging and disposing of so many single-use plastic products just so we don't have to touch something that was previously touched or avoid doing dishes after a party.

    But they were also tears of gratitude and awe. For being alive. For sharing the planet with such beautiful creatures. For Chris Jordan's gift to transcend this tragedy of the commons into a deeply felt experience of hope, beauty and reverence for the mystery and miracle of our world.

    Tipped, rec'd, and tweeted.

    "Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism." Hubert H. Humphrey

    by nomandates on Mon Jul 16, 2012 at 08:23:58 AM PDT

  •  in 2007 (6+ / 0-)

    I watched a 10 minutes video about the Synthetic Sea.

    I started using reusable bags immediately

  •  Count down to our bag ban (6+ / 0-)

    16 days until our fair town of Bellingham becomes the latest.

    At some events recently I have seen 100% compostable disposable plates and utensils, and it all goes into the marked compost bin at the end.  

    How do you rate this stuff?  A feel-good band-aid or a real change?  It's still disposable goods and presumably still has a considerable resource cost at the front end.

  •  I see it has gotten worse (7+ / 0-)

    Nearly 40 years ago I was a "resident" of Midway Island for 16 months.  It was an unforgettable experience, unlike any place I've lived since.  Even then, there were casualties from plastic debris--everything from toothbrushes to tampon applicators, but in the interim the use and disposal of plastic has burgeoned into an unspeakable mess.  Midway is a unique island with its isolation and location in the temperate zone and the nearly perfect island climate with the temperatures rarely ranging outside of the 65-80 degree F zone.  Wildlife abounds, not just the seabirds, but endangered Monk seals, and all forms of ocean life (one juvenile Green turtle that I captured and tagged was recovered at Wake Island--check that out on a map, you'll be amazed).  The ocean is a vast expanse of water but everything is interconnected and the distances mean little to the life in and above it.  Think about that juvenile Green turtle, which is a member of a species that is also susceptible to death from ingestion of plastic trash, use less and dispose of what you use responsibly.

  •  Wonderful diary, heartbreaking news (7+ / 0-)

    I bring my own bags.
    Have my own water bottle.
    Use applicator-less tampons.
    You try to preserve, conserve and reuse, but you still see so much garbage in your bin.  

    We even try to buy things with less packaging.  I've been known to write to companies asking why they use so much packaging but to no avail.

    We have to shove these photos in the faces of Americans every day for them to even blink...  

    But we can teach our children and loved ones.  We can pass that, at least, along.

    Thank you for this amazing, heartwrenching diary..

    "When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace." ~Jimi Hendrix

    by Damnit Janet on Mon Jul 16, 2012 at 09:43:12 AM PDT

    •  it's going to be a long and arduous process (7+ / 0-)

      to ramp down our plastic consumption, Damnit Janet. One thing Beth Terry likes to point out when people either call her out on something she isn't doing yet or get depressed about the fact that they can't do enough is that every little thing counts. And sure, there are the naysayers who sneer and say it's just a drop in the bucket, why bother. But it's many drops that make a river, and we have to start with whatever we can and what's within our power, reach and comfort zone, and that then spreads out like ripples.

      And you're absolutely right, it starts from a very young age, because old habits die hard. I think Midway should be shown in all elementary schools once it comes out, with an invitation for parents to join.

      •  I was on the Green Team (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        citisven, hazey, paradise50, blue91

        at my company for a year.  We can't get customers to compost.  They throw trash in it which decontaminates it.

        People are just lazy, really.  Selfish, greedy and very wasteful.  

        But every little bit helps.  I use paper straws, IF straws are even needed.  We try to live like we are on a houseboat.  If you bring something in, you gotta take something out.  

        Cloth napkins and hankies... things you rarely hear about.  People are shocked I have em at my house. :)  We do buy tissues because my son is autistic and he just has to have em.  You win some, you lose some.  We pick our battles :)

        We just keep plodding along.  

        Great diary!

        "When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace." ~Jimi Hendrix

        by Damnit Janet on Mon Jul 16, 2012 at 10:14:56 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I LOVE paper straws (5+ / 0-)

          and so psyched you bring them up. But for most folks, as you say, that's just unthinkable, almost like it would be unsanitary or something. There's something about plastics that makes people feel clean and safe and healthy, even though the fact is that all those chemicals in plastic are much more likely to make you sick in the long run than a few germs. It's really all in the head, and the petrochemical marketing industry has played a huge role in making us think of plastics as clean and pure.

          I think all that makes our small acts of using cloth napkins or paper straws even more meaningful, because it shows folks little by little that they not only take care of the job but often are much more satisfying to use. For example, I always cringe when I have to drink wine or beer out of a plastic cup, it's almost like I can taste the chemicals and the pollution. Using a nice glass is so much more fun and natural. I mean, have you ever tried to clank two plastic cups together, what a let down!

          That's how I like to frame the discussion when I'm talking with folks who are on plastic autopilot.

          •  Psst (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            citisven, blue91

            you can even buy these really cool stainless steel straws where I work.  They even have a slight kink at the neck.  Can use em over and over again.  

            Paper straws are so retro - they are wicked cool.  

            Ziplock baggies... suck.  They're good for freezing stuff but we've been getting washable sandwich bags and they are pretty damn cool.  Made in Mass, too.  

            "When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace." ~Jimi Hendrix

            by Damnit Janet on Mon Jul 16, 2012 at 07:30:30 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  if this isn't the most primal gut-wrenching (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    citisven, hazey, paradise50, kimoconnor, blue91

    expose of the consequences of our modern lifestyle, i don't know if I've encountered it yet.

    thank you, sven, for always having the courage to inform, to prod our senses where we just don't feel comfortable going but have no choice but to.

    •  Thanks boatsie (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      boatsie, paradise50, blue91

      Yes, I think there's something really powerful in this story and these images, because unlike weather patterns and economic systems there is nothing subtle about who is causing this and who is getting hurt. We have a perpetrator, and it is US! However, since we are also the only ones who can right this, it'll be interesting to see if we have enough moral integrity to own up to our actions and make the changes needed to be better planetary citizens.

  •  Thanks for the info, citisven. n/t (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    paradise50, citisven, blue91
  •  Trying as hard as I can to avoid plastics (5+ / 0-)

    They are ubiquitous. I've tried to tailor this goal by bringing tote bags with me to do shopping, buying unprocessed and unpackaged food, and buying used and unpackaged stuff directly at the store rather than the shiny, new packaging online or some major retailers.

    The packaging is just killer. I have involuntarily encountered mindless packaging all the time in my young adult years. Layers and layers of plastic around new textbooks back in college, free newspapers I don't want on my doorstep with bags or double bags, going to meetings or events with plastic cases around food and plastic forks and knives to eat with, and so on. I'm glad grocers in the DC/MD/VA area now more commonly ask "Do you want a bag?" rather than just assume I want one. I of course always answer "no."

    This I identify as a problem with relatively prosperous nations like ours. The environment doesn't appear have a cost, so our economy speciously assumes that a bounty justifies waste. Plus, think of all the jobs that will be created when you create a demand for plastic! More synthetic chemical manufacturing jobs, more petroleum and gas extraction and transporting jobs, and the lovely, limitless value of the economy just continues its virtuous cycle, and all that dewy-eyed bullshit. Yeah, well, I'm often more skeptical now than ever when there's a price assigned to something. I mean, is a sandwich in plastic or aluminum wrapping really the same dollar amount as one not in wrapping? Sure the grocer must pay for the aluminum or plastic from a supplier, but do they charge me for the chance that I toss it back into the trash? The cost that plastic would have on clean water, the atmosphere, or the biodiversity that is at risk?

    One of the most chilling revelations I had was when I looked into a house share with three other people about my age. When we got to housemate questions, I asked them if any of them cooked (you know, fridge sharing or kitchen space sharing details, dishes, to whit), they kind of laughed and said, no, they didn't cook and didn't have many dishes, they usually ordered out or ate pre-made meals, and did so by using paper plates and plastic forks. That closed that deal pretty fast.

    I'm fairly cynical about the end destination of recyclables, sometimes, as well. But I always cringe when I look down the barrel of waste bins in our office building and finding heaps and heaps of plastics. I do sometimes dig into the trash when I visibly see plastic, and throw that shit back into recycling where it belongs. But my resolution is to try to keep my trash waste as low as possible. Plastic is an obvious starting point, but my volume of waste in general is something I want to keep track of and bring down as low as possible.

    "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." ~Edward Abbey ////\\\\ "To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships." ~W.E.B. DuBois

    by rovertheoctopus on Mon Jul 16, 2012 at 12:04:49 PM PDT

    •  you raise so many important questions (4+ / 0-)

      and most poignantly probably the fallacy that we choose to look at "economy" without putting it into the larger context of "ecology." It's not so much different from Bain Capital insourcing profits and outsourcing social costs. When companies are allowed to produce and put into circulation "cheap" plastic without having to add the true cost to people and planet into their calculation, we're basically sanctioning the destruction of that which we depend on for our continued existence on this finite planet.

      Thanks so much for all your personal efforts, I do believe that that is where all change begins and ripples from, even if the task feels insurmountable at times.

  •  Have you seen this? (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    paradise50, citisven, SolarMom, blue91

    Ubuntu blox are a nifty way to recycle plastic trash into building materials. Pretty freakin' keen.  

    And the idea came from Texas, so we're not all planet-hating wingers ;-)

  •  I will never forget seeing a river (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    paradise50, citisven, the fan man, blue91

    chock full of plastic bags in Kabul Afghanistan. I asked our staff if they thought that people there would bring fabric bags to shops if they stopped offering them plastic bags. Frankly they did not really get the reason for my question nor the reality of what all this plastic is doing to harm their lives, and thought it was silly to worry about. They have much bigger issues that concern them. But I still sometimes think about how we can educate people around the world about this issue. I do not believe that changes like that are impossible even in the developing world. It just takes education.

    THanks for sharing this, even though it also made me cry.

    Where ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace. - Dalai Lama

    by kimoconnor on Mon Jul 16, 2012 at 12:25:03 PM PDT

    •  ...nothing is "impossible" it doesn't exist... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      citisven, kimoconnor, blue91

      ...only possible exists...

      Ignorance is bliss only for the ignorant. The rest of us must suffer the consequences.

      by paradise50 on Mon Jul 16, 2012 at 12:27:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  it's true and unfortunate (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kimoconnor, paradise50, SolarMom, blue91

      that for many people on this planet the mere challenge of daily survival outweighs everything else. I do think though that ultimately nobody likes to suffocate in pollution or drown in garbage, and I have seen plenty of people in developing countries who stood up against having their environment trashed. Just look at the list of this year's Goldman Prize winners.

      •  Great site and list of winners (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        citisven, paradise50, blue91

        but they all appear to be educated. This is the key in my opinion. While no one wants to poisoned it often takes a situation to get horribly bad before anyone will really notice what they have gotten used to.

        IN Kabul they still have no real garbage pickup. People toss all their trash in big piles on the roads, goats clean up some of it, along with kids who dig for anything they can sell, and eventually, in some areas, men come with trucks to haul it off to god knows where.

        When you have people who do not understand basic hygiene and effects of pollution, it is a losing battle.

        Films like this one should be shown around the world, especially in extremely poor areas. No one will misunderstand the problem with animals dying with stomaches full of plastic!

        Where ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace. - Dalai Lama

        by kimoconnor on Mon Jul 16, 2012 at 01:05:47 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I get the education bit to some extent (5+ / 0-)

          but do you really need to be educated in a literacy or academic sort of way to understand that plastics are hurting your environment? A lot of countries (I haven't been to Afghanistan but I was in India) were doing just fine before plastics started flooding their ecosystem.

          In India people were basically eating off palm leaves with their hands, then they're tossed on the side of the street where cows eat them and then people use cow paddies for insulation and other organic uses. The perfect natural cycle! If all of a sudden their stores are overrun with plastic packaging and they just keep throwing these things into the street and thus into their ecosystem you'd think that after a while they would understand that something is not quite adding up here.

          And that's the issue, in many western countries we've been able to create an infrastructure that gets all this stuff out of sight (to the landfill, and some of it recycled), but countries that don't have enough resources to build such an infrastructure aren't able to do that and so their people are literally drowning in toxic waste. In small villages in Mexico, for example, they burn their garbage and probably have throughout history which isn't that big of a problem when it's mostly organic. But now they're burning all their plastic wrappers and containers, and it's literally burning a hole in your lungs.

          So I don't believe that people don't know that this is really bad for them, but my guess is that they just feel too powerless that anything could or would be done if they spoke up, so they just surrender and try to make the best of the rotten hand they're dealt. Is that it?

          •  I think it is a bit of both (0+ / 0-)

            I can tell you that some Kabulis would be thrilled to have a normal garbage service, they argue with neighbors all the time when the local pile ends up next to their home. But many do not see piles of garbage as a problem unless it is piled up against their wall.

            But I think that many do not understand how damaging all this plastic is, other than it is unsightly when piled up in their river or next to their house.

            Where ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace. - Dalai Lama

            by kimoconnor on Tue Jul 17, 2012 at 03:21:53 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Happening all over. Three Gorges Dam has issues (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      citisven, paradise50, blue91

      with plastic debris, in Tanzania I watched cows graze on plastic bags strewn over soccer fields, it's endless. The only place I didn't see many was in Amsterdam where you have to buy them at checkout.

      Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree. -Martin Luther

      by the fan man on Mon Jul 16, 2012 at 01:09:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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