Anyone who knows me knows there is no greater love for me than to launch my fishing kayak on the saltwater marshes of South Carolina. It’s nirvana. Or very close to it.
Despite the scope and imposing strength of the inland waterways, it remains a fragile environment very much under stress. Not just from man-induced sea level rise, but the soiling of these waters, again due to non-natural influences. There is a connectivity between us and the water – salt, fresh or brackish – that mankind just doesn’t seem to grasp.
It sickens me to see what floats atop the water; all manner of debris that simply shouldn’t be there. What bothers me more is what is what lurks below the surface, unseen and beyond my ability to snare it. It is a wretched mess, largely mobile pieces of plastic and other petroleum-based products such as polystyrene. Much of this flotsam is virtually impervious to the process of degradation.
It would be worth your time to read up on Boyan Slat, a 21-year-old Netherlander who founded The Ocean Cleanup. Ocean Cleanup is an organization that scours the sea to monitor, record and remove plastic – by the ton – and even then it is like spitting into a hurricane.
As Slat swam in the Mediterranean Sea a few years ago, he saw “there were more plastic bags than fish, and I wondered why can’t we clean this up.” He is attempting to do just that to heal a sick, plastic-filled ocean. Much of his initial effort is focused on the ailing Pacific, the unfortunate home to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, literally a series of floating islands of tens of thousands of tons of buoyant plastic. Indeed, Slat has developed a process – long barriers anchored to the sea floor that will collect floating junk – he hopes to test soon. But it will do little to corral what is below the surface.
Of course, Slat works on his scale of clean up and I work on mine. I’m about to find out if Slat will accept my application as a volunteer aboard his 171-foot mother ship based out of San Francisco. It would expand my horizon from concrete paths to the larger routes of the world. We need to support Slat’s efforts inland or on the sea. Our connectivity to the larger world demands nothing less.