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Discussing Solutions To The Pacific Garbage Island

Brett Beck was interviewed by Dr. Michael Day for Vital Living 6/22/2009

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This Saturday at Marine Stadium surfers, lifeguards, fireman, activists, scientists, neighbors, and politicians all gathered to celebrate the gift of the sea and to find out what can be done to preserve its life-giving qualities. In conjunction with International Surf Day, Anna Cummins and Dr. Marcus Eriksen with Junkraft.com and the Algaita Marine Research Foundation arrived to the event by bicycle to present their research on the level of plastic pollution in our oceans.

Oftentimes it seems like a daunting task to try to conserve and not use plastics. It’s so easy to grab a 30-pack of bottled water, or order takeout with six styrofoam containers. But we’ve now reached a critical mass and it’s not just about the environment anymore. Studies are continuing to be released showing the effects of plastics on health. As you’ll read in the interview below, Dr. Marcus Eriksen states the case for the generations to come as we pass the plastic contaminants chemical effects to our progeny.

Walking home from the event I felt the overwhelming desire to do something! Often, it feels daunting for each of us to make a difference and with all the other stresses of life it’s easy to put causes such as conservation on the back burner. How can we as an individual stand up against the tide of those that don’t care and or aren’t educated about the effects of plastics.

But there is a power of one and each of us starting in our lives and homes can set the example for our communities by Reusing, Recycling, and Conserving.

I first interviewed Brett Beck, who I got to know through Facebook – the marvel of social networking. Brett was one of the main organizers for this event, and is also known for his passion for planting trees throughout our urban neighborhoods.

Michael: Tell me what this event is about today.

Brett Beck: For ten years the Algalita research association has been going out to the North Pacific Gyre doing studies. As run off goes into the ocean it cycles with the ocean currents and for lack of a better word there’s a big toilet bowl in the middle of the ocean and there are about seven of them in the world. Here the water circulates in a circular fashion and doesn’t go anywhere else. They found through testing that the North Pacific Gyre is filled with tons and tons of trash and most of it was plastics. Most don’t know that plastics never biodegrade, they photodegrade where they break into very small pieces. So imagine all this trash in the ocean breaking into smaller and smaller pieces. What they’re finding now is that the photoplankton are ingesting mistaking it as food and it’s going up the food chain now.

So Algalita has been researching this and the Surfrider Foundation’s gotten involved through our rise above plastics campaign. Through our grassroots campaign we encourage to not use single use plastics, use reusable water bottles, and try to get laws in place that tax or ban single use plastics. Now Dr. Marcus Eriksen and his wife Anna Cummins built a boat last year out of plastic bottles and sailed from Long Beach to Hawaii to raise awareness. This year they are doing the junk ride, where they are riding from Vancouver to Tijuana and stopping in Long Beach. As well the fire company, sierra club, lifeguards, surfboard shapers, Councilman Delong and Garcia, and a band donated their time, so it’s really come together into quite an event.

Michael: Now the real troubling part is the studies about the health effects the plastic may be having on our health as they become part of our water supply.

Brett: Yeah we really don’t even know yet all they could be happening. There are studies going on right now, looking at plastics relation to diabetes, and childhood obesity. They have just really started to look into it. I know Anna Cummins is getting blood test done on herself right now as we speak.

Gary Delong (from the podium during the plastic debris presentation):
“We’ve outfitted debris collectors in all the storm drains, right now we’re in the process of installing the debris collectors and sponges.”

“But, and there’s a huge but, is that we’re not doing very well on the L.A. River. There still isn’t a plan to manage that junk flowing from those upstream cities, and we’re contributing to it as well.”

Marcus Eriksen: “This junk ride in today is wrapping up the third phase carried out by the Algalita Research Center here in Long Beach. The first phase, Anna and I joined Dr. Charles Moore, a long time resident of Long Beach. We sailed to the Pacific Gyre, and collected samples like this jar of this fine particulate plastic waste. Phase 2 we created a junk boat and sailed for 88 days to Hawaii to raise awareness.

Anna Cummins
: “During phase one we really discovered how quickly this waste is accumulating. It’s impacting not only marine wildlife, but us through the food chain. So that was the inspiration to do Phase 3, message in a bottle, where we are riding the entire coast giving away jars that we collected of ‘plastic soup’.”
“This is ultimate case of out of sight out of mind. So that is why we’re bringing this problem to light.”

Marcus Eriksen: “We figure once you see these jars, you are stuck with a moral decision. Do you do something about it, or do you turn your back and walk away.”

Michael Day: Tell me a little more about the health issues we should be concerned about with the increase of plastic particulate waste?

Marcus Eriksen: “Anna just had her blood sent to a lab in Canada. There they will be testing her blood for flame retardant materials, DDT, PCB’s. What we’re learning from other mammal studies is that they harbor these chemicals in their bodies. With women the best way to get rid of your toxin burden is to pass it on to your child through breast milk and umbilical cord blood. So really looking at is the question are we leaving a toxic legacy. It’s really one of the true costs of our disposable culture and this use of plastics. We are paying in the pre consumer cost of the petroleum it takes to produce the product. A post consumer cost in the pollution and health effects it’s having. I caught a fish halfway to Hawaii I went to filet it to eat it and its belly was filled with plastic.”

In closing in the words of the Jack Johnson song off the Curious George soundtrack we need to ‘reduce, reuse, and recycle’ as well as get involved. Decreasing our toxic load for future generations means eating organic fruits and vegetables, drinking pure water, and taking the necessary supplements prescribed by an expert. See the best detoxifying foods here.

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