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Plastic found at the ends of the earth

September 23 2011 | Culture Shifting, Plastics, Water Quality,

Our pals at Algalita shared with me a few days ago that one of their most recent voyages had found plastics in the waters of Antarctica (pdf of the press release here).

Part of me wasn't surprised at all. The more I travel the more it's abundantly clear that... we've trashed this place. Our entire planet is literally overflowing with our junk and most of that trash is plastic.

Yet another part of me, perhaps a more romantic and optimistic side, was surprised. How can this be? How is it possible that we've managed to screw things up so far from where we all live? How can we have trashed Antarctica?

The recent Algalita release brought me back to an internal dialog we had when we wrote our current Strategic Plan. We were working hard to distill our Vision Statement (what we aspire to) down to as few words as possible. The idea of using NO words was even raised... just posting a photograph of what our vision is... a gorgeous beach, healthy ecosystem and a perfect wave peeling with every drop of water perfectly in its place. We agreed to get the vision of Surfrider down to a few words.

That dialog offered a window into the reason we exist... and the challenges we have ahead of us.

Our board, staff, and volunteer activists came to two conclusions.

First, the phrase "pristine coasts" felt right as it seemed to paint the picture of what we were striving for and

second, that vision wasn't an appropriate one for us because we agreed that attaining that vision was impossible.

There are NO pristine beaches and coasts in the world.

None.

There are manicured coastlines where people pick up the plastic trash. There are beautiful beaches on this planet that are so breathtakingly they make you pause and take pictures of them. But if you look down, especially at the high tide line, there is trash all over the place.

I was in El Salvador a few days on a surf trip and the natural location was drop-dead gorgeous. Stunning. People couldn't help themselves... they took what seemed like endless photos of the beauty. I looked down and saw trash... everywhere. I collected five rather large bags of trash. Among the natural beauty was a seemingly endless line of trash along the high tide line.

What we can do is radically reduce our use of plastics, especially single-use plastics.

We need to rise above our overuse of plastics. Get involved in that movement here.

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