When I think of purity, tranquillity and relaxation, I think of a beach on a tropical island. I believe, most of us do- it’s a product of our Zeitgeist- Windows’ wallpapers, The Beach with Leo diCaprio and holiday pictures from the Maldives. I have never been to a tropical island, which is probably why I imagine it with such idealism. When I think of the ocean, I imagine silky turquoise water rather than something I have seen myself- neither the rocky sea bed of Hainan nor the boggy sands of the Hamptons make the cut- ‘My’ ocean is pure and transparent, like a tear.
I had never heard of the Plastic Vortex until I stumbled upon the non-profit ocean clean-up initiative Project Kaisei. I am not particularly socially active- I do not vocally support or demonstrate against anything. I do not pay attention to my CO2 footprint or consciously choose eco-friendly products. However, I find the idea of a garbage patch twice the size of Texas drifting in the North Pacific highly unpleasant and disturbing. Like discovering a garbage dump in my back yard or seeing mud stains on a surgeon’s gown.
According to the Project Kaisei website, out of more than 300 million tons of plastic produced every year, roughly 90% never makes it to recycling. In many cases, plastic waste that is not incinerated or piled in a land-fill eventually makes its way into the oceans, adding to what is sometimes called ‘the 8th continent’, floating some 1000 miles off the California coastline. The ever growing garbage monster is real, indisputably man-made and dangerous. It doesn’t just kill marine life but may even enter our food chain.
Project Kaisei studies the scope of the problem. Each year their ship sets sail to research the Vortex and increase the understanding of marine debris and its impact on the ocean, looking for solutions for both the pollution prevention and cleanup. The initiative isn’t cheap, $2.7 million will be required to help cover the costs of the next voyage.
To help raise funds for the voyage, PR specialists Cohn & Wolfe, and Project Kaisei have created a 30 day campaign featuring a streaming video of Kai, a small goldfish caught in an epic battle against plastic pollution. Via a 24-hour webcam consumers can follow Kai’s plight, living in an aquarium filled with plastic material, representing the Plastic Vortex.
To “Save Kai” and remove plastic from his castle in the sea, participants can make donations as small as £5 via Facebook http://bit.ly/savekai from now until just after World Ocean’s Day on June 10. As donations increase, the plastic debris in the aquarium decreases, creating a safe and plastic-free environment for Kai to enjoy. All proceeds from the campaign will go towards funding Project Kaisei’s scientific research and clean up expeditions.
For as long as I can remember there has been talk about how much the environment is suffering and debate on whether global warming is anthropogenic or not. I believe in ozone holes but in a way one believes in gravity – something that clearly exists but can’t be seen. The Vortex, or the North Pacific Gyre, is a very tangible, poisonous dump the size of a small continent. If we do not deal with it, the problem will continue to grow until it reaches our shores, wherever they are. Let’s help the scientists, I do not want my island to exist solely as a backdrop to my computer’s desktop.