Some poetic forms seemed obvious, such as “A Sea Change,” which is an elegy to the whales who are dying from eating too much plastic. A concrete or shape poem seemed the perfect format for “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” The poem rotates in a circle as the ocean gyres do. Other poems took more thought and experimenting. “The Road Back” is found poem using words from traffic signs.
I’ve lived by the ocean all of my life. So much of the fun I’ve had since I was a child—sailing, swimming, kayaking, scuba diving—was thanks to the sea. I was heartbroken by news of whales dying from ingesting pounds of plastic. They eat the plastic, feel full, and stop eating. They have no way to digest and expel the plastic so they die of starvation and dehydration. Sea turtles mistake plastic bags for a favorite food—jellyfish—and suffer the same fate as the whales.
We all think we’re recycling plastic, but it turns out that we’re not. In 2015, a groundbreaking study by scientists at UC Santa Barbara found that 91% of plastic isn’t recycled. The situation has only gotten worse since then and there’s no end in sight. Plastic production is predicted to triple by 2050. By the time our kids are adults there could be more plastic in the ocean (by weight) than fish. It’s a tragedy. That was it—the last straw! I knew I had to do something. And I was thrilled to discover that kids around the world already are. For them, this fight is personal.
Thank you so much, Michele. I hope others are inspired by the can-do kids in the book. One thing I’ve done: I’ve opened my eyes. I started seeing plastic everywhere, as indeed it is. (Try to go one day without touching plastic. Bet you can’t!)
I visited my local recycling center to learn about the problems they face. It’s worth doing in your area, because recycling regulations are determined by states and local municipalities. I never knew that we can’t recycle wet cardboard because it gums up the works. A recycling bin with a top on it is an easy solution.
I also saw firsthand how plastic grocery bags, straws, and plastic utensils slip through the cracks in the sorting machines and break the equipment. Along with plastic bottles, I’m working hard to ban these “use-it-once-and-throw-it-away” plastics in my life. These are the things we use for an average of 12 minutes and then they pile up in the ocean and on landfills for the next 450-1000 years! Some scientists believe they never really disintegrate, but break into smaller and smaller microplastics that end up in our food and in the air, with dire consequences for our health. These “disposable” plastics are 40% of the problem and they’re easy to replace with washable cloth bags, metal water bottles, bamboo utensils, and metal straws.
Going forward, I’d add a few more RE-words to the old REUSE, REDUCE, RECYCLE slogan. REFUSE is a big one. Just say NO to this stuff we don’t really need. And REWARD RESEARCH. Support companies that are fighting back. Our lives depend on it.