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Deadline Looms to Fund Critical Ocean Plastic-Trash Film

To this day, a mere 2 percent of all ocean ways are shielded from over-fishing, dredging, mining, drilling, dumping and oil spills.


This article was published in partnership with  GlobalPossibilities.org.

Without knowing, as famed oceanographer Sylvia Earle brilliantly summarized in her TED talk, personal caring won’t materialize. And without caring – even about earth’s “life-support system” – then the hope that spawns change remains a long shot. Powerful knowing in this digital time comes from direct, sensory experience, and no media does upfront and personal better than professional filmmaking.

So, by pitching in for the most important life-force we’ve only begun to study in earnest, I became an “ocean activist.” And it’s easy to support two talented filmmakers keen to document the indigestible “plastic trash gyre” that blights the Sargasso Sea. That many can’t locate the Sargasso Sea speaks volumes, considering Earle values it “the golden rainforest of the ocean.” Plus, aside from the huge trash pyre, the Sargasso Sea is vast: 1.5 million square miles extending 2000 miles across the central Atlantic Ocean eastward from the U.S. coast.

Michelle Stauffer and Justin Lewis, the world explorers who conceived Sargasso Sea and Plastic Pollution, found a critical-to-life, yet neglected ocean treasure that cries out for wider visibility. Say, as celebrated as the Sea’s most famous namesakes: one, the real island of Bermuda and two, the hyped fraud called the “Bermuda Triangle” (Florida to Puerto Rico to Bermuda). Unfortunately, as there are five, maybe six oceanic plastic trash gyres (the Pacific heap matches the U.S. in size), it’s impossible to sail any sea without being flabbergasted: in many places, a gallon of sea water has more plastic weight than live organisms.

The filmmakers’ unique mission is a first-rate, in-depth documentary that integrates critical variables, especially the extent of plastic pollution and marine debris and their cumulative impacts on sargassum, the living, floating seaweed that provided the Sea’s name. The Sargasso Sea is an irreplaceable nursery – for fish, including eel, tuna, and marlin plus crustaceans, baby turtles, and a diversity of critters – all protected with its seaweed safety rafts. Without many years of protection from predators, baby turtles would not grow large enough to be ocean-ready, a necessity if they hope to breed and nest in remote beaches. 

Stauffer and Lewis intend to extrapolate findings beyond this one Sea, extending their frameworks to similarly degraded oceans. What’s happening to life in the Sargasso, though individualized, could well relate to other oceanic damage, whether from acidification, chemical dumping, oil spills (large and small), human discharge, or plastic proliferation. All the oceans are garbage dumps because so many sewers inevitably flow downward to the same linked, global sinks.

For a century, humanity has sustained the laughable delusion that, because oceans seem vast, even infinite, human garbage and effluent cannot do harm worth worrying about. In fact ocean abuse since 1900 provides the best rejoinder to indefensible climate denial, assuming “little ol’ us couldn’t ever crash such a huge earth.” All we have to do is analogize ocean to earth and tabulate what’s happened so quickly to the most voluminous planetary surface resource. A few hard facts: 90% of the large fish, including exceptional species like blue fin tuna, have been consumed, 50% of coral reefs are dead or dying, sharks are in deep trouble (mainly due to demand for shark fin soup), and all seven sea turtle species are endangered. Plus, some whales, marine mammals like dolphins and seal species are under pressure, but lack of information in part limits our alarm calls. 

Hard facts also exist for disposable plastic production, totaling around 40 million tons annually. Only 10% gets recycled; of that total, 50% ends up bloating half our landfills; and that leaves 40% of 40 million pounds AWOL, a mere 16 million pounds. No wonder scientists conclude nearly half (seven tons per year) ends up in the world’s final (and “free”) garbage dump. Some plastic residues break down and sink, some populate the millions of acres in the six trash gyres. Check out grim numbers, including how many billions (30) of water containers Americans buy each year.

So, if you care about your grandchildren’s lives, or think knowledge drives action, click the site to contribute at Kickstarter and the site of the filmmakers (with brilliant photography). This cost-effective project needs all of $26K to fund vessels, diving gear, and interviews but, with a week to go (ends March 24), they are still $10+K short. This is a doable project that adds genuine knowledge to this under-investigated, golden rain forest treasure. And just think: no sequester shenanigans can impede its forward motion.

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