This article, written by Lia Colabello, originally appeared on 5gyres.org. It has been reprinted with permission.
Last Sunday morning, a heavy mist hovered over Lake Travis in Austin, Texas, as hundreds of volunteers donned their sneakers or SCUBA gear to help clean up the lake. A beloved and successful clean-up effort, the Lake Travis Underwater and Shoreline Cleanup celebrated its 20th annual event with a celebration at the Oasis Cafe overlooking the lake.
A recent crew-member of the Viking Expedition last June, Texas 5 Gyres Ambassador Aly Tharp was happy to be there at the cleanup after-party to relate the hard morning’s work at Lake Travis to the broader issue of plastic pollution in our seas, reservoirs and waterways.
“I was surprised to see how many people had heard about plastic microbeads being put into consumer products that are polluting water reservoirs,” said Aly. “Nearly everyone I approached about it had heard of the issue, and only one person declined to sign our petition. It’s encouraging to see the issue getting media attention and taking root in people’s consciousness, and I’m hopeful that 5 Gyres will succeed in future policy efforts to ban plastic micro-beads.”
The 5 Gyres booth saw good traffic from clean-up participants. A humongous catfish wearing a SCUBA tank even stopped by to thank us for being there and take a look at Aly’s plastic pollution sample from the North Atlantic.
When asked why she volunteers her time to talk about plastic pollution, Aly has this to say:
“I see how polluted and sick our society and habitat has become, and I want to do whatever I can to make it better. Plastic pollution is not merely ‘ugly’ to me, it’s innately violent and destructive. For me, not only does it represent the oppressive violence committed to support the dominating yet unsustainable social order of never-ending global markets based on plastic-wrapped materialism… If it’s true that 8% of petroleum production worldwide is going towards plastic production, then every and all unnecessary consumer plastic (the many millions of tons of it) is contributing to climate change, air pollution and ecosystem destruction, often at multiple levels within its very long lifespan. I want better, and I volunteer my time to build awareness and community, and to state the case that it’s high-tide for change.”
As hundreds of thousands of people make their way to New York City this weekend for the People’s Climate March, we encourage you to take a moment of reflection or meditation on the intersections between the environmental destruction from plastic pollution, and the call for climate justice in the face of climate chaos. How do these two crises intersect — in terms of causes? In terms of those most affected? In terms of possible solutions?