Two years ago I watched a video about these large sea birds (think they were albatrosses) in the Pacific that were feeding their chicks bits of plastic that they picked up. The baby birds were dying from malnutrition and were stuffed full of pen lids, lighters, bottle caps and the like. It was a ten minute video that left me crawled up in a ball on my bed with a boyfriend who didn’t know what had just happened (“but why are you CRYING?”). For all the wracking sobs that this inspired I have changed my behaviour in less ways than I am brave enough to admit. It does, however, sit on my mind heavily.
What we are doing to the world is horrendous, overpowering, and shocking in nearly every aspect of life; every industry, every meal, every journey, every purchase. I am not very good at processing these emotions into something productive and for me, this frequently translates into a crippling and debilitating sense of shame, and a horrible feeling of ‘well then, what’s the point of it all.’
I think most of us are well aware of how much is going wrong and I’m not about to re-hash what a bad job we do of everything, but to give a couple of examples of people who see the same things that I do, and somehow react in a way that is healthy, positive, inspiring, and has more chance of actually doing something than rocking backwards and forwards mumbling incoherent sentences about factory farming. I also think it’s nice to remember that I am not the only one who is bothered by these things; and that some people are making an impact.
A young man called Boyan Slat has taken on the problem of waste in the oceans, and has come up with “an anchored network of floating booms and processing platforms that could be dispatched to garbage patches around the world.” So far, they have raised over $610k from crowd-funding, and aim to clean up almost half the north pacific garbage patch in the next ten years. More info can be found here: http://www.theoceancleanup.com/
Closer to home, Michael Suttner, has taken a coke bottle and turned it into safe, affordable and renewable lighting. It uses flexible PV solar panels, wrapped up in an acrylic housing, with a battery, that sits under a standard spec bottle cap. This then screws onto a soda bottle neck. The idea is to provide this lighting to households for less than $10, without any continuous energy costs as they’re rechargeable, and they make use of waste bottles. More info can be found here: http://thelightie.com/
“In December 2007, Annie Leonard and her friends at Free Range Studios put a 20-minute movie about the way we make, use, and throw away Stuff on the internet, unleashing a torrent of pent-up demand for honest conversation about the impacts of our consumer-crazed culture on people and the planet. In the six years since The Story of Stuff was released, Annie’s ‘cartoon about trash’ has been viewed more than 30 million times worldwide.” It is incredible, how powerful these movies are. They’ve done so much to raise awareness around consumerism and how we use stuff, without giving through to where it comes from or where it goes. Find out more here: http://storyofstuff.org/
I don’t know what it is that motivates these people. Where they find the energy, or the strength of character to see the things that are wrong and pull out the resolve to still try to do something. I do know that I need to remind myself of them though, often. Because who wants to live as a shivering, quivering mess?