I'm among the first generation raised on the televised PSAs of the 1970s.
Smokey Bear made it clear I was not to play with matches. An owl taught me to give a hoot and not pollute. And then there was the crying Indian. He stood on a hilltop overlooking a freeway and the smog-choked basin of refuse it passed through. Akin to the Catholic guilt of original sin, he inflicted me with the knowledge that I was born a guilty member of a culture whose every action soiled our beautiful planet.
The consequence is good. It's easier for me to punch myself in the face than to toss trash from a car window, for example.
Except that here we are now, a floating island 500 miles off the Mexican coast and slowly sailing farther into the Pacific. Our destination is a group of small islands that don't want our trash. What to do?
We're cleaning and saving the plastic waste we make, and stomping the aluminum cans in hopes they'll be of value to someone somewhere. Banana peels and apple cores go over the side easily, a flick of the wrist. But the other things, the things I would never throw out of a car window to save my life, these things aren't easy to dump onto this pretty landscape, despite it being the right thing to do.
As far as my eye can see is the clearest, prettiest water I've ever seen. On this bright, sunny day, this vista is unspoiled and pure-except for the bag of spent toilet paper I just emptied over the side, except for the empty steel can of artichoke hearts, it's paper label still showing as it disappears into the deep.
It's a reminder that none of the waste we make disappears, it all has to go somewhere. The best solution is to try and make less. I grew up with the crying Indian, my girls are growing up with parents who are leaving a 3.000-mile wake of refuse.
Position Report: April 26, 2017
12 hours ago