Being a parent is both a source of joy and terror. The joys are fairly obvious but why terror? Because, as every parent knows, from the day children are born you worry, worry, worry, and, of course, there are limitless ways they can hurt themselves or be harmed by life.I have the added problem of having one daughter, Anna, whose commitment to the environment, to the notion of sustainability and conservation, leads her to get involved in dangerous outings. In just the past 12 months, she has sailed from Hawaii to Long Beach on a catamaran – with Captain Charles Moore and four others – measuring the increasing fouling of the oceans with plastics and other human refuse.Now, beginning April 4, Anna and her fiancé, Dr. Marcus Erickson, are embarking on a 2,000 mile bicycle ride and speaking tour from Vancouver to Tijuana to raise consciousness of “our synthetic sea.” Marcus only recently returned from a trip from Long Beach to Hawaii on a junk raft constructed out of 15,000 plastic bottles and a used airplane cockpit. The trip took 12 weeks (it was planned for six weeks) and helped draw attention to the plastics plague upon our oceans.In a wonderful book The World With Us, Alan Weisman asks the question: If a mass epidemic or meteorite wiped out all human life on earth, how long would it take for the earth to heal itself of the damage we humans have and continue to inflict upon earth? New York, for example, would disappear in about 150 years – no trace! Plastics, however, are forever. They are not biodegradable and will not disappear in human history – perhaps in geological history.So the work that Anna and Marcus are doing is not only important, it is both crucial and tragic. Crucial because we cannot clean up the plastic mess in the oceans – we can only stop doing more harm, and tragic because we show no evidence of being able to grasp the full measure of the catastrophe we humans are causing to our precious oceans. Kill the oceans and we go a long way to compromising our very continued existence.Back to the bicycle trip – needless to say, the prospect of this trip has caused my wife and me concern. However, we can’t help but admire the commitment of these two young people to try to save what health remains in our oceans. As one critic has said, “We put too much bad into the oceans and take too much good out of them.” Plastic in fish over-fished.So Anna and Marcus are planning to visit more than 30 schools and to encourage students “to think about exactly where ‘away’ is in our throwaway society. We must start seeing the link between consumerism and long-term environmental impact.”We also need to look at our crazy need to package everything in throw-away containers – much of which winds up in the oceans. As Marcus says: “It makes no sense that we take a material designed to last forever [plastic], then turn around and make products from it that are designed to be thrown away.” He adds, “That’s the opposite of sustainable living.”On April 4 they begin their 2000 mile trip – educating the next generation – that they hope will behave better than the previous generations. It is, certainly, a noble goal. Meanwhile, their parents worry.
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