A naturalist and environmental activist chronicles his 2008 ocean journey to draw attention to the blight of plastic waste in the world’s oceans.
Accompanied by a fellow activist and sailor, Eriksen (My River Home: A Journey from the Gulf War to the Gulf of Mexico, 2007) sailed from Los Angeles to Hawaii on the Junk, “a raft made from plastic bottles, with thirty old sailboat masts for a deck and a Cessna 310 airplane as a cabin.” The author sought to attract attention to this growing problem by imitating the path taken by trash routinely dumped into the ocean, where it is “shredded and pulverized” into microplastics. Eaten by unwitting birds and fish who mistake it for nourishment, it enters the food chain with disastrous consequences, which the author describes graphically. Examples of these hazards include the microbeads of plastic found in toothpaste and cosmetic creams and the plastic foam from insulated cups and coolers. To the extent that this problem is recognized, the plastics industry, and many conservative legislators, seeks to lay the blame on consumers who litter, refusing to take any responsibility. The book, however, is not simply a polemic. Eriksen succeeds in dramatizing a significant problem and enlisting popular support, noting some immediate steps that can be taken to create recyclable products. The author reports that advocacy groups are beginning to register success as consumers become more aware, and he gives the example of the plastic bag ban in Hawaii. Eriksen explains that one of the keys to a successful campaign is to get manufacturers to shoulder some of the blame. After 88 days on the raft, during which they fished for their daily sustenance, faced hurricane winds, and had a close encounter with another vessel, he and his partner landed safely in Hawaii with many stories of their adventures at sea.
The thrills and chills of rafting packaged with a compelling call to action.