Surfing Soapbox: The truth about the 'islands of trash'

Coming on this journey was equal in two parts. The first being the desire to learn and continue to give back to our environment; the second was that of a personal journey, as in having an opportunity of true reflection in understanding of how my life has unfolded.

Never would I have imagined the opportunity to sail from Brazil to South Africa but more importantly learn more about this new phenomenon known as the 5 Gyres, which some refer to as "plastic trash islands the size of Texas."

Sadly, there is no such thing.

Standing on top of the bow this morning, in every direction that I looked, was a cobalt blue ocean, so stunning in beauty that it is difficult to imagine how much plastic debris is out here floating by. Even out here, in the middle of this vast ocean. Some 2,000 miles out to sea between Brazil and South Africa, I have witnessed firsthand what an impact we have as humans on our oceans, with our continued everyday usage of plastics and how that plastic is broken down over time, into tiny particles that are being digested by fish and sprinkled across our oceans surface and gathered in the trawls that we set out. It is yet unknown whether plastic is ever broken down into nothingness.

What is so scary and mind-boggling is the misconception that these garbage patch islands of trash actually exist. If only they did, because then we might actually have a chance of cleaning them up. Sadly, it is far worse. As each trawl we set out thinly slices through the ocean's surface, we witness just how profound this problem truly is. With each trawl comes tiny little broken down pieces of plastic trash. Think for a minute just how spread-out these plastic fragments must be.

How does one clean up such a needle in a haystack that is naked to the human eye?

Perhaps looking for better alternatives to using plastic and cutting down our everyday use would be a good start. Replacing water bottles with eco-usable bottles is something we can all accommodate in our everyday lives without so much as missing a beat.

In observing, learning and gaining more insight into how exactly our everyday life impacts our future generations here on earth. It is time we take a closer look at our footprint in seeking better solutions that continue to plague our everyday lives and our environment before it's too late.

Just as I have had an opportunity to take a closer look at my life every day on this sailboat while looking out at the sea like a life canvas. It has enabled me take a closer look at how I can make small everyday changes in my life by finding better alternatives than using plastic water bottles. A small change in my life that will have a much greater impact on our oceans and our environment, sometimes in life is the small everyday changes that we make matter the most and have the greatest impact.


JAMES PRIBRAM is a Laguna Beach native, professional surfer and John Kelly Environmental Award winner. His websites include AlohaSchoolofSurfing and ECOWarrior He can be reached at Jamo@Aloha

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