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North East of Hawaii, the ocean currents form a giant whirlpool of debris from around the Pacific. The scientific name is the North Pacific Gyre. It’s one of the largest ecosystems on Earth, comprising millions of square kilometres.

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Today it’s better known as “The Great Garbage Patch,” an area the size of Queensland, Australia, where approximately 1 million tonnes of plastic is spread throughout the ocean. Drag a net in any area of this part of the ocean and you will pick up toxic, discarded plastic.

Photographer Chris Jordan has documented this phenomenon:

On Midway Atoll, a remote cluster of islands more than 2000 miles from the nearest continent, the detritus of our mass consumption surfaces in an astonishing place: inside the stomachs of thousands of dead baby albatrosses. The nesting chicks are fed lethal quantities of plastic by their parents, who mistake the floating trash for food as they forage over the vast polluted Pacific Ocean.

For me, kneeling over their carcasses is like looking into a macabre mirror. These birds reflect back an appallingly emblematic result of the collective trance of our consumerism and runaway industrial growth. Like the albatross, we first-world humans find ourselves lacking the ability to discern anymore what is nourishing from what is toxic to our lives and our spirits. Choked to death on our waste, the mythical albatross calls upon us to recognize that our greatest challenge lies not out there, but in here.

The desire to change these things will put the human race on the right path, and we are in the midst of it. Ultimately, we must choose whether or not we will educate ourselves and begin doing things in a manner that protects our environment and home more than it feeds our materialistic needs.

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What can we do about this problem now? As much as possible, we must support eco-friendly products. Avoid being wasteful and purchasing products each time a new version comes out, simply to be up-to-date with the latest and greatest. Create awareness about this issue and pass it on to your friends and family. Awareness has been key in changing many aspects of our world, and so often we deny its power. Knowledge is the first step.


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