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The Water Planet…With A Side Of Plastic

Have you ever been on a plastic-free beach?

The ocean is vast.  I can’t say I didn’t know this before we took off.  I’m pretty decent in geography and I’ve looked at a few world maps in my lifetime.  I could not however, appreciate just how vast the ocean was until we started off-shore cruising.  We spend countless moments without land in sight and have all become pretty comfortable with it at this point.  When I hear that roughly 95% of the ocean has yet to be explored and know that we can travel for long periods of time without ever seeing another boat, yet seeing the most amazing pelagic creatures who dare to break the surface, I am filled with joy and excitement for the future discoveries that perhaps  my children will make.  There’s a whole world under our keel at any given time that we are entirely unaware of as we transit the sea.  On a sobering note, it is this same vastness that makes it all too easy to conceptualize how people and vessels are lost at sea.

I consider all of this as we cross the Sea of Cortez back to Baja.  Look on any world map and you’ll see this teeny-tiny, itty-bitty looking body of water between Baja California and mainland Mexico that is dwarfed by the nearby Pacific Ocean.  For us however, it involves an overnight crossing and 2 full days of motorsailing to get across the 200 plus nautical miles in this direction at this time of year.  It also means plenty of moments without land in sight, even in this teeny-tiny body of water.

I think of the expansive ocean also as people figure out places to hide out and achieve true isolation during COVID-19.  There are endless places on this, the water planet to float out at sea if you have the means and willingness to be subjected to wind, currents, and the occasional squall.  Between global warming and new viruses emerging, I wonder if will we become like a Waterworld apocalyptic group of savages someday?  Laugh if you want – we watch perhaps too many sci-fi movies in this family, but passages do give you ample time to think.  We are trying to do our part in isolating by staying on our home and moving it to more remote areas on the water, but the reality is that we’re not entirely sustainable for the longer-run despite our best efforts.  We make our own power and water, have composting heads, and have plenty of provisions that will result in some rather interesting meals down the line.  We also however, still generate trash and eventually need fuel for the days the wind is not with us (more often than not for this big girl).  As the population continues to grow and Mother Earth deteriorates, where will the human race go – out to sea or into space?  Everyone has their theories or at least a favorite movie based on this concept, and I too am filled with wonder for the future as we putter along out here.

In light of the expansiveness of Mother Ocean, I still struggle with understanding how we are doing so much damage to the reefs and the beautiful creatures of the sea.  I mean, I get it: Pollution – Bad, Climate Change – Really Bad – but there is so MUCH ocean on this planet.  Mother Ocean has her immense strength but also her elusive vulnerabilities it seems.  Beyond pollution and the impact of greenhouse gasses on climate change, there are the impacts of noise pollution and unsustainable fishing practices on Mother Ocean – it easily becomes overwhelming and even depressing when you start to research it all.  Plastic is found on uninhabited beaches in overwhelming amounts and floating in a large mass in the Pacific Ocean.  There is even plastic detected in organisms in the deepest depths of the sea.  About ½ way down the 36,201 foot Marinas Trench, a new species of crustacean was discovered already polluted with plastic before it was even named by the scientific community.  For this reason as well as to inspire activism, it was named Eurythenes plasticus https://www.worldwildlife.org/stories/meet-the-newly-discovered-ocean-species-plastic?link=pic&utm_campaign=oceans&utm_medium=email&utm_source=enews-wwf&utm_content=2009c-ed.  Go humans.

There is an upside.  Through media, research and technology and activism, we are evolving with practices that may help to preserve our planet.  We are not plastic free on the boat, but what we are is much more aware of our plastic usage and of our ability to make choices to employ reusable items vs the all too convenient plastic bag or bottle.  We just opened numerous items received in the mail and I took notice of the plastic wrapping that was wrapped OVER the perfectly intact plastic wrapping on several individual items.  Yes, I chose to order these items, have them shipped and very much enjoyed that they were conveniently delivered to me undamaged, but how much plastic do we really need in the packaging and delivery process?  We see this also each time we provision as tons of trash is removed on the decks and leaves our boat.  Environmental conservation is making its way into the classrooms recognizing that the future generations are tomorrow’s leaders in the preservation of our planet.  It’s amazing how powerful a child’s advice can be to a parent who is willing to listen.

No one is perfect – we’re pretty far from it most days and I accept that – we’re human.  What we have become though, is more aware of our impact on the world around us as we cruise the ocean on our floating home.  We think more about how the choices we make impact that world and consider different methods of doing things when necessary.  We now make a conscious effort to do clean-ups amidst our exploration of Mexico’s many beautiful remote beaches.  We try to sail as much as we can to avoid unnecessary pollution.  We teach our kids about the value of the finite natural resources around them and support their important role in the conservation of our environment.  Today let’s celebrate Earth Day by enjoying all the beauty and wonder around us and also by taking inventory of our own habits.  Like anything, a small change done by many can have a huge impact.  Ask yourself: What kind of world do you want to leave for the future generations?

One Response

  1. I recommend the book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things. Very eye-opening on plastics & consumerism, particularly how packaging is designed to last years/decades/centuries longer than pretty much everything it protects. And I wouldn’t worry about Waterworld playing out anytime soon – there’s still a lot of land out there.

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