Plastic Soup:

Science educators Dr. Marcus Eriksen and Anna Cummins of the non-profit group Algalita came to Santa Monica College last Thursday with an important message to share. Both dressed in muted colors, but muting nothing they had to say, the pair titled their slideshow "Our Synthetic Sea".

The pair first told of the story of Capt. Charles Moore, a once professional sail racer who decided during a race to stray from the pack of competitors and take a path known for having little wind in the North Pacific Gyre. There he saw plastic particles floating all over the ocean. Seeing this, he knew he had to make it his life-long goal to help fight the further pollution of the sea. Algalita was then born thanks to Moore, and is kept alive today by people like Eriksen and Cummins.

To gain support for their cause, Eriksen said the group wanted to do something that would catch media attention. His plan was to build a raft comprised of 15,000 plastic bottles (soda bottles specifically because water bottles were too weak for this sort of mission) and sail from Long Beach to Hawaii.

Their plan obviously worked as the crowded HSS auditorium remained silent while the pair continued on with their saddening tale.

"We thought the trip would last only six weeks, and when it lasted longer we tried to fish, but the fish we caught had plastic particles in their stomach so we didn't eat them," said Eriksen.

Cummins, the Education Advisor for Algalita, said "a man who went on the same voyage Marcus went on said to bring extra harpoons for all the schools of fish they would encounter, but that didn't happen.
There were hardly any fish." The two then concluded that this self-described "plastic soup" was killing off marine life with pictures of sea turtles passing bags thought to be jellyfish or of dissected fish bellies.

While passing around a jar of material skimmed from the first meter of the sea, Cummins said that "chemical pollutants that are dropped in the sea cannot be absorbed by the water, but only by those chemical pellets which in turn, are digested by fish and other marine wildlife."

The interactive lecture came to a close with an inspirational message: this doesn't have to be the fate of the ocean and we as a collective whole can stop it.

Leading by example, the two presented alternatives for plastic use such as refillable water bottles and canvas bags and told to be involved with legislation (although wanting to remain unbiased, excluded names of organizations).

When asked if they believed that their message was making an impact, Cummins said, "we know it's making an impact because the plastic companies have now started a website: savetheplasticbag.org."

Chuckles could be heard throughout the audience, but the somber tone was still there after the presentation came to an end.

Although what Eriksen and Cummins had to say was not the easiest to listen to, it was indeed an important message to be heard.

Without the help of the Santa Monica Associates, a group of neighbors who help fund and support such events, none of this would be possible. Up-and-coming events can be seen on their website smc.edu/associates.

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