Monterey, CA—Sea Studios Foundation (comprised of filmmakers, scientists and communications specialists) hosted it’s first day-long workshop on how to communicate the dangers of plastic to the public. It was an amazing opportunity to bring together experts from Waste Management to NOAA to Heal the Bay to discuss how to deal with the growing problem of plastic pollution.
I was fortunate enough to land an invitation to go as a journalist (the only journalist in attendance) and report back on the events of the day.
The morning started off with a jam session. Jim Greiner, who uses drumming as a foray into teambuilding, laid out African drums, tambourines and shakers in the middle of our group circle.
We were told to pick our own instruments. I grabbed an African drum and in a few minutes we were all rattling away—drumming, shaking and by the end dancing. It was amazing to see all of these people—people I’d just met—let go and communicate without saying a word.
Next, after a break of bagels and coffee, representatives from each organization talked about how they were working to address public awareness of plastic pollution, the real purpose of their gathering that day.
Some had done beach clean-ups, others were working with schools and some had created television commercials, among other things. The approaches varied and each representative gave an update from their organization.
Dawn Hayes of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary said she’d just received $125,000 in a settlement after a cargo ship dropped all of its contents into the Sanctuary. She pointed out that oil spills get plenty of attention because the image of an oil coated sea otter is much more compelling than the picture of a cargo container at the bottom of the ocean, despite the fact that oil spills are much less common.
Jeff Lindenthal of Monterey's Waste Management talked about their Last Chance mercantile store. It’s like a thrift store, but full of items WM has pulled from “rubbish” before it gets buried in the landfill. It took a few hours for everyone to say who they were and what they were up to. Some people brought slides and Hannah Nevins of Oikonos brought in an albatross pellet. Like owls, these birds regurgitate anything their bodies can’t digest. In this pellet was an enormous wad of fishing line that the bird swallowed and then spit back up. We also watched a video of Edward Norton warning against the perils of plastic bags that Sea Studios had put together.
Toward the end of the day everyone seemed on board to schedule another meeting and eventually confront the plastics industry head on. Their main concern seemed to be funds since they knew the American Plastics Council reportedly has millions to spend against environmental advocacy groups.
The day ended with a plan to meet in three months and keep in touch via email. People dispersed slowly and it was still grey and cloudy as I walked to my car. My normal urge to grab coffee was stifled—I hadn’t brought my mug and if I paid for that disposable cup, where would it end up? After spending a day with environmental scientists, I’m pretty sure I knew.