Home > Blog: Currents & Futures > The Second Battle Of Midway: Horror, Courage – and Love

Currents and Futures

Greetings;First, take a look at this haunting and beautiful 4 minute trailer for the movie, “Midway”.

Midway Island was the location of a pivotal battle in World War Two.  (Midway Irony #1: that famous battle took place 2,000 miles from either the US and Japan.)  Those on both sides followed the fighting, mourned their losses, celebrated their victories.  And, after several documentaries and a Hollywood movie, we forgot about this remote chunk of land.

But… we didn’t go away.

We are invading the beaches and seas around Midway a second time… a plastic invasion that has been nearly invisible (to us), insidious, and fatal to the local wildlife, including seabirds.

Thanks to Chris Jordan for making our plastic warfare on Life visible to our eyes and our hearts.

Breakers – Large and Small

There are two seaborne agents in this warfare – and we support both of them.

Agent #1: Oceangoing Cargo Ships (Pre-Consumer Junk).  There is a fleet of super-sized container ships, some up to a quarter-mile long, carrying thousands of pre-loaded containers, each destined to be attached to an 18 wheeler and go whizzing down the highway, each destined to deliver its contents of unnecessary plastic junk to our stores for our consumption.

Cargo ship 01  Cargo ship 02

Some do not meet that destiny.  Every year, containers (and entire ships) are lost at sea, due to storms, equipment failures and human sloppiness, spilling their contents into the ocean.  The heavy stuff sinks to the bottom, the plastics float – and are eaten by sea creatures, including the sea birds in Chris’ film.

Cargo ship 03   

How many containers don’t make it?  Approximately 10,000 containers go overboard – per YEAR!  Because the containers are insured, because everybody makes money from what washes overboard – no one really cares.  And most of us don’t know about it.

(Midway Irony #2: The container ships burn a super-dirty fuel, oil that no country would allow to be burned in their borders.  The pollution of just 16 Super Cargo ships equals that of all the cars in the world!  How many cargo ships are there?  There are 5,000 cargo ships, and 50,054 ships overall.  (More on this later…)

Agent #2:  Our Garbage (Post-Consumer Junk).  The amount of our trash that turns up in our oceans is staggering.  Dropped by a careless child (or a childlike adult), blown from the back of a trash truck, leached from a landfill… Everything goes somewhere.  And “somewhere”, increasingly, is in the bellies of living creatures.

Exercise: How close are you to plastic, right now?  Without moving, how much plastic is in your sight, your grasp, right now?  (Don’t forget the screen and frame of the device upon which you are reading this, the keyboard, perhaps the tabletop, the soles of your shoes, your socks, frames and lenses of your glasses…) ALL of this, every bit of it, will be discarded at some point.

Through the use of computers and RFID tags, researchers have studied where this post-consumer junk winds up.  Much of it goes into what is now called the “Great Pacific Dead Zone”.

I recently made my own contribution to the Dead Zone.  Riding my 20 year old bicycle on my daily Post Office run, I heard a loud crack, followed by the tinkling sound of broken plastic.  The plastic spokes shield on my back wheel gears had given up the ghost.  Small bits of plastic were on the roadway, already being driven over by cars.  Oh well.  At over 20mph, I wasn’t going to stop, go back and stop traffic, trying to find and dispose of the plastic bits.  I shrugged and rode on.

Those bits of plastic got washed into the nearest storm drain by the rain (or city maintenance worker), then into the Willamette, the Columbia, and then onto its destiny in the Great Pacific Dead Zone.  (The other day, when I saw Chris Jordan’s trailer, one of the objects he removed by hand from the gut of the dead sea bird looked a lot like the plastic from my bike.)

Are Breakers “Evil Actors”?

In Creating a World That Works for All, I refer to those of us who are out of step with Nature as “Breakers”.  What I may refer to as “The Web of All Life”, the Hopi Indians refer to the as the “Sacred Hoop”.  We constantly BREAK that Sacred Hoop, by producing things that are toxic and deadly to all other beings.

How could a moral man or woman make the choices to dump plastics in the ocean, or burn super-dirty fuel?  Seeing these results, people believe that there are “evil actors” in the world – people who WANT to do harm to the planet and to other species.

Our reality is NOT the result of “evil actors”, but reasonably decent people who believe they do not have the power to act.

Many of us are engaged in work where we make only partial decisions, many times far removed from the consequences of those decisions.   We come to believe that our actions do not have consequences, or that the consequences are dictated by “Fate” or “The Law”.

We don’t do what’s right, because we’re not ASKED to do the right thing.  We’re not ALLOWED to do the right thing.  We’re not EXPECTED to do the right thing.


Step One: Mindfulness – Loving the Earth…

“Loving the Earth” doesn’t mean posting yet another heavily Photoshopped picture of a sunset on your Facebook account.  “Loving the Earth” means becoming CONSCIOUS: becoming mindful of what you are doing, and becoming mindful of what is being done in your name, with your dollars, without your involvement, without your permission.

Step Two:  Witnessing…

The next step after becoming mindful is being a WITNESS.  Witnessing means seeing – a very special type of seeing.  Seeing not just for yourself, but seeing for others… seeing to expand the consciousness of yourself and others, seeing so that both you and they can become more mindful.

Witnessing is not always pleasant.  Focusing only on “happy, happy” thoughts does your soul a disservice.  Here’s a portion of my correspondence with Chris Jordan:

People ask me why I’ve spent so much time in refugee camps (Sri Lanka, Uganda, elsewhere).  My response:  I absolutely HATE going to them — but someone has to.  And, as much as I hate witnessing human suffering, I understand that I am here to be of service, and this is my service.  That service is love.

I think Midway is your refugee camp.  Or, the refugee camp is my Midway.

This means being witness to the horrors on our planet.  It also means being witness to the joy and the beauty of our remarkable planet.  I think that Chris Jordan has done an excellent job of capturing both the horror and the beauty.

Step Three: Compassionate Acting…

After mindfulness and after witnessing comes the third step: action.  We must act, compassionately, nonviolently and directly, to mend the Sacred Hoop.  Our actions must be commensurate with our challenges.  (In the face of witnessing 5,000 cargo ships spewing high-sulfur, dirty pollution around the planet, it’s not enough to just buy a Prius or do car-sharing.  In the face of 10,000 loaded containers being dumped in our oceans, it’s not enough to just recycle.)

Yes, greed is a large part of the challenge (“Occupy” got that part right).  But, that’s not the full picture.  Fear is the ugly twin of greed.  I personally know very few people I would consider “greedy” (that includes many of my multi-millionaire friends).  But, many of the people I know refrain from taking effective action because of fear – fear of losing their jobs, their status, their friends.  Fear of having their feelings hurt.  Fear that they may lose a few points on their credit rating, or fear that they may lose a few dollars out of their already stuffed bank accounts.

The opposite of fear is courage.  Compassionate action means having courage. Seen in this light, the first place we must take compassionate action is within ourselves.




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