Fake plastic seas

Julia and Pam off InnellanAs much as I’d like to post about numerous exciting paddling trips since I last blogged, I’m afraid such trips have been a little thin on the, er, water due to my succumbing to a cold bug which I have now generously passed on to Alan. I did manage to go out on a pioneering all-girl paddle with Julia last weekend, which consisted of a pleasant (albeit chilly) outing  in local waters. The promising conditions of the previous week had been replaced by something much more akin to November weather, where icy winds and rain prevailed. Nonetheless, we bravely soldiered through the elements (and the volcanic ash), Julia with her gammy knee and me with my sniffles. Alan was still off the water due to his injuries, but helped us with the kayaks at either end. Together, we are a team!

Julia off KirnJust when I’d thought that the little lightweight cold that I’d had nearly 2 weeks ago was history, it took some anabolic steroids and came back with a purpose. And so I have spent this week hacking and snuffling. Not only that, with the warnings of my MS nurse ringing faintly in my ears, I realised that my eye had gone a bit “wonky” again. Consulting with Dr Google, I have confirmed that the common cold can aggravate MS symptoms. I have certainly learned something. Hopefully, it will all go away soon.

Not being out on the water has left me with too much time on my hands to surf the Internet and come across the following stories. If you are in any way attached to the concept of saving the planet for future generations, then I warn you – they make difficult viewing:

I’m not going to lie to you – this depresses the bejesus out of me.

Why is  humanity the only species that is so intent on trashing its own nest? Not only that, we’re taking everyone else – all our fellow earthlings – down with us.

It’s all so overwhelming at times, it feels like our pathetic little gestures to help the environment are pointless. But are they? As I view the videos above, I’m tempted to conclude that picking up the odd plastic bag out of the sea is meaningless. If, however, by doing so I saved one animal’s life, it is definitely worth it. If it simply stopped garbage from washing up on a pristine Hebridean beach, it’s worth it. So, I will keep on plucking the plastic bags and bottles out of the sea when I come across them, I’ll refuse plastic bags at source (the supermarket), as well as the ubiquitous, all-pervading plastic bottles.  And, who knows – going out on a limb here – maybe if enough of us keep doing this, we could turn the plastic tide.

I’ve blogged before about the rubbish in our seas, and the situation will only get worse. Unless of course our ability to produce these insanely vast quantities of plastic junk is somehow limited. In the recent past, both the US Department of Energy (see p.8) and the US Joint Forces Command (and Richard Branson!) have warned that we are about to enter into an era of ever-diminishing availability of cheap oil. With plane-free skies courtesy of the (unpronounceable) Icelandic volcano, we were perhaps given a slight foretaste of the future in recent days. As much as our lack of planning for this inevitability will make it in many ways painful for humanity, Mother Earth may well breathe a small sigh of relief.

“And it wears me out, it wears me out.”
Fake Plastic Trees, The Bends, Radiohead


  1. PO says:

    I am not going to watch those two videos as I am already depressed, however I will point you to this video, from the makers of ‘the story of stuff’

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Se12y9hSOM0 called the story of bottled water.

    I do however believe that every little bit helps. I am thrilled with the US state of california that has outlawed plastic bags, and I hope other US states follow suit. I don’t know what is going on in Scotland, but I hope that they are doing what they can – I am growing ever enamored with my view of Scottish/UK paddling, and think I may have to do a trip.

    I know that it is very hard to get people to think that what they do has an impact, be it not using a plastic bag, not buying bottled water, or riding their bike to work. But I have to believe that all of these little things make a difference.

    At the end of the day I will do everything I can to make a difference, because if nothing else it will help me sleep better. The down side of that is I wonder how the people buying bottled water, that they take home in plastic bags, driving their SUV manage to sleep at all.

    thanks for the post.


  2. pamf says:

    PO – Thank you for your thoughtful comment and the very apt video link. Plastic bags are not yet outlawed in Scotland, but people now have to request them in the supermarkets (small steps) and, in the bigger stores, they get rewards for bringing their own canvas bags. More needs to be done, of course, and a ban would be nice. I understand your reluctance to watch the videos I posted – certainly, the first one is jaw-dropping in its revelation of the extent of the problem. It is a trailer for a TV programme that will air tonight, which I won’t be watching.

    You are quite right, the only course of action is to take care of what is right in front of us. Immersing oneself in a state of despair is of no benefit to anyone, least of all ourselves.

    I hadn’t seen your blog previously and will be reading through it. I will also link to it from mine.

    Thanks again.

  3. I Hope you start feeling better. It was only a mater of time before plastic reared its ugly head. Every year, at the college I work at, we put on an Environmental Film Festival illustrating the beauty of what we have and the destruction to the environment due to apathy and greed. This year one of the movies we showed was “Garbage Dreams”, Produced, Directed, and Filmed by Mai Iskander. It forces people to think about globalization. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b26dBL5tQPk&feature=player_embedded

    One of the greatest dangers to our environment is not actively being apart of it. When we take it for granted (like anything) we always end up with regret. So keep ringing the bell.

    This year our Film Festival coincided with the Sweetwater Kayak Symposium. It dovetailed perfectly with kayaking during the day, and watching a free movie at night. If next year they occur on the same week you should try to make your way over to St. Petersburgh Florida, USA



  4. pamf says:

    Hi Jeff – Looks like an interesting film. So much garbage being generated! Ugh. The trick is not to get too depressed as to render oneself useless. I’m reading about the oil spill over near your neck of the woods and hearing that the Exxon Valdez spill is going to pale in comparison. Just awful.

    A trip to Florida is very appealing! You never know … 😉

    Thanks for the info.

  5. I pick up any plastic bottle I paddle by. I need to do more……..

  6. pamf says:

    Hi Kellie – I feel the same way. I need to take a huge sack with me and clean all the beaches I land on … sigh. Might not get much paddling done!

  7. Pam, Thanks once again for “something to THINK about” and with our problem over here in the Gulf- its actually Devastating! I will be doing my part to get off my arse and help in any way possible to help with any oil clean-up/ animal cleaning. I am thinking of getting with Jeff and maybe doing some kind of short film documentation on the OIL Spill from a Paddlers Perspective! Maybe as we all do our part, however small that may be we will start to make a difference!! We All Need To Keep The FAITH!!

    Hope you get to Feeling Better! I will be thinking of YA!!
    -Sean F.

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