On March 22, 2010 ~ just shy of a month before the BP oil well rig Deepwater Horizon exploded off the gulf coast of Louisiana, killing 11 people and giving birth to the largest oil spill in the history of the united states ~ a small catamaran with a crew of 6 sailed, silent and serene, out of San Francisco Bay to make landfall in Sydney, Australia this past Monday ~ 128 days later.
Just as the BP oil spill and clean up efforts entered its 100th day, and counting.
What’s so special about that, you may ask. Just this: that boat, christened the Plastiki (with a nod to the 1947 Kon-tiki raft), was made up entirely of recycled or recyclable materials, including 12,500 plastic 2-liter bottles filling the majority of her two pontoons and providing about 68% of her buoyancy ~ and the total of her electrical energy, used for navigation and communication (including personal blogs of the crew), was generated on board ~ by the use of solar panels, electricity generating bicycles (which also kept the crew in shape over the 4 month period), and wind turbines riding in her wake.
Each of these creations is the brainchild of human intellect ~ both the oil rig and the catamaran ~ and both endeavors were built and put into operation with positive intent. Yet each is so widely divergent from the other in motivation, operation, costs, and results. But let’s start from the back and just focus on results for the moment.
The First 100 Days of the Clean Up and Recovery of the Gulf Coast from the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
The CNN video of the first 100 days of the BP Gulf Oil Spill gives, in brief, a slide show of shadow ~ glimpses of a man-made disaster that went from bad to worse as effort after effort to stop the hemorrhage of crude oil into the waters off the coast of Louisiana and cap the well proved ineffectual. Worse still, though the well has now been temporarily capped and efforts to permanently seal the leak continue, the effects of the millions of gallons of crude oil that bled into the sea from the ruptured well ~ and from the toxic and potentially lethal chemical dispersants sprayed on the oil early on ~ continue to affect the life in and around the Gulf of Mexico, and will continue to do so for years to come.
There is very little of sustainable hope in the video, and that is a sadly accurate reflection of the emotional climate in the Gulf. There now remains ~ as recovery efforts are scaled back, work for fishermen who can’t fish disappears, and claims for damages to the “small people” are slow in being paid ~ only the rather tenuous hope that the government and BP will keep their promises to do what needs to be done, as much as needs to be done, for as long as it needs to be done ~ until the Gulf coast and her waters are returned to at least their pre-spill conditions.
Environmentalist Vision of Clean Up of Plastics Polluting the Sea Marked by Successful First Voyage of the Plastiki
In contrast, the story of the Plastiki, from conception to setting sail, to arriving in Sydney tells a much brighter ~ more buoyant, one might say ~ tale. Like its arrival in Sydney Harbor, Plastiki’s is a tale of adventure, full of hope, sending out a call to aid in ridding the earth’s seas of plastics. Instead of a scrambling and often self-serving reaction to a wholly preventable catastrophic environmental disaster, the creation and voyage of the Plastiki is a commencement of a quest, to save the seas from a more subtle and silent, but just as deadly pollutant. And the benefits that flow in this little ship’s wake will also continue, one hopes, for years to come.
The recovery efforts in the Gulf and the voyage of Plastiki across the Pacific. Two very different causes ~ two very different endeavors ~ two very different motivations. And the costs and results?
See you on the green ~
Rebecca Longster is a writer, editor, and lover of words. She believes passionately that people can be healthier, wealthier, and happier living and working in harmony with the earth, and that doing so is a practical as well as a moral imperative. In addition to writing fiction and non-fiction, both for the web and for print publication, she currently teaches writing at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.
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