A real-life adventurer took an audience of more than 200 on a journey across the ocean on Monday April 21 as he discussed how human consumption may be destroying one of the world’s most delicate ecosystems.
Journalist and environmental activist Jon Waterman has spent the past three decades traveling and has written his way around the world. One of his most notable trips includes a 10-month solo voyage across the Arctic crossing.
“I like to find the inanimate of the landscape,” he said, speaking in College Center 220. “In the arctic, there is an engaging sense of mystery. There are no trees, everything is obscure.”
His photographs “reflect the humility in the world, like how you can be stood on top of a mountain and be surrounded by peace,” he said.
But Waterman believes one thing threatening that peace is our lack of commitment to the environment around us, especially our oceans.
More than 400,000 marine mammals die each year due to ingesting plastic dumped in the ocean by humans, he said. “It’s much worse than the media has made out. It’s much more complicated. Civilization has made plastic for the last 64 years and there is more in the ocean than you can count.”
In October 2012, Waterman joined a research expedition that sailed from San Diego to Honolulu. Here, he saw firsthand the impact global plastic pollution has had on the Pacific ecosystem.
“In one nautical mile, we found 24,213 separate pieces of plastic,” he said.
The voyage, which took 35 days and was conducted by the Sea Education Association, aimed to examine just how much plastic there is in our oceans.
“It’s an ecological nightmare,” Waterman said. “Plastic can also act as a raft for foreign invasive species to travel and infiltrate our reservoirs and lakes.”
Scientists aboard the vessel found radiation particles left over from nuclear testing during the 1950s and rather unusual objects that may have traveled to the West Coast as the result of a tsunami.
“During the trip, we came across a floating fridge that still had unopened food inside,” he said. “This tells us that we have more research to do.”
Waterman cautioned his audience to be careful when purchasing products made of plastic, but at the same time, highlighted how difficult that can be.
“Right now, plastic is essential to our lives,” he said. “From food to health care, the economic benefits are high. You come into contact with plastic every hour of your life.
“But be observant,” he advised. “Polystyrene and Styrofoam are the most dangerous consumer products ever invented. They can take up to 500 years to decompose, and they are likely to make their way into the ocean.”
Waterman suggested one way to make a difference, choosing re-useable coffee cups over throwaway single-use ones.
“I’m a caffeine addict, but refuse your addiction if they are serving non-recyclable cups,” he urged. “We do have the option of recycling in the U.S, and we must advocate recycling over throwing away.”