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Plastic Seas

August 25, 2015
  |   Kirsten Bergstrom
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Lightning lit up an inky sky as we sailed through the Aegean Sea, delivery crew for an X-Yacht from Marmaris, Turkey to Barcelona, Spain. Sailing through one storm cell after another, thunder now vied with a disturbing sound: metallic clanging. Immediately dousing our sails to lessen the risk of losing our mast, we made a beeline for Agios Nikolaos, a small harbor town on the northern coast of Crete. Departure found us in a soft morning light, gazing upon a sea of cobalt waters and gazing at charts with names that evoked millennia of Greek history and mythology.

It was a breathtaking moment, one to be treasured.

I looked into the water, to commit the brilliant blue hue to both memory and photograph. A pale yellow stood out against the blue. A swarm of jellyfish, I thought. Yellow forms swam and swirled in the current, a movement unlike that of any jellyfish I knew. I caught my breath. It was not jellyfish

This painter’s sea was mired in hundreds of pieces of swirling plastic.

The experience of being at Sea is marked with moments of profound joy – watching dolphins frolic in a bow wake as the moon chases the sun across the heavens – and moments of grief – as we become witness to human complicity in environmental disaster.

The banality of evils may seem miniscule: the purchase of products that whiten the teeth or soften the skin. The comprehensive effect of our lifestyle choices is not. We dwell in a world of plastic conveniences and personal-care products, products that contain plastic microbeads that turn up in our waterways, oceans, and even the fish we eat.

Days later, we were ghosting into Barcelona on a dying breeze and another sight captured my attention. We were too far away to make the form out. A shark? More dolphins? The movement was too slow; the silhouette too round.

A child’s birthday balloon floated by on a silver sea.

I’m not infallible. None of us are. I’ll offer no simplistic solutions to environmental crises. I will, however, conclude with a heartfelt wish: that we take time to experience the immeasurable beauty of our Earth and, with inspiration born of those moments, are moved to better care for our Earth.

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