Of Many, We Are One

By Jeanethe Falvey

My head was buzzing. I felt enlivened with the energy of possibility, bursting to share what I saw.

I recently had the opportunity to meet renowned artist Chris Jordan and we began a conversation that I’m eager to continue. In his artwork, our individual choices are exposed in their collective enormity. Look closer into this ocean vista and you’ll see that it is only the plastic bottles we use in the United States every five minutes. By facing the simplicity and the magnitude of his images, deflecting our own part is not so easy.

I sat there thinking, this is what it takes isn’t it? “Out of sight, out of mind” stops here.

He spoke of the human ability to comprehend numbers. How easily we are overwhelmed, deflect feeling, and turn away. His words resonated strongly: “instead of hope, let yourself feel and comprehend. Act passionately as individuals and we can shift the collective enormity of our choices toward a different outcome.”

Over one million organizations are working for a better world, just look closer into e pluribus unum. Of many, we are one indeed.

His latest work documents Midway Island’s stunning albatrosses as they face a new and lifeless predator: plastic food. The images bring incredible sadness, but someone else did not create this tragedy. Will we turn away?

Ever since I first heard of the garbage in our oceans, it has been on fire in my heart. Our things – created, used, tossed – are collecting by wind and current into places far out of mind, but not out of sight.

The Pacific garbage ‘patch’ is estimated to be twice the size of Texas. Imagine, walking across just one length of Texas seeing nothing but plastic, fishing nets, your trash multiplied by millions?

This is an opportunity waiting. Thankfully, if we choose to see, we have the technology. If we choose to feel, we have the science to understand the gravity. If we choose to act, we are individually equipped with choices, and collectively equipped to make a difference.

As Chris spoke, he said that if there were a single place on earth where all of our garbage went, we could stare and be stunned that it was a mountain larger than Everest, and maybe then we would collectively change. Maybe, this is that mountain.

About the author: Jeanethe Falvey writes from EPA’s Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education, as the project-lead for Pick 5 and the State of the Environment, two projects geared towards learning, sharing and gaining a greater collective connection to our environment.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

Simulated Oil Spills are Dirty and Fun to a Seven-Year-Old

By Sara Russell

“Wow!”

“Ooooh!”

“Cool!”

These are reactions I got from a class of 2nd graders as two drops of soap hit our simulated oil spill of salt water and vegetable oil laden with cocoa powder. The minute the soap hits the “spill,” the oil runs and clings to the edges of a milk carton. Next, the kids simulated waves in the water, and the oil broke up and slowly descended. I don’t work with kids every day, but when I do, it’s fun and I get to share my enthusiasm for the work we do at EPA.

Every May, my sons’ elementary school, Farallone View in Montara, California, hosts “Oceans Week.” All week long the kids learn about the Pacific Ocean just blocks from the school. From campus you can even see the Farallone Islands, which are part of the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary.

This year I thought I should teach them about ocean oil spills, since we just passed the one-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon event. I wanted the kids to learn more about the consequences of an oil spill and the challenges of cleanup. I showed them images of the blast and the oil in the water, on wildlife and on the shores. The kids asked a lot about the workers on the drilling platform, and we talked about how dangerous this work is. And just like the rest of us, they were really drawn in by images of oil-soaked birds. They worried about the effects on wildlife, both on shore and in the ocean.

We created salt water oceans in used plastic milk cartons and replicated an oil spill. The kids took turns using various sorbents like cotton balls, paper towels and string, and then rated how well they worked. I also had them dip a feather into the water so they could see what an oily bird has to deal with.
Finding ways to explain complex environmental issues is always challenging, but well worth it. Lessons that involve kids, like stream monitoring, habitat restoration and beach cleanups, are a great way to introduce them to their environment. What do you and your family do to explore and help protect the environment?

About the author: Sara Russell is a Brownfields Project Manager in EPA’s San Francisco office. When not at work she volunteers with her sons’ Cub Scout dens.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.