About 15 years ago I was on a remote beach in Oregon, surfing. Accessing this beach requires about a two-mile hike through primeval, old growth forest. Once I arrived, I emerged onto a vast and open spit of sand colonized by sea lions, crabs and birds. The view was serene and timeless.
While playing fetch that day with my dog, Porkchop, I spotted a mass of something out of place, strange looking flotsam crashing ashore with the waves. Porkchop and I walked over to investigate and found a miniature gyre of plastic from all over the world—plastic bottles with Chinese characters, packaging that had come down the river from Portland, abandoned fishing gear, and disintegrating Styrofoam.
At first, it wasn’t the environmental concern that got me, it was the aesthetic incongruence that this trash represented. The colors and shapes were all wrong against the backdrop of this beautiful place. Truthfully, it was a gut-punch.
At the time I was a journalist and, being curious by nature, I started Googling ‘ocean plastic’ and reading everything I could about the subject. What I didn’t know at the time was that this curiosity would change the course of my life, give me a new purpose, and ultimately lead me to journey around the world studying and bearing witness to one of the most pervasive forms of pollution the planet had ever seen.