Message in a Bottle

“Why move through the oceans
if the oceans can move through you?”

~ Boyan Slat


‘Manta Ray Cleaning Station’ courtesy NOAA’s National Ocean Service

A few months ago I clicked on a YouTube link that said “this film should be seen by the entire world!”

Yeah, right. I thought. Which twerk is it this time?

But, for once, the claim was true. If you haven’t already, please watch it. I don’t care if it gives you nightmares, because WE ALL DID THIS.

The images from that video have been burned in my brain, suffocating me (and no doubt the million other viewers) with despair because I can’t do a thing about it.

Or so I thought.

Luckily, someone much cleverer than I am is working on a solution Right Now.

Watch this TEDx talk and tell me you’re not blown away by the simplicity of an idea that began with one small admission:

“It will be very hard to convince everyone in the world to handle their plastics responsibly, but what we humans are very good at, is inventing technical solutions to our problems.”

What that reads to me is:

Let’s just admit we’re not going to change (this century), and find another way until we do…


‘Why’ courtesy Andrea Zanivan

Inside the shell of memory
I hear
The squalling of the ocean
And the sound of
Hope on our horizon
Washing out to sea.

What’s the message
In the bottle
She would send to me?

She giveth and
She taketh away
And somewhere
Out of sight and mind
There lies an answer
Buried in the bellies
Of our shame.

Ashes to ashes
Dust to dust
And everything returns
From whence it came.


Follow the current
And we find
The sirens’ call is not
The journey’s end.

What price – Hope?
What cost – Dreams?


Not to what we should be
But to what it is we are.
Nine tenths of reality.
Could change be
As simple as
The turning of the tide
Of what we see?

Sure, there are the critics out there who say this just won’t work. But the best ideas always sound far fetched – until they do. Does that mean we shouldn’t even ask ‘What if’?

“We created this mess. Heck, we even invented this new material [plastic] before we made this mess! So please. Don’t tell me we can’t clean this up. Together.”

~ Boyan Slat
19 yo Aerospace Engineering Student

Tell me, what do you hear? Naivety? Arrogance? Or possibility?


  1. says

    Possibility, but at the same time I’m overwhelmed. I’m not sure I understand how that slat actually works, but I definitely understand the need. Even if this idea doesn’t materialize, maybe it will open up the conversation for other ideas.

  2. emuse says

    I once worked on a boat and one of the things we would do every morning is spend time with a skimmer grabbing paper and plastic out of the Chesapeake Bay. You wouldn’t believe the garbage we’d pull out of there.

    My own thing is to stop using plastic as much as possible. It’s easy to stop in some ways and difficult in others.

    • says

      Interesting job to have! After seeing the rubbish in Indonesian waters when I went to Bali, I think I can imagine. That’s what worries me. Totally agree about reducing our plastics usage, but how long will it take for that to make a real difference? In the meantime, the rubbish keeps on building…

  3. says

    I know I’m stating the obvious, but I agree with emuse: The one thing we can do is change our individual behavior. If enough us do…

    When I first went vegetarian, in part for environmental reasons, someone actually said to me that I wouldn’t make any difference. But that’s just like saying one vote doesn’t count. I refuse to believe that.

    Off to watch the TED talk. I’m not above rooting for seemingly impossible solutions.

    • says

      It’s easy to feel defeated by the smallness of ‘one’. But I’d think changing our individual habits is almost not optional anymore! Saying it makes no difference just doesn’t wash. Fingers crossed, by the time all our individual efforts to add up to real, impacting change, we will have also had a breakthrough on the cleanup front…

      • says

        I agree, it’s so hard to feel you’re making a difference. But one person keeping it clean can lead to another, can lead to caring, can lead to a chain reaction of responsibility. You’re right, we ALL did this, and we did it one person at a time. We can undo it the same way.

  4. says

    I haven’t seen that you tube movie before Alarna. It’s so shocking and traumatizing… I don’t know if the solution in the TEDx talk would work but it is certainly a clever idea i think. But I also think that we all should take responsibility and everyone should find small solutions to diminish the use of plastic.

  5. says

    Plastic is so easy to reuse. I often wash plastic bags and reuse them over and over so I don’t have to throw away as much. When possible, I buy material that isn’t plastic-based so that I don’t have to ever worry about it. But it’s difficult when so many products are packaged in plastic.

    I hope we continue to work toward solving this problem. The environment needs us to make major changes.

    • says

      Funny, as I’ve been thinking about all this, I’ve suddenly been noticing just how much plastic is part of our lives. It’s in everything! My mother used to do the same as you do – probably still does. I remember us kids complaining about washing those little plastic freezer bags. But it turns out, she was right all along!

  6. says

    Hi Alarna…I have seen the first video several times, and like you, found it heart-breaking and over-whelming. How wonderful, that this young man is working to create a solution to an existing problem…and I don’t disagree with those who say we need to stop relying so much on disposable plastics. Thanks for making us all aware of both videos…and for your beautiful poem!! Kim

  7. says

    So much plastic! I do everything I can, but still. When I was a kid, we used brown paper bags for most everything– now, you can’t buy anything without buying a hefty hunk of plastic. I wonder about the health impact on our bodies and our world. If we talk about it, like you do here, people will be moved inch by inch toward doing things differently and finding solutions.

    • says

      Funny, my usual inclination is not to talk about this kind of thing…but the very act of it this week has got my mind ticking over little changes I can make. Maybe the group think is just what we need to get a bit creative!

  8. says

    Great piece Alarna – and moving poetry.
    I’ve seen the video before… heart-breaking … the other shocker is if you Google the Great Pacific Rubbish Dump…
    There’s a man in Japan who’s invented a device which can be used in homes that changes plastic into oil that can be used. he’s taking it around Africa and the Phillipines and elsewhere. I sent the video to our Green Party here, but it seems to have fallen on stony ground..
    We just have to believe that each one of us makes a difference.. I have a friend who wherever she goes for a walk, takes a plastic bag with her, and fills it with rubbish on her walk. She says she can’t clean the whole world, but she can do her little bit…

    • says

      Valerie! This is mind blowing! I am so glad you told me about that, thank you. Since the process is so simple, I wonder why we are not doing this on a bigger scale already? I might see if I can pass this on to the Greens here, and see what they have to say.

      One of the big criticisms aimed at the Boyan Slat Ocean Cleanup proposal is that the minute particles of plastic cannot be recycled because they have to be divided according to type. But the oil making machine is not discriminating, so there goes that. Wow. I’m certain with all our global efforts combined change is possible. We have to want it bad enough…


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