Thursday, January 24, 2008

Loved to Death

Halfway between San Francisco and Hawaii, a mother scours a mass of garbage twice the size of the state of Texas for treats to take home to her child. A bright yellow Lego block catches her attention. She scoops up the toy and heads back to its home.

When the baby sees her coming, it begins to whistle and click. She leans over the side of her baby’s crib. It opens its mouth and cries to show her it is hungry. She feeds the plastic toy to her baby, followed by a treasure trove of tangled fishing line, a red bottle cap, and fingers torn from a broken doll.


Nearly half of all albatross chicks die each year from dehydration and starvation. Most of these chicks are well-fed. Their stomachs are filled with twice as much plastic as the stomachs of chicks that die from other causes.

~The albatross is the largest of all the seabirds.
~Its wingspan can reach 11 feet.
~These birds spend about 85% of their time at sea, eating fish and sleeping on the water.
~They drink seawater.
~Between chicks dying from dehydration and starvation (caused by ingesting plastic?) and adults drowning at the end of fish hooks, the population of some species have decreased by as much as 90%, many have declined by 40-50%.

We saw many of these beautiful birds as we crossed the Drake Passage and in the waters around the Antarctic Peninsula. What a tragic loss to our own children if we lose these birds. I cannot help but ask myself how long it will be before we see that we are endangering our own loved ones as well—we are simply farther back in the line.

I am not fool enough to think that I or anyone else can bring the sum of our bad habits to a grinding halt. We’re like a train; it takes us a while to stop. My hope is that we can make a big difference through small changes. It is a place to start.

5 comments: said...

How tragic. An 11-feet wingspan! That's almost impossible to believe. It breaks my heart how we're killing off this planet and everything that lives on it. This was a great post, Katie. thank you.

Cerreto said...

"We're like a train; it takes us a while to stop." Boy does that sum it up so perfectly. Thanks Kate. Keep up your great work. We all benefit.

flit said...

really enjoyed your blog... thanks for sharing it with us

Human Katherine said...

How terribly sad and sickening. My heart cries out in agony and my mind wants to stop the replaying of your words, because it will haunt me for days.
It makes me so angry to feel so useless in the larger scheme of things.
But one voice, joined by another and another...will some day be heard above the lies of corporations and nations who want us to believe that they have a handle on their environmental challenges.
I'll stop there...because I know you know what I speak of.
Thank you for speaking out.

kate keeley said...

You are all so kind. It warms my heart. One thing I have learned from my Antarctica experience is that it starts with one and from there becomes one hundred, one thousand, one million, one billion hearts and minds focused on treasuring this beautiful world we live in. One--that is the beginning.