12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on November 19, 2011
"Plastic Ocean" is a must read! The story of Captain Charles Moore, Citizen Scientist, who stumbled upon modern civilization's dirty little secret. The North Pacific Gyre holds tons of end user waste plastic which doesn't degrade and is not inert or benign as we have been lead to believe. The book takes the reader on a journey -- of ocean voyage, of scientific discovery, and as detective. Well written, the story moves along at a great clip, never getting bogged down while interweaving detailed information with the narrative. After reading this book, I can no longer look at my world in the same way again. FIVE STARS.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on January 29, 2012
I received this as a gift and presumed 300 pages of dolphin tears penned by a bleeding heart and totally out of touch author. However, I was pleasantly surprised that this was NOT the case. The author and his team set out to describe the "dark side of plastic, how it's escaped from civilization and colonized the mid-ocean." They engage in a 'gonzo' yet perfectly legit science to collect data that ends up fascinating the world. The author is passionate about his field but usually retains a scientist's dispassionate tone. He keeps readers engaged by alternating chapters between voyages aboard his custom designed catamaran, 'Alguita', and the more technical aspects of the plastics industry or ocean pollution in general. In the process, readers learn about nurdles, ghost nets, salps, and the bizarre world of large ocean gyres. It's not perfect though, from this marine scientist's perspective, there are some technical shortcomings and the author is constantly battling against the urge to overextend the interpretation of his data.
Overall a great read and I couldn't agree more with this thought: "each purchase should be a moral decision that takes into account the life cycle of all the materials in your shopping basket..."
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on February 27, 2012
The authors start the book out like it is a diary and it just doesn't hold the interest or imagination. It has way too much detail: Who cares if Moore borrowed his mother's '91 matron beige Cadillac coupe de ville for a trip (p. 89). It's details like this that slows down the story of PLASTIC OCEAN.
So, if you want to get into the excitement of the book skip to Chapter Six.
By the way, Apple's Steve Jobs is not idolized in this book because he--and others--were pushing iPods (a new one each year) "containing a myriad of toxic metals as well as waning resources like copper and oil [and, of course, there's plastic]--innovation and [non]disposability join hands for one reason: profit" (p. 96).
This is, of course, a non-fiction book. So, I will relate it to you via quotes that will, hopefully, shake you up as much as they did me:
Page 135: "More food processing means more food packaging, mostly plastic."
Page 139: "In this topsy-turvy world, what cheers investors bring environmentalists to tears."
Page 149: "Plastics are winning and are predicted to overtake paper as the reigning packaging material by 2014."
Page 150-1: "We need to stop cultivating innovation for its own sake and start thinking MORALLY [emphasis mine] and ecologically about the innovations we embrace. Is it worth trashing the planet? Each purchase should be a moral decision."
Page 152: In the north central Pacific waters is a place referred to as "Plastic Stew." But plastic is ubiquitous in many places in the ocean.
Page 157: "Albatross chicks by the tens of thousands perish each year, stuffed by their well-meaning parents with plastic non-food"--that comes from both land and water vessels.
Page 160: "Tens of thousands of northern fur seals [are] being killed by abandoned [plastic] nets."
Page 168: "Companies [ships] are not legally required to report [plastic container] spills [because] they are considered non-toxic. The ship owner escapes liability for any cleanup."
Page 172: "Whale feeding mostly happens near the sea surface where plastic fragments mingle with and mimic legitimate organisms."
Page 200: "...Plastic debris is second only to commercial fishing as a killer of marine life..."
Page 204: "...An estimated million seabirds are killed each year by entanglement in longlines [net lines] and 100,000 turtles and marine mammals."
Page 277: "Most of the 300 billion pounds of plastics produced each year start out s pellets. If a tenth of a percent escape to the oceans, that's a 150,000 ton annual deposit."
Page 259: "The United States lags behind Europe in technology [that converts some plastics to less harmful chemical compositions]."
Page 300: "There's just not enough profit in recovering, sorting, cleaning, processing and remanufacturing infinitely variable plastics. This is why we need extended PRODUCER RESPONSIBILITY [emphasis mine] so industry won't make things that it can't economically recover."
Page 305: "Long-term value means not only durability, but recyclability. This takes the onus off consumption as the problem and puts it on industrial design, which must devise recyclable compounds for each product--to achieve zero waste."
Finally, the book deals with the new field of "green chemistry" and the idea of recycling entrepreneurs.
I gave this book a 4 because the writing undulates between exciting and boring. The subject itself, though, micro-plastics in the ocean, deserves serious attention.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on November 6, 2011
I have been hearing about this plastic problem for some time but I had no idea how serious, complex and widespread the damage until I read this book. Captain Moore is a hero for devoting his life to this effort. Everyone should try to help. It affects us all more than you might think and not just people who live on coastlines. The ocean is the lungs of the earth and teems with life. If we continue the destruction, the consequences will be devastating.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on May 21, 2012
You can argue about the environment, whether the crisis is manmade or natural, and what we should do about it until you are blue in the face. The problem most of the green movement is faith based and is actually volatile to true science. But trash is an exception. Trash is clearly a man-made object, and as humans we are terrible at disposing of it in a consistent, efficient, and clean manner. Any walk about your community or even a local nature area will demonstrate how we fail at this, with litter accumulating everywhere you look.
But this book is not about trash in general, rather it focuses on the world of disposable plastic and how it works it way into our water supply, especially the Pacific Ocean. Captain Moore starts out talking about sailing with his family as a youth and experiencing clean oceans; that it would be rare to see any floating trash. Fast forward to getting stuck in the gyre (I am not an ocean guy, but I took this to mean the part of the ocean that is not in the currents, thus relatively "trapped" sections the size of very large states) and noticing lots of debris; mainly plastic as it tends to float. This began the personal mission that would fill up his life; Why is there so much plastic in the ocean, and where did it come from?
The mistakes I think most people make when talking about plastic is they believe it is easily recyclable. The truth is a lot more complicated as you cannot take a bottle and make another bottle; rather you make something less down the chain. And that all plastic is recyclable while the truth is there are thousands of varieties of plastic and more being invented all the time. Also plastic never really breaks down, it just becomes small and smaller insomuch sea creatures begin ingesting it, and then so do we. And the sheer volume of plastic in our world today is staggering. I am sitting here using a chair, computer, keyboard, Ipod, water bottle, watch, desk, phone all containing plastic materials right now. Even my shirt buttons are plastic. It is truly everywhere.
We are literally killing ourselves with plastic in our disposable age, and it seems no one cares. No when I read this book I do come away with the desire to completely remove all plastics from life, besides that would be impossible. Take travel for instance, you would be unable to drive a car or take an airplane anymore. In situations like these I look to the pragmatic steps we can take right now. Number one plastic polluter - disposable shopping bags. We can all take steps to reduce our usage right there for a start. Then start looking for more areas where plastic makes inroads to your disposable lifestyle and start implementing small changes. Use real dishes and utensils, buy products based on less packaging material or even non-plastic materials, buy larger size containers of items you do use that the non-plastic choice isn't readily available (i.e shampoo, etc), and please, please, please clean up your own mess and your communities whenever you can.
You probably won't change the world, but you can significantly alter your little corner of it. The only knock on the book is it is a little dry and not accessible to the average reader. When you read the book you will get the irony because Captain Moore recounts the years it took him to get more academic to be taken seriously by the scientific community. But the audience here is just regular concerned citizens and the book could have used a lot more anecdotes to fill out the statistics. For example, he mentions the sinking of a cruise ship, losing all aboard, due to the propeller getting caught in a abandon plastic fishing net only in passing. A few paragraphs on that could have awakened a whole population of cruise go-ers to the possible dangers.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on February 9, 2012
Plastic Ocean was a totally enjoyable read, mixing biographical adventure with scientific research in just the right proportions for a book intended for general public and policy makers. The writing style is witty and clear - Absolutely loved the reference to the "eco-cognitive disconnect" of health food stores...
And, although the information contained in the book has frightening implications for the planet, the book is not a downer. Moore presents real solutions from personal to policy level (not silly ideas like using huge nets to remove trash from the oceans). The reader can leave feeling not just informed but empowered. And, as everyone knows, the first step to solving a problem is acknowledging it.
Here in California, Capt. Moore's work is already having an effect - single use plastic bags have been banned in many cities, the ubiquitous single use plastic water bottle of the "healthy crowd" is largely replaced by stainless steel reusable bottles, enlightened restaurants are using biodegradable take-out containers made of sugar cane pulp. These are the first small steps in a long journey, but thanks in large part to Capt. Moore, the journey has begun.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on May 13, 2013
I belong to the WSU Extension Island County Beachwatchers. I have a docent program at a local Marine Education Center promoting better care of our environment - example don't let your trash enter the oceans. Reduce, reuse, recycle. This book is an excellent reference.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on November 4, 2011
To quote one reviewer:
"In Plastic Ocean, Capt. Charles Moore recounts his accidental discovery (in 1997) of The Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the Pacific Ocean, what he called "plastic soup" and scientists soon declared to be the largest garbage dump in the world. He returned for subsequent research, and his results were shocking: the plastic he caught in his nets outweighed the zooplankton, the oceans' food base, by a factor of six to one. He had discovered a crisis, both there in the Pacific and in how we consume and dispose of plastics."
I heard this author on my local Talk Radio station and was impressed with his knowledge and passion for this "Garbage Patch" in the Pacific. Much of the pieces of plastic found floating here are from Asia (Asian writing and symbols on the pieces) but this, by no means, is the only guilty party. The plastic waste from the United States must travel all around the world before ending up in the Pacific Ocean's Garbage Patch. By then all identifying marks are gone as the pieces are too small and too worn. We are not the only culprits but it is a large part of our country's job to become an example of correct recycling. I am from California and we are encouraged to recycle everything. I am repeatedly shocked at the lack of care or facilities for recycling in other countries. Canada-"We just throw old batteries in the garbage. We don't recycle"
Mexico--"Recycle? We don't do that here."
I am anxious to get this book and see what it tells me about what can be done.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 14, 2012
This is an extremely well-written and well-documented book about how we are destroying the oceans and ultimately ourselves with plastic. It is not a light-hearted and fun read, but it is horrifyingly informative. I have changed my attitude toward all plastic products and am trying to eliminate them from my life. I always take shopping bags to the store - EVERY store, not just the grocery store - and I use them. I live on the coast and always take bags with me when I am on the beach, to collect beach trash. I never come back empty-handed. It is too easy for Americans to be complacent about how easy it is to get things in plastic wrappers and just toss the plastic, but this book points out how dangerous that behavior is for our own future. We need to come up with alternatives to plastic, and it's important for us to hold the producers of these products accountable for distributing them. Read this book! You will never look at plastic the same.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 14, 2012
All the books and documentaries dealing with the environmental disasters bring different perspectives to hammer home the key point, "We need to wake up and act now," and this book is no exception. Captain Moore brings a fresh voice as someone in the field who's seen and dealt with the problems caused by overflowing plastic debris on a daily basis. From seals to albatrosses to more, the plastic we've carelessly thrown away have caused unimaginable devastation and deaths. The photo of a dead Laysan albatross chick with a stomach full of bottle caps is just heartbreaking, to say the least. A must read.