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Plastic Ocean: How a Sea Captain's Chance Discovery Launched a Determined Quest to Save the Oce ans

4.5 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1583334249
ISBN-10: 1583334246
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1997, Moore, captain of the oceanographic research vessel Alguita, discovered what became known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a massive "plastic soup... lightly seasoned with plastic flakes, bulked out here and there with 'dumplings': buoys, net clumps, floats, crates and other 'macro debris'" floating between Hawaii and California. This now-famous discovery led Moore, already a long-time environmentalist, to become a scientist-activist focusing on what others concerned with oceanic plastic proliferation had ignored: the "plastic confetti" created by ultraviolet light and ocean chemicals granulating the hundreds of millions of tons of plastic waste that have washed, blown, or been dumped into the ocean. In this sobering, impassioned book, Moore chronicles his attempts to mitigate the insidious effects of these bits, which are ingested by ocean creatures and can work their way up the food chain to poison humans. Moore, the grandson of a president of Hancock Oil, is also able to guide the reader through a history of plastic, the chemical process of plastics production, and its indestructibility and threat to our world. He covers some of the same ground as Susan Freinkel’s Plastic, but his scientific background takes his investigation deeper. (Nov.)

From Kirkus Reviews

Capt. Moore, a lifelong seafarer, was spurred to activism when his catamaran stalled in a remote area of the northeast Pacific and he noticed a visible proliferation of plastic bits and other trash floating on the water's surface. Dubbed "The Great North Pacific Garbage Patch," it was an ominous indicator of the cavalier way in which humans dispose of tons of plastic trash. This initial discovery led the author on a decades-long investigation into plastic production, distribution and chemical makeup, which revealed a level of pollution--in the sea and otherwise--far more insidious than people realized. The rise of "disposable" products coupled with inexpensive mass-production processes resulted in an unprecedented number of plastic bottles, lighters, shopping bags, diapers and other detritus being thrown away each year. Too much of it winds up in the ocean, where cool salt water drastically slows down decomposition rates. Growing numbers of vulnerable animals are ingesting these materials, and often suffering malnutrition, unhealthy offspring and death. Evidence suggests that the entire food chain may be affected, since millions of micro-plastic bits are consumed by tiny sea creatures, which are eaten by bigger fish or birds, and so on. This "toxic Trojan horse" effect extends to air and land, as well, since plastics pervade so much of our lives and often leave toxic traces behind. The author is an impassioned, fiercely inquisitive writer, detailing the many unorthodox ways he's managed to get these issues into the news and in peer-reviewed science journals. His account is chilling, but with an underlying message of optimism: If human behaviors change, we can still save the oceans, and ourselves. Fast-paced and electrifying, Moore's story is "gonzo science" at its best.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Avery (October 27, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1583334246
  • ISBN-13: 978-1583334249
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.8 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,167,590 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"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.
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Format: Hardcover
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..."
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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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
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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.
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