By Kahi Pacarro

Landing in the dark morning at a cold airport on the top of Molokai in Ho’olehua brought an excitement for our adventure. The aloha experienced on the island permeates into your own existence and reignites upon your return. As we drove down the long road to Mo’omomi Beach in a truck that was left at the airport for me to borrow, I felt the aloha in a big way. I was there to give back.

Mo’omomi had been invaded by plastic and looked as though a jumbo jet filled with trash had jettisoned its payload onto the sand, and then an explosion of plastic confetti rained down across the entire beach. Sustainable Coastlines was there to deal with this invasion.

The dirt kicked up into a reddish smoke as the caravan of trucks rambled down the long dirt road. Everyone was smiles ear to ear until the radio warning and cell phone sirens alerted us of an impending ballistic missile strike with only minutes to spare. We were 25 minutes already down the road with no suitable shelter topside. We were forced to contemplate death while on our way to preserve life. It seemed so ironic! We spent a few minutes calling loved ones and then continued down the hill to the beach…at least we’d be going out doing what we love with like minded and aloha filled people surrounding us.

False alarm. The odd weight of our impending death being removed from our shoulders brought on Herculean strength: 103 people forged on to take what looked like the dirtiest beach you have ever seen and turned it into the prestigious gem it should be.

Our plastic pollution problem is similar to the missile we were expecting: it was a situation that will change us forever, but differing is the fact that instead of an immediate obliteration, the plastic bomb will slowly kill us. Like the false alarm, we still have the chance to learn from this mistake and stop this madness.

How can we stop this plastic pollution madness? The path would look something like this, so imagine with if me if the following were to take place.

The frontlines are our coastlines and clean ups will help maintain the beauty while also helping to recruit new soldiers. With a solid frontline of willing and able soldiers, we march into the battle armed with bags, muscles, sand sifters and hand sanitizer. The cleanup serves as a reactive solution to an ongoing problem but also serves as a proactive approach to waking up the masses. It also fuels the initiated to continue inspiring others. With the frontline temporarily conquered, we forge on.

Upon breaching the frontlines, the movement enters the oceans and start seeing what’s happening to the trash while in the ocean as well as where some of the trash is coming from. We witness tiny micro plastics being eaten by fish, the violent sea churning up our trash and blending it into a confetti-like state, and boats discarding debris and old gear overboard. We decide to no longer use single use plastics and to support our small scale local fishermen and women. Some soldiers even decide to give up seafood altogether. We forge on.

As we enter deeper international waters, we see huge commercial purse seine fishing vessels with nets longer than a mile catching entire schools of tuna and utilizing techniques most people would consider cheating. We see commercial fishermen throwing old gear and fish aggregating devices (F.A.D.s) overboard. We disavow buying foreign carbon monoxide pumped ahi and forge on.

Beginning our incursion inland, we see rivers of trash entering the harbors, emptying societies detritus into the sea, a few dumps on the riverbanks, residents tossing their trash onto the ground and storm drains clogged with plastic packaging. Locals seem to be on our side in our fight against this plastic invasion. They point towards the building in the center of town, the Capital, as the root of the problem. Surrounding the Capital are lobbyists blocking our entrance and politicians turning a blind eye.

We’re currently at that line, looking for weaknesses, figuring out how we can regain control of the mess we all created. The root of the problem is that plastic is made from oil. The richest corporations in the world are oil companies and actions to limit corporations revenue will be fought tooth and nail. They have the ability to control the government via political contributions and corruption. You want the plastic invasion to stop? Here in the most stark solution. Remove corporate influence from government.

Kahi Pacarro is the Executive Director of Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

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