FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Captain Charles Moore: Oceanic Muckraker

“Recycling is a myth. We are making more junk than we can reuse. Today, we only recycle 3% of the total production of our garbage.”

– Captain Charles Moore

Cpt. Charles Moore (Photo: Jonah Raskin).

The reporters who built their reputations in the Golden Age of Muckraking raked muck on dry land, not at sea. Ida B. Wells, Ida Tarbell and Lincoln Steffens exposed racism, political corruption and corporate greed in books like The Free Speech (1892), The History of the Standard Oil Company (1904) and The Shame of the Cities (1904).

Upton Sinclair uncovered the nauseating meatpacking industry in The Jungle (1906) and helped bring about the passage of The Pure Food and Drug Act. Carey McWilliams, Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein and Edward Snowden have carried on the tradition.

More recently, Captain Charles Moore has revealed what might be called the “shame of the oceans.”

A sea captain and an oceanographer, he has brought to the attention of the world, over the past two decades, the existence of the “Great Pacific Garbage Pack,” an area in the Pacific Ocean twice the size of Texas that’s littered with plastic and that’s rapidly destroying sea life.

Moore originally called the area a “plastic cesspool.”

I caught up with Captain Moore recently at a high school in California where he talked to students about the crisis of garbage that’s engulfing the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Indian oceans.

Moore also spoke briefly about garbage in outer space.

“There are one millions pieces of trash orbiting the Earth,” he said calmly. Indeed, not once did he raise his voice. He added, “We’re constantly putting trash out there.”

Moore had just returned from Shanghai where he had taken his message to Chinese students and adults.

He lives and works in Long Beach, California where he founded the Algalita Marine Research and Education project that raises environmental awareness about the growing crisis of plastic at sea.

Wearing a black suit, a white shirt and a bow tie, Moore showed color slides and delivered a grim message to 350 California students, most of them firm believers in recycling.

“We are making more junk than we can reuse,” he said. “Recycling is a myth. We can’t do it. Today, we only recycle 3% of the total production of our garbage.”

Moore lambasted Amazon in particular for manufacturing and distributing tons of cardboard and plastic products.

He also pointed out that, human beings all around the world once thought that plastic was a wonderful innovation and that over the past fifty-years many consumers have bought into the whole idea of disposable products they could use and then throw away.

In 1997, Captain Moore discovered what has since come to be known as “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch” while sailing from Hawaii to California.

“I was confronted, as far as the eye could see, with the sight of plastic,” he wrote in an article for Natural History magazine. He added, “It seemed unbelievable, but I never found a clear spot. No matter what time of day I looked, plastic debris was floating everywhere: bottles, bottle caps, wrappers, fragments.”

Moore told the assembled California high school students, “We’re becoming plastic people. Plastic is woven into the fabric of life itself.” He added, “It’s my hypothesis that plastic kills more animals every year than climate change.”

The students might have dismissed Moore as a grumpy old man. After all, he told them, “In the U.S. we don’t do anything except watch TV.” He added, “We will have to deprive ourselves of glitz.”

But the students gave him a standing ovation, and as a parting gift a shirt made of 100% cotton that brought a smile to his face. Before the school day ended, dozens of students signed up for a “clean the beach day” on the California coast as part of their “service requirement.” Captain Moore had not made them feel helpless. Oddly enough his bad news had inspired them.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
Ted Rall
Why Christine Ford vs. Brett Kavanaugh is a Train Wreck You Can’t Look Away From
Lauren Regan
The Day the Valves Turned: Defending the Pipeline Protesters
Ralph Nader
Questions, Questions Where are the Answers?
Binoy Kampmark
Deplatforming Germaine Greer
Raouf Halaby
It Should Not Be A He Said She Said Verdict
Robert Koehler
The Accusation That Wouldn’t Go Away
Jim Hightower
Amazon is Making Workers Tweet About How Great It is to Work There
Robby Sherwin
Rabbi, Rabbi, Where For Art Thou Rabbi?
Vern Loomis
Has Something Evil This Way Come?
Steve Baggarly
Disarm Trident Walk Ends in Georgia
Graham Peebles
Priorities of the Time: Peace
Michael Doliner
The Department of Demonization
David Yearsley
Bollocks to Brexit: the Plumber Sings
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail