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Why Is Cleaning up the Pacific Garbage Patch Not a Campaign Issue? A Speech by an Imaginary Presidential Candidate

Sal Santiago writes about travel, minimalism, philosophy, and living an alternative lifestyle.

My fellow citizens, we must mobilize to face the grave threat to our planet. We must think out of the box, muster our forces, and work cooperatively with nations of the world to rise to this challenge. Not a day more is to be wasted.

We must act at once, to protect the health of our precious planet. The wellspring of all life, the habitat of many diverse life-forms, among them the whale, the dolphin, the sea turtle, and countless other sea-life—our brothers and sisters on this planet.

An injury to one of them, is indeed, an injury to all of us.

Several hundred years ago, the oceans were still in pristine condition. The manifold creatures of the sea were thriving. The abundance of the sea supported a diverse ecosystem. For example: the salmon of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.


What happened? Humans—with their short-sightedness, desire for short-term gain, and tendency of thinking only for the moment.

First, overfishing. Whales hunted nearly to extinction. Salmon and many other types of fish nearly depleted. In 1891 in Alaska they started a fish hatchery, because the salmon were in danger of being fished out. With the rise of big agriculture and the widespread use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, the runoff befouled streams, lakes, and found its way into our oceans.

Witness the dead zone of the Gulf of Mexico. A city of oil derricks is there in the ocean. In Louisiana, there is a place they refer to as "cancer alley."

Our throwaway culture of cheap plastic goods, created by an economy of cheap oil, and the waste that has ensued. Micro-plastics permeate the once resplendent oceans of the earth. Many sea creatures ingest the plastic trash - they choke or they're strangled to death. In studies nearly all sea creatures are found to have plastic in them.

Now to the great shame of humanity, a monstrous symbol of a wasteful culture is plain for all of us to see. The rotating gyre of waste, twice as large as the state of Texas, christened The Pacific Garbage Patch.

A sane species long ago would have called for immediate action, would have declared an international emergency. My fellow citizens—I now pose a philosophical question.

Do we possess such a sanity? Are we able to rise to the great task before us? Are we truly capable of doing anything great? Or are we prisoners to the limits of our own imagination, and to the unconscious way of life we default to? Captive to lip-service, platitudes, half-measures, and incrementalism.

With international efforts, the countries of the world pooling their resources, their ingenuity, their unique skills, we will begin to tackle this problem and grave threat to the health of the planet. To take immediate action. There can be no more time for delay.

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Why have our systems become so morally bankrupt, and so powerless to act? Why do our leaders never even mention this issue? Why is the issue not front and center in this campaign?

Why is it that the most serious effort to date, to confront this problem, has been taken by a teenage boy from Norway?

While Boyan Slat’s efforts are heroic, the awareness he and his team have created, what he has achieved, has brought hope to many. He has been a beacon of light and action – helping to show us the way forward.

Why is it that the countries of the world, with the resources needed to join in and lend their assistance, have been unable to act?

We have ships with clean-up capabilities, just waiting to be put in action.

The Pacific Garbage Patch is the result of years of willfully looking the other way. Blinders to the waste of a consumer culture. We can no longer afford to pretend it doesn’t exist. We must learn to take care of this planet, to stop abusing it. The PGP represents the worst of our excesses, the worst of our failures and ignorance.

Many years ago, Chief Seattle said:

“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”

“When the green hills are covered with talking wires and the wolves no longer sing, what good will the money you paid for our land be then?”


We will create many jobs in this effort. Crews to help out on the ships, and crews of people to scan the beaches and coasts, to clean up the garbage, the detritus that washes up there.

A truly good job – one with purpose and meaning, and well-compensated. One that people will take pride in, and look forward to waking up each day, contributing and doing their part. What greater job could you have than taking care, like nurses and doctors in charge of the health of the oceans, of our one and only planet? And an added bonus many will appreciate – you get to work outside!

Escape the dark cubicles in buildings full of stale air that are keeping you sick, deprived of vitamin D, and harming your soul, chipping away, day by day, at your will to live.

Many people I meet tell me they feel powerless to do anything – to make any kind of difference. They would like to help – but they don’t know the best way how. I say to them “You have a job in these great efforts. Welcome to the team.”


While sadly, we may not be able to clean all of the micro-plastics from the oceans (they will need many years to break down), we need to start, we need to make an effort, we need to begin today.

While it may be too late to reverse the warming of the climate. We don’t know for certain, but we have to try. It is not too late to take direct action for something we can control, namely, cleaning up the damn garbage. An abomination – an offense to the spirit of our great Mother Earth and to our souls. An affront to all that is good, right, and just.

Forget spending billions on trying to get to Mars. Let’s use the money to take care of this planet that nourishes and provides for all creatures.


We also can take steps to minimize consumerism and the wasteful throwaway culture in conjunction, to ensure that we do not keep adding to this problem and making it worse.

Citizens, please join me in this great effort. We cannot rest until the planet is cared for, until we all assist and do our parts to help the healing. Join us in making our oceans pristine once again and restoring them to health.

While it may take years, and the challenges along the way will be massive, we will not rest until we achieve these noble goals.

May the Great Spirit bless you, and bless all the creatures of this planet – and the habitat which they have as much right to as humans.


This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

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