An exciting account of an activist scientist's unorthodox fight in the growing movement against plastic marine pollution and of his expedition across the Pacific on a home-made "junk raft".
News media brought the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" – the famous swirling gyre of plastic pollution in the ocean – into the public consciousness. But when Marcus Eriksen cofounded the 5 Gyres Institute with his wife, Anna Cummins, and set out to study the world's oceans with hundreds of volunteers, they discovered a "plastic smog" of microscopic debris that permeates our oceans globally, defying simple clean-up efforts. What's more, these microplastics and their toxic chemistry have seeped into the food chain, threatening marine life and humans alike.
Far from being a gloomy treatise on an environmental catastrophe, though, Junk Raft tells the exciting story of Eriksen and his team's fight to solve the problem of plastic pollution. A scientist, activist, and inveterate adventurer, Eriksen is drawn to the sea by a desire to right an environmental injustice. Against long odds and common sense, he and his co-navigator, Joel Paschal, construct a "junk raft" made of plastic trash and set themselves adrift from Los Angeles to Hawaii, with no motor or support vessel, confronting perilous cyclones, food shortages, and a fast decaying raft.
As Eriksen recounts his struggles to keep afloat, he immerses readers in the deep history of the plastic pollution crisis and the movement that has arisen to combat it. The proliferation of cheap plastic products during the twentieth century has left the world awash in trash. Meanwhile, the plastics industry, with its lobbying muscle, fights tooth and nail against any changes that would affect its lucrative status quo, instead defending poorly designed products and deflecting responsibility for the harm they cause.
But, as Eriksen shows, the tide is turning in the battle to save the world's oceans. He recounts the successful efforts that he and many other activists are waging to fight corporate influence and demand that plastics producers be held accountable. Junk Raft provides concrete, actionable solutions and an empowering message: it's within our power to change the throw-away culture for the sake of our planet.
"Eriksen succeeds in dramatizing a significant problem and enlisting popular support, noting some immediate steps that can be taken to create recyclable products [...] The thrills and chills of rafting packaged with a compelling call to action."
– Kirkus Reviews
"Eriksen's work is a much-needed wake-up call for the public to pressure politicians to finally tackle an often-overlooked but deadly form of pollution."
"This book combines many of my favorite things – adventure far from shore, the spirit of exploration, and the fight to save our oceans – all in a gripping narrative that's also a parable for our time. In the battle for the future of our living world, Marcus Eriksen is a true warrior."
– James Cameron, filmmaker and deep-ocean explorer
"Navigating between an epic seafaring adventure and an activist's environmental distress call, Junk Raft serves as a reflection of the choices and journeys that each of us makes and helps us understand how plastic in the oceans is deeply intertwined with the future of human life. Eriksen gets at the heart of what it means to respond to environmental catastrophe on our imperiled planet. As Marcus's wife, Anna, puts it so memorably, 'Love creates justice.'"
– Celine Cousteau, documentary filmmaker, artist, and environmental activist
"Marcus Eriksen and I share the same struggle, namely, to draw back the plastic curtain in order to subdue the monster that the plastics industry created. Junk Raft is filled with adventure, romance, and important truths that will be needed by the thousands of groups who will eventually overcome the beast. This book heralds the beginning of a new field of scientific research, adding fuel to movements dedicated to the survival and liberation of the natural and human worlds."
– Captain Charles Moore, author of Plastic Ocean and founder of Algalita Marine Research and Education
"When the junk raft was originally making its crossing from California to Hawaii, it was big news for ocean lovers around the world. It's exciting to now be able to read such a personal account of these adventures, exploring the thoughts that were going through Marcus's mind, and the daily challenges that arise when taking a journey as monumental as this one."
– Jack Johnson, musician and clean-ocean activist
"Junk Raft takes us on an exciting and quixotic voyage of exploration, adventure, and activism, and along the way, Marcus Eriksen somehow manages to turn his cutting-edge research into an engaging love story. Don't be fooled by the title – Eriksen's Junk Raft carries a treasure chest full of adventurous stories, wise insights, and valuable lessons on how to protect our oceans."
– Stuart H. Coleman, author of Eddie Would Go and Hawaii manager of the Surfrider Foundation
Chapter 1. Synthetic Seas
Chapter 2. Junk & Gyre
Chapter 3. IMUA
Chapter 4. Junk-o-philia: Our Obsession with Stuff
Chapter 5. Thrown Away
Chapter 6. Coming Unscrewed: The Little Fish in a Big Sea
Chapter 7. "Junk In, Junk Out"
Chapter 8. Guadalupe Loop: The Recycling Myth
Chapter 9. Too Wasteful to Value: ChicoBag vs. Plastic-Bag Lobby
Chapter 10. Waves and Windmills: A Case for the Eco-Pragmatist
Chapter 11. Wasting Away: The Fate, Fallacy, and Fantasy of Ocean Cleanup
Chapter 12. Synthetic Drift: Human Health and Our Trash
Chapter 13. Little Fish Bites Big Fish
Chapter 14. A Plastic Smog
Chapter 15. The Great Divide: The Linear vs. Circular Economy
Chapter 16. A Revolution by Design
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Marcus Eriksen is the cofounder and director of research for the 5 Gyres Institute, with firsthand experience from more than twenty ocean-crossing expeditions, and he has written and published research on the impact of plastic pollution in the world's oceans. He is the author of My River Home: A Journey from the Gulf War to the Gulf of Mexico.