Janine Redwine and Dawn Thomas
“That thing came right for my Frappuccino!” Panicked local resident Pete Hagstrom described how he was knocked to the sand during his morning beach walk with Snicker, his Golden Doodle. “It sort of looked like the creature from the Black Lagoon.”
Members of The Northcoast Environmental Center (NEC), working a beach clean-up, witnessed the attack. “It was humanoid with enormous face gills and webbed hands,” reported Bob van de Walle, an intern with Team Pineapple’s Marine Biology department. “This is the third time I have seen one of them. They are definitely getting bolder.”
“I showed Bob a photo I snapped of what the creature wrote in the sand,” Mr. Hagstrom said.
Van de Walle used ChatGPT to translate the marks in the blurry photograph. “This one says, ‘We are Trashlanteans and we need more plastic!’ ”
“For ten thousand years,” the translation continues, “our People have lived in the Pacific Ocean, surviving on whatever scraps we could gather. On the beautiful, vast, floating rafts of durable and buoyant plastic making up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, we Trashlanteans have learned to cultivate mussels, crabs, sea vegetables, and barnacles for food.
“Our great city of Trashlantis is the only home hospitable to beings who are part human, part fish, and part garbage. We rely upon a steady stream of abandoned nets and floats to sustain our growing population. Rafts of floating plastic have been readily available – but suddenly, humans are cleaning up our ocean! Our Trashlantean food farms are being pulled up onto barges as ‘garbage’ and being hauled away! We are afraid of famine. We have no choice but to come to Dryland to seek the source of our life-giving plastic!”
Van de Walle speculated that Trashlanteans carry genetic mutations formed from extended exposure to – and ingestion of – plastic trash.
Are Trashlanteans yet another cryptid? An aquatic Bigfoot? Recent work by Dr. Linsey Haram established that coastal species are persistently being found in the open ocean. Floating plastic debris from pollution now supports novel sea surface communities composed of coastal and oceanic species, portending a significant ecological shift in the marine environment.
The reality is that plastic is pervasive. Microplastics are now found globally in soils, water, ice, air, and in living beings. Oil companies spend $50 million per year on marketing to promote recycling to a credulous public to obscure the fact that fossil fuel-derived plastic production continues to increase. Fourteen million tons of plastic ends up in the ocean each year, with predictions there will be as much plastic as fish in the ocean by 2050. The NEC is partnering with Grand Champion kinetic racers Team Pineapple to bring more awareness to this issue.
This Memorial Day weekend, Humboldt County will once again host the Kinetic Grand Championship, a race that requires athleticism, engineering, and art. Humor and fun are essential elements. Team Pineapple’s dystopian entry will be the fictional Trashlantis. Performing as a “university” of Trashlanteans, strange “half-human, half-fish, and half-trash” beings, the team hopes the humor of Trashlantis will provide an opening to have meaningful conversations about the hazards of living in the “Plastisphere”.
Team Pineapple’s dystopian street theater found favor with spectators with last year’s entry Humpbacks of Notre Dame, an apocalyptic view of Notre Dame Cathedral submerged in the deep warm water of the melted polar icecaps, with beautiful humpback whales exploring the ruins. The team is currently combing the beaches and byways, sidewalks, and highways for more plastic to build Trashlantis.
You can help thwart the Trashlantean effort to get more plastic into the ocean: come to NEC’s trash clean-up days! Dates released monthly: join us on May 21 to gather trash along the Kinetic Grand Championship route starting in Halverson Park at 2pm and working our way south along Waterfront Drive.
You could also come to a craft night and make art from gathered trash to place on the sculpture to carry throughout the race! Join us May 23 from 6-8pm for Trash Craft Night at the NEC office, 415 I St in Arcata.
Until we solve the plastic problem, a powerful action you can take right now is to host your own trash cleanup event with tools from the NEC lending library. Visit the NEC website for more information or to submit a lending library request: www.yournec.org/lendinglibrary.
The siren song of single-use plastic remains powerful but this Memorial Day Weekend, the NEC will be at the race to make sure that Trashlanteans don’t actually convince anyone to make more plastic.
To join the mission to thwart Trashlanteans, please go to Team Pineapple’s fundraiser at go.rallyup.com/trashlantis or text Trashlantis to 33100.