The Truth Board

A Blog by the Editors of
The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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Location: Los Angeles, California, United States

The Truth About the Fact: A Journal of Literary Nonfiction is an international journal committed to the idea that excellence in the art of letters can play a vital role in transforming the planet we share.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Give Or Let Die

“Everything you take, you must give back.” The best advice—those so self-contained and structurally balanced that they gleam as aphorisms—too often greet the world of practicalities in the folds of Hallmark cards. The man who explained to me the meaning of his later life’s mission through these 7 words, the esteemed Los Angeles art steward George Coleman, would have laughed at how I ultimately grasped his point: collecting bag after bag of Ocean-bound trash.

Now nurturing others in the L.A. art scene he helped cultivate, George Coleman has more than given back what the arts bestowed him. As he illustrates his golden rule over red wine and fried chicken, his whole manner opens as if overcome in Biblical deliverance. A childish grin and glittering eyes bespeak his essential belief: that the human artistic impulse must be incubated through in society’s youth. “Everything you take, you must give back.”

And here I am, bent double along the banks of a paved L.A. tributary, contributing my share of offal to our 33rd bag of the morning, when it hits me in earnest. This gesture of mine, in part with the “Friends of the Ballona Wetlands,” is righteously symbolic. I understand removing rubbish from this 50-yard strand is akin to ordering a glacier to halt! What a meek expression of solidarity, what hubris, to try as one may to save a suffocating ocean!

Where will the outgoing tide deposit the trash that will replace what we remove? In a place that should scare you: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Turning and turning in a widening gyre between California and Hawaii is 3.5 million tons of debris, in a swath of the Pacific twice the size of Texas. An ever growing continent of waste. A death trap for sea creatures made up of 80 percent plastics; the straws, water-bottles, and bags that we have come to assume are essential to our well-being. Our lurking doppelganger, growing in girth by 10 percent every decade. The sad end product of a culture of perpetual taking without reserve.

The plastic chip bags—the kind that come with your Subway value meal—that I collect on the side for an artist in our number is not what George Coleman had in mind when he shared his humble philosophy at our symposium—yet it fits like a plastic glove (universal truths are shape shifters). But practically, what will become of this vast floating wasteland? “It’s just going to get bigger as our reliance on plastics continues,” says Chris Parry, public educator with the California Coastal Commission, “the long-term solution is to stop producing as much plastic products at home.”

We have an urgent choice.

If we are not to be outgrown and outlived by a floating continent of flotsam, then we must cease producing toxic, non bio-degradable plastic products. You need not probe putrid storm drains in plastic gloves. You there… Vote! Do so with your dollars. Implement simple changes to your consumption habits. Every dollar spent on plastic packaged products is a vote in favor of The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, in favor of unrepentant taking. I, too, propose we start giving back.

- Joseph Picha


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