By Guest Blogger Dudley Carlson
Albatross through the eyes of an adult female nesting on Midway Island, where Jordan's film is set. The film immediately brought to mind another young picture book, Eve Bunting's Ducky (illustrated by David Wisniewski, New York Clarion Books, 1997), which tells the true story of a plastic toy washed overboard in 1992 when a storm-tossed container ship lost part of its cargo in the Pacific Ocean. Bathtub toys from this shipment, carried by ocean currents, turned up all over the world for many years. Together, these picture books offer a means of introducing very young children to the separate ideas of a bird that lives primarily at sea, the fact that many man-made objects find their way into that same watery world, and that the ocean contains rivers and pathways.
For children ready to think more deeply, Loree Griffin Burns has written a fine book on the scientists who study ocean currents and what floats on them. Tracking Trash; Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion (Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 2007) explores the history and science of oceanography through the eyes of scientist Curt Ebbesmeyer, who first coined the phrase "great garbage patch," and others who study currents, gyres, and their impact on life, both in the sea and on land. That includes citizen scientists, some of them children, who belong to the beachcombers' network that Ebbesmeyer started to collect reports on current-driven objects washed up on beaches. It also discloses that ocean plastic makes its way up through the food chain, from plankton to jellyfish to fish to humans. Though brief (50 pages), this is a well-illustrated book that combines photographs, maps and charts with well-organized information and resources.
And for those older readers, be they adults or teens, who are still hungry for information, Ebbesmeyer himself has written a personal account of his work Flotsametrics and the Floating World, by Curtis Ebbesmeyer and Eric Scigliano. New York, HarperCollins, 2009), tracing his career as an oceanographer and the discoveries and experiments leading to an understanding of ocean currents and gyres and how they function. Research in the last few decades has greatly expanded our knowledge of how these movements affect life on earth, even as manufacturing, commerce, and waste disposal have radically altered the life of the oceans and all of us whose lives depend on their health.
During the question period after the library's film showing, a member of the audience commented that one way to change the impact of ocean plastic on the albatross would be to show this film to children. While I don't think it's suitable for young children (there are disturbing images of albatross carcasses filled with bits of plastic and of chicks dying because of what they've been fed by their unknowing parents), it is absolutely one to show to middle and high school students and to adults. And it's never too early to teach all of our children about thoughtful consumption, wasting less, disposing carefully of what we do use, and reducing our use of plastic.
SFBBO member Dudley Carlson, a biologist’s daughter, grew up in a family of birders and was Manager of Youth Services at Princeton (NJ) Public Library for 25 years. She believes that if children enjoy learning about birds and understand how important they are to our environment, then birds, nature and people will have a better chance at a healthy future.
Wingbeat is a blog where you can find the most recent stories about our science and outreach work. We'll also share guest posts from volunteers, donors, partners, and others in the avian science and conservation world. To be a guest writer, please fill out our Volunteer Application below.