Consumerism Resources

After watching this movie, that plastic fork will never look the same again

Written by Sven Eberlein
Raise your Voice (2010): Midway – Message from the Gyre (2009) / Chris Jordan

Midway, 2009-2010, Chris Jordan

Chris Jordan, the photographer whose heartbreaking photo series Midway: Message from the Gyre showed the dead bodies of seabirds on remote Midway Island in the middle of the Pacific filled with plastic junk from bottle caps to single use spoons, has just successfully raised $100,000 through a kickstarter campaign that will enable him and his team of film makers to finish an incredible documentary they’ve been working on for several years.

I believe this movie is not only going to change the way we look at single use plastic and the nonchalance with which we’re consuming and throwing things “away,” but because of its magical protagonists (over a million Laysan albatrosses) and awe-inspired guide (Chris Jordan), Midway has the potential to shift our collective consciousness of and relationship with the planet we call home.

But don’t take my word for it, see for yourself…


Midway is a multi-layered kaleidoscope of natural wonder and human history, and it also serves as a powerful lens into a shocking environmental tragedy: tens of thousands of albatrosses lie dead on the ground, their bodies filled with plastic from the Pacific Garbage Patch.

Returning to the island over several years, our team has witnessed and filmed cycles of birth, life, and death of these birds as a multi-layered metaphor for our time. With internationally acclaimed artist Chris Jordan as our guide, our film will walk directly into the fire of horror and grief, facing the immensity of this tragedy—and our own complicity—head on.

I couldn’t help but cry when first I saw this trailer. They were tears of sadness at the unspeakable suffering of these magnificent creatures. They were tears of rage at the ignorance with which we keep manufacturing, packaging and disposing of so many single-use plastic products just so we don’t have to touch something that was previously touched or avoid doing dishes after a party.

But they were also tears of gratitude and awe. For being alive. For sharing the planet with such beautiful creatures. For Chris Jordan’s gift to transcend this tragedy of the commons into a deeply felt experience of hope, beauty and reverence for the mystery and miracle of our world.

These larger lessons are reflected in the only words uttered in the 4-minute trailer:

Do we have the courage to face the realities of our time? Allow ourselves to feel deeply enough that it transforms us and our future?

Come with me on a journey. Through the eye of beauty. Across an ocean of grief. And beyond.

What’s cool about this project is not only that we can all own a piece of it by contributing to the kickstarter campaign (even though they’ve reached their goal you can still chip in until Wednesday), but that Chris and his talented crew have been sharing their adventures from Midway on their blog and with frequent video updates.

From the joy of watching chicks everywhere,


to the shock of seeing pieces of plastic everywhere, brought in through the stomachs of dead baby birds,


to the heartbreak of finding several pieces of plastic inside a dead baby albatross,


you can’t help but feel connected to this island, in all its joy and pain.

It is a story that needs to be told, because ultimately, the story of these birds is all of our story, and we have the power to change its course. That is the takeaway I get from watching these snippets and seeing the incredible outpouring of support for this project.

We are a team of devoted artists who believe that the mythical story of Midway has the power to break open the hearts and minds of viewers worldwide. Our job is simply to honor this story as it has revealed itself to us, and deliver it to a global audience with the best quality filming, editing, production, and distribution that we can achieve. The process has been transformational to everyone on our team, and we look forward to sharing our results with you in 2013. Thank you for your contribution.

For a comprehensive guide on how to reduce the amount of plastic in your personal life, please check out Beth Terry‘s excellent new (plastic-free) book:

Plastic Free — How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too

For some more background on single-use plastic and how municipalities are trying to deal with the huge problem of disposables, also see my recent post:

As single-use plastic goes so goes the planet – a lunchboxy photo essay

For more resources, here are some great organizations to start with:

Plastic Pollution Coalition
5 Gyres
Keep it Organic
Rise Above Plastics
Think Beyond Plastic
Trash Patch
Turning the Tides
Algalita Marine Research Institute

About the author

Sven Eberlein

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  • Truly heartbreaking. Seeing these dead birds is like looking inside my collecting bag from the river. This has been going on for years at MIdway Island. National Geographic published an article a number of years a go on this subject and found that some of this plastic found inside these albatross chicks was traceable to junk made during the Second World War. Plastic doesn’t just disappear. In effect, these birds are becoming fatal plastic/carbon storage vessels that we are willing to throw away along with everything else. I’m “glad” this film found the funding to be made because this should be required viewing for all who care about life. I’m glad the film treats these wonderful birds in a reverential way. I will definitely check out the links you provide to help lead a less plastic-filled life.

    • I thought of you when I saw this, Albertus. I feel like you’re a bit like the Albatrosses on Midway, quietly processing the other end of all the stuff that so mindlessly runs through modern society’s hands. I think Chris and his crew should come to the banks of the Ohio River next, it would be two of my favorite artists trying to make sense of the madness together.

  • Sven, I could relate to your friends’ project on Midway Island and so I reached out to them via their film’s website. I have often wondered what I would do on the island if given the chance. Would I create similar stuff to my Falls of the Ohio project? I’m not certain, because what I perceive about the spirit of a place guides what I do.

  • So glad you reached out, Al. I hope you hear back. I don’t really know Chris personally, he’s just an artist I really admire, like yourself. Nothing would make me happier than for you two to have a conversation or explore the island or riverbank together. Would love to be a fly on the wall for that, or rather a bird in the sky or fish in the water…