|Patricia Newman and a four-legged friend|
A real world problem inspired her to write the book, and the book aims to encourage kids (and the rest of us) to be part of solving that problem.
I asked Patricia to tell us about her nonfiction that changes lives...
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Books change lives. We’ve seen it over and over again in our readers’ faces, their fan mail and letters from parents. But I never expected a book that I wrote to change my life.
In 2009, I saw an article in The Sacramento Bee about graduate students who organized a research trip called Scripps Environmental Accumulation of Plastic Expedition (SEAPLEX). They wanted to study the growing plastic problem in the North Pacific Central Gyre—a massive area of open ocean surrounded by circling currents. SEAPLEX was one of the first groups to gather data from the gyre. The article inspired me to dig deeper. I found a raft of great information. Mystery. Adventure. Tragedy. All the makings of a great read.
During my research, I discovered that the scientists gathered samples of debris using various kinds of nets with names like mantas, bongos and oozeki trawls. When they arrived in the gyre—nicknamed the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by the media--they found that it was not a floating island of trash at all, but millions of micro-plastics no larger than your pinky fingernail and the occasional large piece of plastic. SEAPLEX sailed over 1,700 miles and found plastic in 98.5% of their net tows. The scientists found plastic in the stomachs of one in ten fish and extrapolated that fish inhabiting the middle depths of the North Pacific eat approximately 12,000-24,000 tons of plastic per year.
“To see plastic debris in the middle of this large stretch of ocean, far from land, offers a wakeup call for the way we leave our footprint even on remote places of the Earth,” said Chelsea Rochman, one of the SEAPLEX scientists.
I knew then that my book, Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (Millbrook Press), wasn’t simply a nonfiction book for middle grade readers. It was a call to action.
I’ve carried reusable grocery bags to the store for years, but I found that increased awareness prompted behavior changes that were surprisingly simple and effortless. I switched to net or canvas bags for produce. I carry reusable bags to the mall. When I travel, I drink water from a stainless steel water bottle instead of a plastic one. If restaurants hand me a Sytrofoam “to go” container, I ask for aluminum foil and say I’m cutting down on my single-use plastic. I recycle the plastic that I use (see below for list), and I will vote in favor of the plastic bag ban in California despite the grocery and plastic industries’ anti-ban messages.
Even SCBWI can take part in raising awareness. Conference attendees can supply reusable water bottles to be filled at a large urn or pitcher. We can also hire eco-friendly caterers who package conference lunches in paper boxes rather than plastic or Styrofoam. Students with whom I’ve talked are excellent ocean ambassadors. I task the young ones with reminding their parents to bring reusable bags to the grocery store. Some participate in school recycling clubs. They make commercials urging their classmates to recycle. They have eliminated Styrofoam lunch trays from their cafeterias in favor of reusable trays.
|Patricia writes: "A cool water bottle I found while at the LA conference"|
Want to find out even more? The Ocean Plastics thread on my blog explores issues related to plastic pollution, such as cleaning up the gyre; a single-celled creature that rafts on plastic and kills coral; how upcycling re-values and re-purposes trash; and expeditions similar to SEAPLEX.
Ocean plastic pollution may have been the inspiration for Plastic, Ahoy!, but now the book inspires readers to take care of a natural resource that produces the oxygen for two of every three breaths we take. Let Plastic, Ahoy! change your lives, too.
Are you recycling all of the plastic you can? Recyclable plastics in Sacramento County, CA:
• All CRV containers accepted
• Containers with numbers 1 – 7 in the triangle symbol
• Soda bottles, milk jugs, shampoo bottles, etc.
• Tubs and containers (ie. yogurt, margarine)
• Plastic bags (stuff several bags inside each other)
• Buckets, pails and crates
• Toys (ie. plastic tricycles)
• Clamshell trays and deli containers
• Plant pots (no ceramic)
• Laundry baskets
• Polystyrene (Styrofoam®) in a clear plastic bag
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Even her book trailer is a call to action:
Illustrate and Write On,