The year is 2016 and U.S. elections are heating up just as fast as my relationship with her. Another day at the beach yields another full arm of plastic. Whether we decide to go to the beach for a clean-up or enjoyment, we leave the shoreline a few pounds less polluted with plastic crap. Plastic seems to be getting out of control. Like a newborn frightened by a spectrum of sensory intake, my senses adjust; things are strange.
It is February of 2017. Bernie Sanders has just unleashed "The Bern" identity for change which would go on to define the millennial generation. It is more of an aching force toward change; calling to us, we, unison, people, and gathering in consensus. Global sociability. The internet is an open-source social gathering phenomenon. "Net Neutrality" laws are being manipulated. The D.N.C. was caught in a desperate attempt to maintain an agenda while the presidential elections left the nation torn. Surfacing rumors of a swayed election. Peoples arrogance of Climate Change thickens like the blue-green algae that plagues our once pristine Florida waterways.
Somehow arrogance has found its way into our most sacred sanctum. "Isn't it possible!" I thought "How could family not see it, yet?" and "Why did it take so long for me to grasp?" my mind, a flash-flood of questions. "This is a solvable problem." I said out loud as I compared the purple micro-plastic on the sand with my blue fingertips. The Florida winter swell brought an abundance of surf and Oceanic Plastic Discharge or O.P.D. for short (pollution generally referred to as "Marine Debris" or "Flotsam and Jetsam" found along beaches and shorelines all over the world).
Escaping the windchill, I reach out my hand, plucking a few pieces out of the plethora of plastic discharges on my way up the eroded shoreline. I head toward a bin ahead labeled "recycle" mocking the symptoms. "To the landfill" ...I thought... "If I were to put this thing together I'd need to capture it."
Media, video, pictures, newspapers, and a team. Everyday the urge to walk the coastline wasn't my idea anymore, it was happening, already. We need to see how much plastic is accumulating along the shore. People have the right to know.
On the outside break it seemed Trek-able. "Epic!" I thought as I quickly pulled my wetsuit down, dropping O.P.D. I'd caught surfing at secret spot.
Like an addict scraping together change for nicotine, I found myself scraping the keyboard with every search that could bring me answers. Google searching, things like, "How much plastic is on the shore?", "How much shoreline does Florida have?", "Walking the entire coast of Florida", "Is it possible to...?", and "How far did the barefoot mailman walk?"
Aside from the 68 miles the barefoot mailman did at about 10 miles a day, not much came up.
The Coastline according to research through "Google maps" looked like almost 1,300 miles. The east coast from Amelia Island, Florida (at the GA border) to the end of South Beach, Miami, Florida measured at about 390 miles.
Time. Time. Time!
I could take exactly 30 days off of work. "Conquer it in sections" my friend Alex told me.
"A third of the state at a time." I thought to myself.
Deciding to attempt the eastern Florida shores, first. I came up with a goal of about 20 miles a day. I'd needed a catchy name to yell quickly across the beach and knew I'd be covering much more distance than 390 miles so I came up with the idea of "Hike420.com" (400 miles in twenty days) just two months prior to the venture. Angelica was the only person that actually dedicated herself with me along this hike. She would become the driver of my truck as I walked along the east coast for twenty-two days. "Hike420" would prove to be one of the hardest journey's of my life, yet.
Jump forward to 2018.
Two hour drives daily for work were wearing on me. Often passing the time with podcasts. "Me time." I would reassure myself. "Keep going your getting closer."
Up all night learning blockchain with a vision for plastic pollution solutions. Understanding some basic code proved essential. Losing a decent sum of money through attempting to mine and invest in cryptocurrency, would only add to daily stressors. Admittedly, I didn't fall into the space to get rich, but to solve a problem. Money never seemed more like a tool for good though, a tool that I learned all great ideas need.
Media coverage from last years hike left me feeling like it turned "Hike420" into a love story rather than a "Plastic-Awareness" hike. I am now diagnosed with clinical depression. My attention was split. Ocean Rescue, coaching, and working in the sun 7 days a week and learning tech for this project almost every night. The anxiety wouldn't let up. I'm wasting at least 12 hours every week. That was just the total time I'd invested to commute to work. I began to feel absolutely alone. Just to add a bit more pressure to this feeling, she and I broke off our relationship in February.
July 22, 2018 6:03 PM - Heather Bolint sends PlasticSymptoms an email. She said she'd found PlasticSymptoms in researching if anyone had ever hiked the entire coast of Florida. She also wanted to hike the coast, for plastic pollution awareness. Twenty-five hours later, I sent a reply to a total stranger that found a beacon of light in what we'd begun.
Beyond ecstatic, I suggested we team up. I thought back to my own research in 2017. This is happening. She was 20 minutes up the road in Lake Worth, Florida. One of those small world coincidences. We met for lunch. My brain vomited words and vision.
High on forward momentum.
Expressing to her my perspective from "Hike420". The solutions we envision and our original direction. I expressed that the terms commonly used in school and by groups like Ocean Conservancy generally missed the key word that puts consumers and corporations in direct accountability, controlling the issue. Why have we disguised the pollutant?
The symptoms are plaguing our shorelines. Most commonly "Marine Debris" neither marine nor debris but PLASTIC! These are just one easily noticed symptom of our current society. We are witnessing one of the greatest plagues humanity has ever encountered and it's the fault of the collective species. We are responsible for every piece of plastic we ever bought, touched, "threw away", or "recycled". How many living things have I unwittingly squandered. Carbon created Climate Change wasn't bad enough... plastic is also a direct contributor. (More on this in Plastic vs Carbon Emissions (URL)).
Fast Forward to today.
"PlasTrek 2019" proved successful. We made national news about PlasticSymptoms in the state of Florida. Find that on the bottom of our homepage. ( www.plasticSymptoms.org ) Over the next few months we will be inviting all those interested to, SEAchange with us.
PlasticSymptoms is attempting to open the eyes of those still tight in the womb. Our species has become threatened by one of our most widely used and potentially most disruptive pollutant. Plastic lifestyles have created dependence. They rage war on the stability of our natural world. The negatives are proving to outweigh the positives. We sought first to open the eyes of family and friends in 2017. Our scope is directly set on the state of Florida. Passing legislature seems to be the only way to slow our symptoms. We are giving our data to those that intend to stop our plagued environment at the source. Earth is our responsibility, only for life's sake.
We are gearing up only for radical change. Until then we will continue pushing our research and awareness like penicillin, desperately fighting to cure our single-use plastic habits.
Please stay tuned as we work to release our #PlasTrek 2019 project, ahead of our vision for attempting to aid in solving the crisis of our millennia, PlasticSymptoms.
Written with Love