Talking with Plastic Pollution Fighting Rockstar Charles Moore

This is part two Stiv Wilson's tour to better understand how plastic ends up in the ocean. Read the first installment here.

I meet Captain Charles Moore in front of his house in Southern California on a sunny afternoon. Across the street is his sailing research vessel, the very boat that has taken several missions to the North Pacific Gyre with him as skipper. It’s because of Charles Moore that you (hopefully) have heard about the enormous garbage patch in the Pacific. From the deck of Moore’s catamaran is where at least half the images you’ve seen of this marine eco-disaster have been taken.

Moore originally discovered the Pacific plastic garbage flotilla in 1997 and despite first attempts at outreach, few paid attention to him. Now, after more than ten years of work the issue is finally getting some traction and he’s making regular appearances on talk shows such as David Letterman's and Stephen Colbert's. If ever there was such a thing as a plastic pollution fighting rockstar, Moore is the front man of the band.

I’m a bit nervous as I step onto Moore's vessel, the Alguita. To me, Charles Moore is a hero. He’s an inspiration. As we begin to talk, I realize that he’s really just an ordinary guy who saw something wrong in the world and is trying to make a an extraordinary difference. Though singularly remarkable, Moore's humility pervades everything thing he says; whenever he talks about the mission, he always uses the pronoun, "we."

Also talking to Moore is a kiwi named Hayden, who is working on plastic issues in New Zealand and as the two talk, I take great delight at Moore’s invitation to explore his ship. As Hayden and Charlie wrap up their conversation, Moore and I talk about the recent expedition (a collaboration between Algalita and the organizations I work for, 5Gyres) to the Atlantic that I was part of, and later, at the Algalita office I show him pictures of what we found in the Atlantic Garbage Patch. He fixates on them. He's not happy to see it there, in full color, as well. Then the phone rings. Moore doesn’t typically work in the Algalita office, but he’s happy to put on a headset and play secretary when around. As he talks to the person on the other end of the line he cracks jokes. He’s quick witted. The call is a request for him to speak at some engagement or another. After the call he remarks that he needs an agent because the requests are becoming more and more frequent. I joke that I’m happy I got to him just in time, and he says, “Oh no, that’s a request for a speaking engagement, I’ll always do the interviews.”

When Moore talks, you listen. He’s got an encyclopedic knowledge of plastic issues, oceanography, and polymer chemistry. He's unafraid of the industry lobby that produces this single use garbage, and he's not afraid to call a spade a spade. He's a bull in a special interest china shop. But it's his pragmatism informed by more than a decade of empirical evidence that makes him so resolute. “Humanity's plastic footprint is just as bad if not worse than its carbon footprint. Plastic pollution is as serious or more serious than global warming,” he says, noticing a bunch of floating plastic at the stern of his boat between one pontoon and the dock to which the Alguita is tied. The irony of finding plastic pollution in the ocean across the street from his home sandwiched between the boat and the dock is not lost on either of us and with veiled disgust he utters, “We’ve reached millions, but we need to reach billions.”

Check the video interview of Moore talking about the history of plastic pollution in the Pacific. It’s a bit on the longish side, but it does a great job of explaining the issue in detail.


Stiv Wilson is a freelance writer/photographer and the communications director for the Project. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

Looking back, the year 1995 seems like such an innocent time. America was in the midst of its longest streak of peace and prosperity. September 11, 2001 was six years away, and the internet didn't seem like much more than a passing fad.

Twenty-four years ago, 18 million U.S. homes had modem-equipped computers, 7 million more than the year before. Most logged in through America Online where they got their email or communicated with random strangers in chat rooms.

According to a Pew Research study that year, only 32% of those who go online say they would miss it "a lot" if no longer available.

Imagine what those poll numbers would look like if the question was asked today.

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"Few see online activities as essential to them, and no single online feature, with the exception of E-Mail, is used with any regularity," the Pew article said. "Consumers have yet to begin purchasing goods and services online, and there is little indication that online news features are changing traditional news consumption patterns."

"Late Night" host David Letterman had Microsoft founder and, at that time the richest man in the world, on his show for an interview in '95 to discuss the "the big new thing."

During the interview Letterman chided Gates about the usefulness of the new technology, comparing it to radio and tape recorders.

Gates seems excited by the internet because it will soon allow people to listen to a baseball game on their computer. To which Letterman smugly replies, "Does radio ring a bell?" to laughter from the crowd.

But Gates presses Letterman saying that the new technology allows you to listen to the game "whenever you want," to which Letterman responds, "Do tape recorders ring a bell?"

Gates then tells Letterman he can keep up with the latest in his favorite hobbies such as cigar smoking or race cars through the internet. Letterman shuts him down saying that he reads about his interests in magazines.

RELATED: Bill Gates has five books he thinks you should read this summer.

The discussion ends with the two laughing over meeting like-minded people in "troubled loner chat room on the internet."

The clip brings to mind a 1994 segment on "The Today Show" where host Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric have a similar discussion.

"What is internet anyway?" an exasperated Gumball asks. "What do you write to it like mail?"

"It's a computer billboard but it's nationwide and it's several universities all joined together and it's getting bigger and bigger all the time," a producer explains from off-stage.

via The Howard Stern Show / YouTube

Former Secretary of State, first lady, and winner of the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton, sat own for an epic, two-and-a--half hour interview with Howard Stern on his SiriusXM show Wednesday.

She was there to promote "The Book of Gutsy Women," a book about heroic women co-written with her daughter, Chelsea Clinton.

In the far-reaching conversation, Clinton and the self-proclaimed "King of All Media" and, without a doubt, the best interviewer in America discussed everything from Donald Trump's inauguration to her sexuality.

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The healthcare systems in the United States and the United Kingdom couldn't be more different.

The UK's National Health Service is the largest government-run healthcare system in the world and the US's is largest private sector system.

Almost all essential health services in the UK are free, whereas in America cost can vary wildly based on insurance, co pays and what the hospitals and physicians choose to charge.

A medical bill in the US

One of the largest differences is cost. The average person in the UK spends £2,989 ($3915) per year on healthcare (most of which is collected through taxes), whereas the average American spends around $10,739 a year.

So Americans should obviously be getting better care, right? Well, the average life expectancy in the UK is higher and infant mortality rate is lower than that in the US.

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Plus, in the U.S., only 84% of people are covered by private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. Sixteen percent of the population are forced to pay out of pocket.

In the UK, everyone is covered unless they are visiting the country or an undocumented resident.

Prescription drugs can cost Americans an arm and a leg, but in the UK, prescriptions or either free or capped at £8.60 ($11.27).

via Wikimedia Commons

The one drawback to the NHS system is responsiveness. In the UK people tend to wait longer for inessential surgeries, doctor's appointments, and in emergency rooms. Whereas, the US is ranked as the most responsive country in the world.

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The New York Times printed a fair evaluation of the UK's system:

The service is known for its simplicity: It is free at the point of use to anyone who needs it. Paperwork is minimal, and most patients never see a bill. … No one needs to delay medical treatment until he or she can afford it, and virtually everyone is covered. …

According to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United States spent 17.2 percent of its economic output on health care in 2016, compared with 9.7 percent in Britain. Yet Britain has a higher life expectancy at birth and lower infant mortality.

Citizens in each country have an interesting perspective on each other's healthcare systems. UK citizens think it's inhumane for Americans have to pay through the nose when they're sick or injured. While Americans are skeptical of socialist medicine.

A reporter from Politics Joe hit the streets of London and asked everyday people what they think Americans pay for healthcare and they were completely shocked.