In the middle of the ocean, all alone save for visiting sea birds and a giant squid, wanders the Great Pacific Garbage Patch -- the sad monster protagonist of the charming yet profound graphic novel, I'm Not a Plastic Bag (Archaia), by Rachel Hope Allison.
The story, told without words except for those slipped contextually into the illustrations, follows the adventures of several pieces of trash as they travel from source to sea. They tangle into one another and join forces as they morph into the giant living polymeric blob, alienated and searching for its place in the solemn beauty of nature.
Allison told TreeHugger, "All this forgotten stuff, out in the remotest ocean, so far away from the people who created it. It gave me this sense of deep loneliness and geeky wonder by turns, and that's what eventually led me to bring it to life as my main character."
To emphasize the real-life environmental issues of the disaster that is the Garbage Patch, the book also includes eight pages of educational material on topics such as threatened wildlife and efforts readers can make to decrease their contribution to the problem.
Like a lot of people, when I heard about the pacific garbage patch I was just kind of stunned. The idea of something so big and dangerous out in the ocean was crazy and fascinating and scary. It stuck with me. And it wasn't just geeking out on the science of the thing that pulled me in (though learning more about that is fascinating) -- it also had this weird emotional pull.
The graphic novel is published in association with JeffCorwinConnect Inc., a transmedia company co-founded by biologist and philanthropist Jeff Corwin, the author, lecturer, and Emmy Award-winning star of The Jeff Corwin Experience.
“Despite the fact that U.S. citizens take up only 5% of the world population, we generate 40% of our planet’s trash!” wrote Corwin in the Foreword to the book. “The good news is that each one of us, no matter where you are from, or how old you are, has the power and the responsibility to keep our Earth clean.
Allison notes that the premise and plot of the story may be a strange way to approach the problem, but:
In the end, I feel like maybe that whimsy and imagination is appropriate in some way. Because the more I learn about the patch and all the inspiring ways that people are trying to research and tackle it -- the more I'm convinced that it's imagination and creativity, not guilt and fear, that will help us overcome the environmental threats we face now.
The book will also debut Archaia’s fabulous new printing initiative in conjunction with Global PSD. Through the efforts of American Forests and the Global ReLeaf Program, for each tree that is cut down for the printing of I’m Not a Plastic Bag, two trees will be planted.
The book is available from Amazon.