Have you ever seen one? They are absolutely amazing! Giant, gentle, majestic white sea-birds with huge angel wings. These gorgeous creatures are considered a good omen to sailors and have been written about in poems for centuries. They are regarded as one of the most romantic animals with a mating ritual that would put any human proposal to shame. They take up to ten years or more to find the perfect mate and then they mate for life — which sometimes means up until the age of sixty!
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary:
Albatross — 1. (n) any of a family (Diomedeidae) of large web-footed seabirds that have long slender wings, are excellent gliders, and include the largest seabirds.
Albatross have the largest wingspan of any bird, reaching up to eleven and a half feet. Let me repeat myself *ahem* eleven and a half feet! Can you imagine the awesome hugs they must give? Between their sheer power and grace, charcoal tipped wings, childlike curiosity and perfectly painted on eye masks I have to say that I have rarely seen anything as beautiful as an albatross — or as devastating as what is happening to them.
According to the Merriam- Webster dictionary:
Albatross: (second definition) (n) :something that causes persistent deep concern or anxiety.
Atrocity — (n) The quality or state of being atrocious.
Have you ever had a burden to bear? Has anything ever weighed so heavily upon you that you felt like you couldn’t move? No matter what it was I guarantee you it is nothing compared to the burden the albatross chicks, and the entire albatross species, are carrying.
There’s a place in the middle of the North pacific — and when I say middle, I mean middle of nowhere — called Midway Island. Midway is an unorganized, unincorporated territory of the United States and it is home to the second largest population of albatross in the world. Albatross mate once every two years. Every November couples across the island lay one single egg and patiently incubate the egg for approximately eighty days. When the egg finally hatches the real work begins and for the next seven to eight months mom and dad will take turns flying hundreds of miles over open water to find food for their chick. This job is taken very seriously by both parents because if one parent dies and doesn’t make it home, the chick dies. How’s that for couples counselling?
But there is something happening on Midway that is simply impossible to ignore. Recently, tens of thousands of chicks have been dying every year and the beaches are littered with carcasses containing the blaring evidence of what is killing them. Plastic. As the dead chicks decompose they leave piles of plastic where their stomachs used to be. The massive amounts of plastic that we are dumping into our oceans are being inadvertently fed to albatross chicks by their parents and ultimately killing them. The albatross parents who fly way out over the ocean to find food for their chicks are accidentally picking up plastic along with the food and filling their little ones bellies with everything from pocket lighters to pill containers. Can you imagine if you fed your children something that ended up killing them? Can you imagine us, as humans, dumping so much garbage into our oceans that 2800 miles off the coast of San Francisco, in the middle of the ocean, we are killing off an entire species?
An excerpt from The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge written in 1798; “At length did cross an Albatross, through the fog it came. As if it had been a Christian soul, we hail’d it in God’s name.”
You may be sitting there saying this phenomenon is happening so far away so what does it matter? Why should we care? The best response I have to that question is something that I heard photographer Chris Jordan say at a presentation he was giving about the albatross on Midway — “the albatross are like the canary in the coal mine”. They are a sign that the air we are breathing, the water we are drinking, the planet we are living on is dying — and we are killing it.” Chris’ movie MIDWAY is something everyone should see. It’s beautiful, touching and absolutely devastating.
This burden is not just about the loss of a beautiful species (that is now endangered), this is about US. It’s about our greed, our mass consumption and our complete disregard for the gifts that we have been given. I too have been, and continue to be, guilty of this devastating habit of disregard but I am becoming more aware every day and slowly but surely, one step at a time, I am making different choices. I am not preaching, I am trying. Trying to make a smaller mark on this earth in a really big way.
I am hoping, dreaming and lovingly waiting for the day that we see more of the HU(God) in MAN and we become whole again — HUMAN. Until then, love always… and especially in those bleeding moments when you wish that your heart were made of plastic so that you didn’t have to feel the burden of your world. Love, love, love… in the tiny beating heart of an Albatross chick.
Midway the film — http://midwayfilm.com/
Originally published at medium.com