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Teaching how ocean plastic is harming ocean animals and empowering children, teachers, families, and others to take action to help.
Teaching how ocean plastic is harming ocean animals and empowering children, teachers, families, and others to take action to help.
50 backers pledged CA$ 10,505 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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CA$ 10,505

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Through your support a book will be published about the devastating impacts that plastic debris in our oceans is having on marine life, to raise awareness in youth, teachers, and families, and to inspire positive actions to reduce the amount of plastic that is entering our oceans.  This book is an endeavour to help with what is now one of the biggest problems facing our planet.

This book has received the following endorsements:  

 "As a life-long artist and naturalist, it is safe for me to say that this book about a journey into seas of plastic is an excellent work. The illustrations are clear and lively, and the story is forceful and focused. Moreover, the message is vitally important as a cautionary tale for all ages from careless kids to thoughtless industrialists ... prevention is better than cleanup.” Robert Bateman, Canadian naturalist and artist  

"This book is a must read for today’s action-minded students. By showing the dark side of plastic pollution in the oceans, and then identifying solutions that we can all adopt, it provides a practical and positive story that empowers us to protect ocean life.” Dr. Peter Ross, Director of the Vancouver Aquarium's Ocean Pollution Research Program  

“Ocean Champions takes a deep dive into the sources of marine plastic pollution, the causes and tragic effects. It also encourages students to actively engage in solutions and inspire their peers to take action to stop the global health crisis of plastic pollution.”  The 5 Gyres Institute  

“I heartily endorse this important book!” Captain Charles Moore, Founder and Research Director of Algalita Marine Research and Education; discovered the North Pacific Trash vortex in 1997  

(The 5 Gyres Institute and Algalita Marine Research and Education are two of the leading organizations providing marine research and education about plastic in our oceans.)  

"The Oceans Champions story is a valuable learning tool for elementary school students as it teaches them about their relationship with the oceans as part of their natural environment. Reading and discussing the story contributes to the development of social responsibility, communication, and critical thinking. Related individual or group actions further enable advancement of these skills." Janet Hoag, Coordinator K-5, SD 64 Gulf Islands, Salt Spring Island, BC, Canada

Why this story?  

Every year 8 million tons of plastic is entering the oceans from the land – that’s the equivalent of 16 grocery bags filled with plastic going into the ocean along every meter of coastline in the world (or 5 grocery bags per foot of coastline) annually. And more is going into the oceans from ocean activities, such as fishing. Many marine animals end up entangled in this plastic debris, or mistake it for food and ingest it. This plastic debris is hurting, poisoning, and killing marine animals. 

Sea otter pup entanged in plastic bag. Photo: Terry McCormac
Sea otter pup entanged in plastic bag. Photo: Terry McCormac

And it's poisoning us as well – a recent study found that seafood eaters ingest up to 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic every year with dozens of particles becoming embedded in tissues.

“Ocean plastic comes in every size-class and mimics the food for every single trophic level . . . Every size of organism, every creature in the food web in the ocean, from the tiniest plankton to the largest whales, is consuming plastic.” Captain Charles Moore. For example: 90% of all seabirds and 50-80% of sea turtles have ingested plastic.

Albaross carcass full of plastic debris. Photo: Dan Clark, USFWS, Pacific Region
Albaross carcass full of plastic debris. Photo: Dan Clark, USFWS, Pacific Region

Plastic is usually made from oil and different chemicals are added to make it into the many different plastic items that we use. When plastic is in the ocean, the chemicals that were put into it start to come off and go into the surrounding sea water. Many of them are toxic. And, plastics also absorb chemicals and pollutants up to one million times their concentration in the surrounding sea water, making them even more toxic.

Plastic does not biodegrade.  Instead, it photodegrades with exposure to sunlight, and breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, all of which are still plastic polymers.  No matter how small the pieces, they are still plastic. The more plastic we produce, use, and discard, the more we have to live with and the more that ends up in the oceans.

Plastic in the oceans is now one of the biggest issues facing our planet. . Worldwide, only 5% of plastic waste is recycled and once it is in the world, it's going to stay in the world. Only a very small percentage of people have taken actions that are making a difference to the amount going into our oceans. Humans need to recycle much more and greatly reduce their use of plastic, both for the sake of marine life and also for their own health.

The Story - ‘Ocean Champions – A Journey into Seas of Plastic’:

The story is about two children, Kai and Morgan, who are on a beach side holiday with their parents.  They befriend Botley, an animated plastic bottle who can talk and who teaches them a lot about plastic in the oceans. The three of them come across two dolphins, Dilan and Dash, one of whom is entangled in a large piece of fishing net.  Kai contacts an animal rescue centre to help the entangled dolphin.

"The children ran closer and saw that one dolphin had a large piece of fishing net caught on its beak and dorsal fin.  The other dolphin said, “I’m Dilan and this is my friend Dash.  Because of the fishing net, Dash can’t catch fish, so she is very hungry. We need to get the net off of her; otherwise she will starve to death!” "

Thus the children and Botley meet the rescuers and are introduced to the super submersible Spirit.  They are invited aboard Spirit to go on a journey to learn more about plastic in the oceans and to witness more cases of plastic entanglement.

They also travel to Midway Atoll in the Hawaiian Archipelego to see the Laysan Albatross there and the tragedy of plastic ingestion. 

 And they journey into the North Pacific Gyre and see the density of plastic that has accumulated there. 

As they travel from place to place, they learn about the importance of our oceans, what happens to plastic in the oceans, and how all the plastic that is created stays in the environment virtually forever.

The water cycle: EVAPORATION, CONDENSATION, PRECIPITATION
The water cycle: EVAPORATION, CONDENSATION, PRECIPITATION

Just before their adventure comes to an end, they are greeted by Dilan and Dash who bring along many of their friends – other dolphins, whales, turtles, fish, and seabirds.

The dolphins tell the children how hard it is to survive because of all the plastic debris that is now in their ocean home.  And they ask the children to help – to be become champions for the oceans. Once their ocean journey is over, Botley asks to be placed in a recycle bin, explaining, “I was not made to be reused as a bottle.  By getting recycled I will get ground up and used to make something else.”

Kai and Morgan return home and raise awareness about plastic in the oceans in their school and community.  They form a student group at their school, called ‘SCOOP’ – Student Champions for Our Oceans Protection’. They and the group inspire and initiate several positive actions at their school and, by working with members of their community, in their community, to help reduce the use of plastic and thus, the amount going into our oceans.  In doing so, they become true ocean champions.

The book includes an addendum, which contains more information about plastic and our oceans, as well as ways that each of us can reduce our use of plastic and examples of student projects.  The latter have been compiled in consultation with several organizations and individuals.  Teachers have expressed that the addendum material will be very helpful to them in pursuing this subject further in the classroom.  I will also be providing further information, suggestions, and success stories on the website that I will be setting up for the book. (www.seasofplastic.com).

About the process:

In the process of developing the story, I received professional input from several people:

Janet Hoag, the primary school coordinator on Salt Spring Island, B.C., where I live, set up classroom readings with students from Kindergarten to Grade 4, and provided extensive support and advice in many other ways.

Kate Le Soeuf and the rest of the education staff at the Vancouver Aquarium, and Katie Allen and Charles Moore at Algalita Marine Research Foundation all provided valuable feedback and advise.

Max Liboiron, an assistant professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland provided a social sciences perspective towards tackling plastic in the oceans.

Many other teachers and individuals also contributed their feedback.

Why self-publish?

I decided to self-publish this book so as to maintain rights to the story and illustrations so that I can have the book not only also published in Spanish (and possibly other languages), but to provide an audio version of the story in Spanish online, for children and schools in Latin American countries that can’t afford to buy books.  This way they will be able to access the story at zero cost. 

I am currently working with the Letras para Volar (Letters will fly) program in Mexico. It was started in November 2010, in collaboration with the University of Guadalajara and Fielding Graduate University, seeking to raise reading rates (which appear to be amazingly low) in Mexico.  From their website, the program is to:  "Promote reading in Mexico, . . .  to form citizens with critical thinking, to help make a more equitable country, to combat various problems such as poverty, inequality and environmental damage. . .  The selection of readings that make up this program [are about, amongst other things], the intimate relationship with animals, plants and other elements of nature." I am donating the text of the story and the illustrations, and the translation into Spanish to the Letras para Volar program to utilize for this most worthwhile project.  The books they publish are distributed free of charge.

I am also working with a good friend in Bali and who has contacts with education personal there. They have expressed interest in translating the book into Indonesian and publishing it there, in which case I will again be donating the text and illustrations.  

How can you help?

I have donated thousands of hours of my own time into creating both this book and other marine educational material.  The book is an environmental project to help reduce plastic in our oceans and was never intended as a money making undertaking.  However, costs have ended up much higher than I expected, and sales of the book will only cover a small portion, so I have set up this campaign to reach out to others to help with production costs.    

Please consider supporting the OCEAN CHAMPIONS book project in any way that you can.  Make a pledge today! Personally invite friends in your networks do the same and pass this link on!

My goal is to make this story available to as many children in the world as possible.  

My dream: Going way beyond the cost of producing this book, if I could ever raise sufficient funding and interest, is to create an animated version of the story in Spanish, English, and possibly other languages, which would likely have more impact and reach a wider viewing audience than an audio book.

Current status of the book:

The text and illustrations are now complete and have been submitted for layout with the professional author services company that I have hired, Vivalogue, which will also be doing professional editing and producing a print-ready file for printing.  So the book is nearing its final stages.   

Producing 1000 offset copies of the book will cost approximately $10,500.  

(Illustrations: $6,000; Professional editing, print management, e-book, etc: $1,000; Printing price for 1000 copies, quoted in October, 2016: $3,500)

Further expenses, totaling approximately $3,500, will be incurred for: reward books and related mailing costs; Kiskstarter fees; professional translation into Spanish; some illustration changes and additional print management costs for the Spanish version; transportation costs to give readings in schools and in other venues; and technical assistance. (I do most of my own website development, but will likely need help with some trickier aspects and definitely with the audio book version.) 

However, if I can cover the basic expenses of producing the book through Kickstarter, I will be in a position to move ahead with this book.

Why Kickstarter?

It allows me to reach out to a wide audience to both let people know about this book, and to reach people that will hopefully help me to make this project a success.

Since this is such an important issue, which affects not only life in our oceans, but all of us as well, the more books I can get out there the better. Therefore I am not creating incentives like T-shirts, bags, etc.  Instead I am offering an increasing number of books in line with the amount donated, and a credit in the book for very generous supporters.

Additional information:

Learn more our oceans and the impacts of plastic debris, other pollution, overfishing, and climate change on my marine education website: https://nereida.org/
(All of my work on this site has been donated and I have been covering ongoing translation and technical assistance costs on my own.Thankfully much of the initial translation was generously donated.)

View Chris Jordan's short, but amazing video, Message from the Gyre, showing what is happening to the albatross on Midway atoll - "a powerful visual journey into the heart of an astonishingly symbolic environmental tragedy": https://vimeo.com/25563376

To  see a recent article on the work that Dr. Peter Ross, director of ocean pollution research at the Vancouver Aquarium, is doing go to: B.C. researchers race to find the source of microplastics choking the world's oceans - http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/bc-microplastics-research-1.4017502


Risks and challenges

With your support, the book should be released mid to late April, barring any unforeseen holdups. As soon as the book is a reality, I will be working hard to get your rewards out as quickly as possible! Feel free to send an email anytime to see how things are going. I will also be working hard on getting the book and its message out to as many young children and adults as I can.

The biggest challenge, of course, is influencing change so as to significantly reduce the amount of plastic going into our oceans.

By backing this project, you are not only supporting this book, you are also contributing to the goal of cleaner, healthier oceans for life in, or dependent on, our oceans, including us, our children, and future generations.

There are many projects out there designed to retrieve surface plastic in the oceans. But in many cases, these procedures may also impact or imbalance ocean life in the areas they are being applied, through bycatch of marine organisms. As well, the majority of plastic in the oceans is below the surface, suspended in the water column, or on the ocean bottom. The best approach to this environmental catastrophe is to greatly reduce our use of plastic and improve solid waste management practices throughout the world

This campaign is set to Canadian Dollars (CAD). For rewards outside of Canada, additional mailing costs will be applied to your pledge.

Even if you can't contribute, you can help make this project successful by telling your family, friends and neighbours about this book.

Feel free to call or write me with any questions at:
1-250-537-8520
michelle.mech@gmail.com

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    Pledge CA$ 10 or more About $8

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    Receive a thank you e-mail and much appreciation

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    Receive a thank you and an ebook version of Ocean Champions.

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    Have your name listed as a contributor on the 'Seas of Plastic' website I will be setting up for the book.
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    Receive two signed copies of Ocean Champions and an ebook version to share plus two signed copies sent to a school or library of your choice, in your name.
    Have your name listed as a contributor on the 'Seas of Plastic' website I will be setting up for the book.
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    Receive three signed copies of Ocean Champions and an ebook version to share plus four signed copies sent to up to two schools or libraries of your choice, in your name.
    Have your name listed as a major contributor on the 'Seas of Plastic' website I will be setting up for the book.
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    HAVE YOUR NAME LISTED AS A MAJOR CONTRIBUTOR IN THE BOOK ITSELF and also on the 'Seas of Plastic' website I will be setting up for the book..
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Funding period

- (30 days)