Mary Callahan, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
It’s hard to fathom what 1.5 million pounds of trash might look like — and more troubling still to see that much litter wash downstream in the Russian River to the Pacific Ocean.
Standing in the way to make sure that doesn’t happen has been Chris Brokate, who in 2015 decided one day he no longer could watch as the watershed was transformed into a dumping ground, with litter and debris swept out to sea amid winter rains.
Since that pivotal day, Brokate, founder of the Clean River Alliance, has spearheaded the removal of about 750 tons of garbage and abandoned wreckage from the Russian River watershed through trash collection events and special projects.
It’s a worthy legacy to consider — one acknowledged by numerous awards and accolades — as Brokate, 56, outgoing Clean Team program director for the Russian Riverkeeper, prepares to leave Sonoma County and build a new semiretired life in Ecuador.
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/russian-river-guardian-chris-brokate-marks-end-of-watch-in-sonoma-county/
Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Chris Brokate did not intend to spark a revolution in watershed management when he hauled a load of trash from the Russian River in his weathered Chevy pick-up in 2014.
The Forestville man simply spotted a need after winter storms flushed debris from the river’s mouth onto the beach near the coastal community of Jenner.
“All of a sudden, we had all this stuff down here and I thought, ‘Who’s going to clean this up? Nobody was going to do it,’” Brokate said.
Four years and roughly a half-million pounds of trash later, Brokate’s Clean River Alliance is hailed as a model for improving watershed health. Brokate, 54, has earned numerous environmental awards for his work, while across California, communities rush to implement similar trash-hauling programs to combat blight and pollution.
The herculean task has come at a personal cost to Brokate, whose body and truck have taken a pounding from the work. As some measure of relief, a Sonoma County grant has allowed him the freedom to step away from his janitorial business and devote himself full time to the clean-up project, while friends have organized a fundraising drive to upgrade his wheels.
“The grassroots movement that Chris Brokate has led to clean up the lower Russian River is historic and without precedent,” said Sonoma County Supervisor Lynda Hopkins, whose district includes that stretch of the river. “We are talking tens of thousands of pounds of trash removed from our watershed.”
Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/lifestyle/8947582-181/how-one-mans-quest-for
Laura Parker, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE
If plastic had been invented when the Pilgrims sailed from Plymouth, England, to North America—and the Mayflower had been stocked with bottled water and plastic-wrapped snacks—their plastic trash would likely still be around, four centuries later.
If the Pilgrims had been like many people today and simply tossed their empty bottles and wrappers over the side, Atlantic waves and sunlight would have worn all that plastic into tiny bits. And those bits might still be floating around the world’s oceans today, sponging up toxins to add to the ones already in them, waiting to be eaten by some hapless fish or oyster, and ultimately perhaps by one of us.
We should give thanks that the Pilgrims didn’t have plastic, I thought recently as I rode a train to Plymouth along England’s south coast. I was on my way to see a man who would help me make sense of the whole mess we’ve made with plastic, especially in the ocean.
Because plastic wasn’t invented until the late 19th century, and production really only took off around 1950, we have a mere 9.2 billion tons of the stuff to deal with. Of that, more than 6.9 billion tons have become waste. And of that waste, a staggering 6.3 billion tons never made it to a recycling bin—a figure that stunned the scientists who crunched the numbers in 2017.
Read more at https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2018/06/plastic-planet-waste-pollution-trash-crisis/