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Friday, August 13, 2010

Tracking Trash, written by Loree Griffin Burns. Houghton, T Allen, 2007. $10.99 ages 10 and up

"Tracking toys and sneakers gives us a chance to see what the ocean does with our trash," Curt says. "We can see the movement of trash by the great ocean currents and we can see the disintegration of the trash over time...and we can learn from it."

For Curt Ebbesmeyer a newspaper story about washed-up sneakers along the west coast of North America changed his focus for studying the ocean currents. As he talked with beachcombers up and down the coast he found that sneakers had washed ashore from California north to the Queen Charlotte Islands. After much research and many months of work, he was contacted by the Nike company who had lost five containers of sneakers off a cargo ship...five of a total of twenty-one lost in a vicious storm. He now thinks that between two and ten thousand of these containers fall from ships each year. Where do they go? What happens to what they hold? Ah, just what a scientist needs to start looking for answers.

Here's an interesting fact that you might not have discovered (unless you read this informative and thoughtful book): "there are nearly 1,000 nautical miles of floating plastic trash stuck in a swirling vortex of ocean currents between California and Hawaii. That's twice the size Texas and 3 million tons of plastic refuse that scientists refer to as "The Garbage Patch." So much for where some of our trash goes. I wonder how much is plastic water bottles?

Because Ebbesmeyer's interest lies in ocean currents, he became part of a discussion concerning the pollution of the oceans and the threats that are posed for marine life. Many scientists are working to clean up the dangers that plague our waters and Loree Burns does a credible job of introducing them and the work they do. She does so in such a clear and engaging manner that I forgot I was reading nonfiction. It is like a story told between friends and is bound to garner interest for those intermediate and middle grade students who are developing concern for the planet and wanting to do something about it. It should be so for every one of us! The excellent photos and detailed maps and charts give readers an up close and personal look at the scientists and their findings, the beachcombers and their treasure and the peril that is the 'garbage patch'.

It is disgusting to see what people dump in our waterways, and heartbreaking to see photos of dead birds and animals who have been caught in ghost nets, or who have ingested the junk that is dumped.

Curt is no longer working as an oceanographic consultant; but he continues to track trash, talk to beachcombers and tell school children about the wonders of the oceans that he loves. By studying such a book, we come to understand more about them, and finally find ways to protect their future.

You know I love this spectacular series from Houghton...I will keep telling you about the Scientists in the Field books as long as they keep publishing them. Well done!

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