Student Research

Hawaii’s Sea of Trash

A capstone project submitted to the faculty of the California Maritime Academy in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Global Studies and Maritime Affairs.

All over the world, we see a plastic problem in the ocean, and efforts are being made to solve the issue. Some places in the world can be more affected by the problem than others. This is true in Hawaii, as it is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean. The people of Hawaii use these waters for food, transportation, trade, and the waters are simply a part of their traditions. Plastics, Fishing Nets, and chemicals are all types of manmade products that are entering the oceans causing disruption. Given the newly recognized markers of the Anthropocene in the ocean, such marine plastic debris, how are the people of Hawaii impacted by these changes to their highly oceanic environ-ment? Looking at the Anthropocene epoch as a starting point in analyzing the plastic issue, we must think about how everyday human activity and human technology affects human life and the lives of every other living organism on our earth today. The Anthropocene is an era is a newly declared era that has been defined as the era of human impact. Natural activity like the ocean currents and winds do not stop to wait for geological changes to become fixed and pass over. As a new era begins, and negative human impact marks the age of the Anthropocene, Hawaii’s beaches like Kamilo are affected by the epoch. A beach that once provided life and discovery to the Hawaiian people is now a collector of all things non-biodegradable. As innovations like plastic have caused issues for Hawaii and its people, new innovations for getting rid of plastic might also help the Hawaiian people. The actions that are currently being taken to help fix Hawaii’s plastic problem is still not enough for the bigger issues that will soon come for the people of Hawaii.