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Midway: A Message from the Gyre

The trailer for Midway: A Message from the Gyre has been out for a few years now, but I only came across it last week. Even though I was familiar with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and knew about the plight of the albatross on this remote atoll, I was unprepared for Chris Jordan’s unflinching look at death and dying, of chicks bloated with plastics fighting for each breath, at beak and feather and sinew giving way to a grotesque nest of bottle caps and butane lighters, still discernable. It’s hard to watch:

Midway is steeped in heartbreak and grief, as with so many environmental tales of our time. It forces us to face the reality of the situation, our complicity in this unfolding tragedy. Yet Jordan’s steadfast focus does not seem to linger on guilt, but rather revolves around awe. Pitching the film as “a love story for our time from the heart of the Pacific”, he also captures these birds in the full flight of life, wayfarers who spend most of their lives soaring ethereally yet stay tethered to earth and sea to feed, to nest, to die. In watching these creatures in life and death, I’m reminded of our shared parallels, two species seemingly detached from the earth but in reality remain still utterly dependent upon it. The lives and plights of human and albatross seem not so different, as are potentially our fates.

I hope you have the chance and courage to watch, as the narrator states, “this journey through the eye of beauty, across an ocean of grief, and beyond.” Until next time.

Other Videos from the Midway Project

Featured image by Chris Jordan.

10 Comments

  1. I have seen this and was appalled by what we have done. It speaks to the need to recycle, to search for ways in which to be ever vigilant in our care of our precious earth and all inhabitants.

  2. That was the saddest thing I’ve ever seen. It makes me want to beat people for leaving trash everywhere. Zero respect. Poor these little birds. 😦

  3. So sad, I saw this before but it hits me each time. We over consume and don’t take care of where the garbage ends up 😕

  4. I think about these birds every time I find a plastic lighter at the Falls of the Ohio. I sometimes wonder about these birds’ ability to differentiate between this hard plastic and their normal food items. A sad, cautionary tale for the plastic age.

    • I imagine plastic is still so novel in terms of evolutionary time that most birds haven’t properly adapted to distinguish it from food. Plus the sheer variety of shapes and colours out there is mind-boggling, it would be tough even for us.

  5. I have seen Chris Jordan’s photography in museum exhibits but didn’t know there was a documentary as well. That trailer was so moving, capturing both the suffering and sadness of the birds as well as their soaring majesty, as you say. I believe this is a necessary combination for inspiring people to feel and care – a means of helping them understand all that will be lost if we continue on this destructive path.

    • Yes, there is a breadth and majesty in the video that makes it interesting for me as well. What is beauty and what it means to lose it are two separate spheres that are addressed here. Both are equally important to affect action, or at least so that we can face that loss in an open and honest way.

  6. Shocking photo. We’re getting slightly better here in North America for not throwing plastic into the river / ocean.

    • I work in the waste reduction education field, and while there is still so much to do, it is encouraging to see that modern solid waste management systems, at least in my neck of the woods, are containing materials instead of spreading it all around the world.

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