Remember that time I littered in Antarctica?

March 7, 2013

A few nights ago I attended a fundraiser for UCLA’s Institute of Environment and Sustainability, a dept of the school devoted to researching and resolving the climate crisis. Al Gore and Lyn Lear were awarded for their excellence in the field but it was really us, the audience, who were rewarded with their impassioned speeches.

 

I was there with my band to perform a few songs, and to connect us all by our hearts. The very hilarious Sarah Silverman performed her sexy comedy, connecting us all by our commonalities, with poop jokes.

 

At Al’s table, front and center, sat Barbara Streisand, an environmentalist since the 80’s, and one of the greatest singers to grace the modern stage. My heart raced during my opening song, excited to be playing for a star-studded crowd, and for the timely issue of climate change that affects all of humanity.

 

But I wasn’t nervous because Streisand was watching. I’d met her two years ago when I performed at an event for The Natural Resources Defense Council, (The Very Awesome NRDC.) That day she and I found ourselves in the same hallway moments before I went on and she turned to me and asked if I still got nervous before I performed. I do now, I said.

 

Last night, I decided I would get clear with Al Gore in front of the audience of UCLA professors about an incident that occurred on my expedition to Antarctica last year with the Vice President. An incident that had a profound impact on me, shifting my perspective on the issue of climate change. For those curious as to what the expedition was about, think of it as An Inconvenient Truth, The Ride!

 

 

Our vessel sat motionless in a quiet harbor near Palmer Station on the Antarctic Peninsula. I was on the top deck of the ship near the bow admiring an enormous glacier with my camera. Through my lens the landscape looked like a movie set. There was nothing close enough to the glacier to reveal it’s scale on camera and no other colors than the thousand hues of blue and white besides the black rock the glacier was clinging to.

 

In my patient position I got to witness a large chunk of the glacier break off and fall languidly into the sea, as if in slow motion, falling straight down like a controlled detonation of a building, disappearing into a splash for a few seconds before it bobbled up and began it’s new life as an ice burg. I was witnessing warm weather take it’s toll on the environment.

 

I stood there drop-jawed, completely humbled by nature, as a gust of wind came racing through the harbor and hit the ship, whirling my hat and jacket in all directions, lifting me up a little, enough that I had to take a few steps to regain my balance. It was a common occurrence on deck. But in that particular whirling around, a wrapper from a snack I’d enjoyed earlier floated up and out of my pocket and into the air! Hands out reaching, mouth agape, breath held, I froze in fear watching this bright green wrapper flutter off like the feather in Forest Gump until it rested gently on the surface of the glassy, pristine, non-human, deep blue water.

 

My heart sank. And at that moment I wished I could too.

 

 

I’m the guy who picks up trash when he goes for a walk. I don’t care if somebody has peed in a cup and it if has a condom hanging out of it, I’m going to put it in the trash. But now here I am in Antarctica on a mission to preserve and protect our natural resources, and I’m the litter bug.

 

There was my trash staring back at me and I immediately started thinking about how I was going to fix it. SNACK OVERBOARD! Someone throw a life preserver! Of all the downloads I received on the voyage; the inconvenient truth about climate change, nothing was more obvious to me than this; this is what all the fuss is about: Man is having an impact on his environment. This is my fault. This was my trash.

 

The current was moving too quickly for me to run to a lower deck and retrieve it, besides I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. It stood out in a way that was so wrong, it was almost beautiful. It just didn’t fit in.

 

It was green and yellow with words on it. Nothing else in the Antarctic is green or yellow and there are no words or advertisements strung or spray painted anywhere. My piece of trash spoke volumes. You couldn’t miss it.

 

Fortunately, the wrapper drifted into a line of zodiacs returning to the ship and someone snatched it up. Since it would be coming back to the boat, I assumed we would receive an announcement from the Vice President or the ship’s crew, but it never came.

 

The incident said enough. The things we buy, use and throw away are our responsibility. Someday in a not too distant future, we’ll realize it isn’t money that keeps us alive, but our desperate need of clean water, fresh food, and clean air.

 

I apologized to Al and the ClimateReality team who were at the event, and thanked them for the invitation to see and experience our planet in a way that ultimately changed me, inspiring me to start a tree planting initiative and planting thousands of trees last year in effort offset the emissions of touring. Then I segued into a song about how it’s never too late to turn anything around, and played 93 million miles, as Barbara Streisand filmed us on her iPhone.

 

I follow @AlGore and @ClimateReality on twitter because they’re both up to date on science and legislature. It’s good to know what the natural world is up to, and what we humans are doing to save it, and what we humans are doing to save ourselves.

COMMENTS (36)
  • … and my heart sank reading this.

    While I’ve never been to Antarctica, I have experienced that same feeling (long ago) as I helplessly watched a (plastic) produce bag get sucked out of my reusable bags, out my car window and fly through the air as I drove down the highway. I just couldn’t get my windows up fast enough. I felt sick :( Once I got over the shock… I immediately decided that I was never going to feel like that again. I haven’t used produce bags since… and well, I’ve stopped using most plastics. Besides many many other reasons to stop using plastics… like the fact that nature is pretty fucking awesome– growing, evolving, reusing, recycling, you name it– and it doesn’t even know what to do with plastic. Even if I’m super careful, super responsible tucking it away, putting it in the trash… shit happens (eg. produce bag or snack wrapper). And that heart sinking feeling sucks. Plus, a landfill is still land that’s meant to have trees, grasses, bugs, animals… not our trash. (winding tangent… kind of) …. i hope you’ve figured out how to make that snack and have ditched the green and yellow wrappers. ;)

    life is full… so much love to my friend for reminding me to stop in here.

  • Avatar of Kateland
    Kateland said ...

    Someday in a not too distant future, we’ll realize it isn’t money that keeps us alive, but our desperate need of clean water, fresh food, and clean air. – this made me cry a bit, as that future my be my children’s.
    I told my 6 year old about the island of trash in the ocean and how it kills animals. etc, and is a product of our trash. He, of course wanted to know why this issue was not fixed! I told him i did not know and stated, it may be due to unknown variables. I attempted to explain how when we “fix” something we must take into account all the variables and whether the “fix” might end up as a problem in another area. My sweet son went on to give me idea after idea on how to deconstruct the island of trash. He then stated it was going to be his mission in life to fix the problem, right after he was done with the Olympics ;)
    He is growing up with knowledge I did not have – for whatever reason. They ask which trash can black, white or compost, and they pick up trash when we go for walks (including a condom – now he knows mom picks up the stuff he does not recognize!). I wish I could do more- and I will. The more they, and all children, understand and live what I have had to , and continue to, learn the longer it will take your above statement to become a reality.

  • Avatar of Peaceout
    Peaceout said ...

    Hakuna matada!
    I just want to apologize as there have been some miscommunications regarding a certain someone’s support of The Clean Ocean Project! That was cleared up a few weeks ago when I met with Tom, the vegan cool-cup man. :) Hoping you get to hear about the project regardless, as I think you might really appreciate their solution for the plastic problem.
    Take care, best wishes and thank you for every ounce of energy you have put out there for the goodness of others! It is appreciated!

  • Avatar of normason
    normason said ...

    Mud pie!

    Love

  • Avatar of judynguyen405
    judynguyen405 said ...

    You are amazing. That is all

  • I miss you over here Jason, hope you’re doing ok with you yoga sessions in bed… I love you to the moon and back .

  • Avatar of normason
    normason said ...

    Instagram:

    Coachella kitsch

  • Avatar of normason
    normason said ...

    Instagram:

    It looks like a rainbow vomited in that room!

    I hope an 8 year old girl lent you her room. Otherwise, I would have to start worrying about you, and I have enough to worry about!

    Love,

    Bewildered

  • Avatar of normason
    normason said ...

    Instagram:

    Man! That must have been one big-ass box of Cracker Jacks!

  • Avatar of normason
    normason said ...

    Re your post on the billions of hungry people in the world: Listen to the Radio Lab episode “The Bad Show,” the segment on Fritz Haber. If nothing else, it will make you think.

    http://www.radiolab.org/2012/jan/09/

    Love to boy and the world at large from me.

  • Avatar of kidest
    kidest said ...

    Here’s a video of your story and songs from the event: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HcnLH3swqNQ

    I could listen to your stories all day – you are pure adorable-ness.

  • Avatar of solorzanol
    solorzanol said ...

    Truly inspirational. Every time I feel like composting is way too much work for me to deal with, I think Jason Mraz and what would he do. Seriously thanks to your amazing initiative I’ve become a person with a passion. I’ve always wanted to do good by the world, but I never rooted my actions in the environment until recently. Now I realize how important all this stuff really is.

    But the funny thing is that this situation is kind of funny. The irony that you find in life is sometimes confusing, yet without it we would have much less curiosity and growth.

  • Avatar of didikini
    didikini said ...

    Dear Jason,

    Take 20 minutes to check that out! It’s totally awesome. It’s pure awesomeness in fact :) ))

    http://www.upworthy.com/some-strange-things-are-happening-to-astronauts-returning-to-earth?g=2

    stay safe and good luck on your tour!

  • Avatar of bella
    bella said ...

    I really like reading your journal. But the constant changing pictures in the background makes it a challenge to read. They are really nice pictures by the way. Thumbs up to whoever took them. Was it you? I’d love to use them as my desktop wallpaper. Anyway, I hope I don’t get dizzy reading your next post.

    |( ̄3 ̄)|

  • Avatar of normason
    normason said ...

    How could you take a bad picture of such a beautiful place?! But 1000 parrots?! I don’t understand! It makes me sad. :(

  • Avatar of 4meclara
    4meclara said ...

    Although I enjoyed this post when I read it, I simply couldn’t think of anything to comment on this topic. The place where I live is millions of miles away from what you describe here, with your delicious sense of humor. Whenever I think of recycling in my country, I immediately remember “Waste Land”, the documentary, and somehow I lose hope… However, although I live in a literally beautiful mess (of a country), where the postal services are not very trustworthy, today I have finally received the “Jason Mraz’s Beautiful Mess – Live on Earth” DVD I ordered a couple of weeks ago!!! For me, today is a good day and I feel like “I wanna celebrate the whole world”! And you are right: “courage is the triumph of the soul”; every action counts, no matter how small and insignificant it may seem to us. Thank you for your music and inspiration! Blessings!

  • Avatar of love_music_hk
    love_music_hk said ...

    Wish more people would care more about how their actions impact our environment, not just the here and now, but for generations to come.
    Here in a ‘world class city’ like Hong Kong, our government is doing the complete opposite to ungreen our environment as they move to replace many natural grass pitches to plastic artificial grass pitches in dense city centers. What were they thinking.

  • Avatar of gmhefner
    gmhefner said ...

    wow, how come there aren’t more replies to this post? interesting….thoughts anyone??

  • Avatar of bri.pitre
    bri.pitre said ...

    i thought it was funny that when i was reading this only human came on lol

  • Avatar of normason
    normason said ...

    As you eat too much food in the background:

    I’ll stop being lily-livered and admit that “Sleep All Day” is my favorite song.

    And seeing as you have responded recently to what people want you to do and not do with the hair on your head and other parts of your body; your political and other opinions; your songs and your singing, I will venture this opinion–which you should file where I hope you filed the rest of them: I hate medleys!

    Love

    Norma

  • Hello
    I loved this entry, reading it i almost felt like i was there when the wrapper incident… I got the point, we better do something before we realize we cant eat money. In the era of information the problem is not about our lack of knowledge in the matter, the problem is that we would not step out of our comfort zone and do something about it, and we transmit that to our children , We have to teach kid to fight for out house, to save ourselves.societies can change, we can do this one step at the time.
    Pardon my grammar. It’s always a pleasure to read your blog, i love you very much Jason Mraz, take care.

  • Avatar of AmyKidwell
    AmyKidwell said ...

    Just one of the many reasons you are a beautiful and inspirational human being. You really, truly care. All your talent is a bonus…..it’s what’s inside you that is so amazing. Thanks for sharing what and who you are….inside and out. Be Love

  • Avatar of shorekimmy
    shorekimmy said ...

    I woke up with “Frank D. Fixer” in my head today, and realized it’s my Dad’s birthday today, your Granddad reminds me of my Dad. Ah the flying wrapper panic, happy yours had a happy ending. I think I’ll clean out my car today, my boys tend to “throw away” candy wrappers in the car door pockets and now you have me cringing at the thought of something flying out. Hope everyone gets outside to enjoy the beauty of today.

  • Avatar of normason
    normason said ...

    Damned if it ain’t spring in Texas!!!

    Happy Spring, boy! And boy’s people! And boy’s fans!

  • Avatar of GloriousMe
    GloriousMe said ...

    That darn Antarctic wind anyway. In the presence of VP Gore, I’d be pretty worried about my lost snack wrapper too. Still hoping to meet that dude some day. Happy for you that you got to participate in such an event.

  • Avatar of Saffirahweb
    Saffirahweb said ...

    Hello Jason

    Today was amazing at the beach we removed tonz of plastic trash i’m proud of what we did . I wish everyone to do something and make the world a better place

    Please check my pic for you

    http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v347/ohdan11/F0E3C421-2B26-4A3A-B69C-1C0D80CAD2BA-309-000000154E868514.jpg

    Sending u much love i hope u get to see my messge xoxo

  • Avatar of Saffirahweb
    Saffirahweb said ...

    Hello Jason, Naïma from France ^_^ i present myself always when i reply cause i wish u will remember me :)

    I really love you because we are the same. It’s been a few years now that i follow the news about environnement issues and animal causes. I have seen many many documentaries on the subject. Sometimes it is good and sometimes not so good. I read that climate change is also part of the Earth cycles. Today scientists say that the reason why the global warming is because of us. Part of it i guess but there is also a part that is natural. Excuse me my english isnt that good i try to express myself as good as i can sometimes i cant find the right words. I would like to send you a link and hope that you will tell me your opinion.

    http://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=relmfu&v=kHCJ-UhZFT4

    Here is a link for an example. I saw myself french documentaries who doesnt agree with Al Gore. I think it is a very very complicated subject as well as we are not scientists. And all this is sometimes based on researches yes but also theories. We have miuch to learn

    BUT i completely agree with you about the environnement. We all should be responsible for the degradation of the nature. We must tak e care bout it and act as much as possible in that way today. I am like you about water bottle, i dont buy them since a long time but i drink water from home so i dont know if that is good either for my health

    Tomorrow i am organizing a cleaning the beach day. I do it with surfrider. I.m proud to be part of it!! Well i hope u get to see my message i Would really love to hear your answer bout it :) ) see you soon xoxoxo

  • Avatar of gmhefner
    gmhefner said ...

    P.S. great pictures! thanks for including them!

  • Avatar of charisma
    charisma said ...

    I am profoundly enthralled at how you see the world around you.

  • oui il nous faudrait plus d’homme comme vous ou comme “Elzéar Bouffier” ha,ha,ha….continuez à écrire pour que je puisse vous lire et déguster vos mots qui sont si cohérent et plein de bons sens !!!! Namaste

  • Avatar of sailucie
    sailucie said ...

    Snack overboard, i juste laugh, lucky for you they pick it up. Perhaps a thousand years from now it would have been frame in ice. You did the right thing by worry, you have so much compassion for earth that your efforts are rewarded. The experience that you had in Antartica was in it self a gift from life. I myself wish i would have been with the crew. You are inspiring us To do good. Thank you. Love

  • Avatar of divinitymtg
    divinitymtg said ...

    I enjoy reading what you post and I am always looking for the next time you write something. You words paint a picture almost as if you were there with each story you share. I am into recycling pretty much have been since I can remember Florida offering it to residents. I am so grateful to be able to read from your thoughts and how you help so much in the world. One act from one person can change millions of lives with one single act of kindness because the one you touch deeply will go on to touch another in a different way. I admire you and your many different ways of being environmentally friendly as well as the other things you have been involved with like the event to stop human trafficking. You inspire me more then I already am with my private involvements in my community and so I thank you for all you do. I await your journals and am always in awe when you write any topic. Have a good evening tomorrow and I am ready to watch you live online with MTV event tomorrow night.

  • Avatar of mrazfan1031
    mrazfan1031 said ...

    Jason, You are not only a beautiful writer, you are funny too! Your passion comes through your words whether they are put to music or not. You are an inspiration and I thank you for sharing your words.
    Love and Peace,
    Linda

  • Avatar of kidest
    kidest said ...

    It’s the passion you have for this that makes your message inspiring and motivating. Never stop expressing this. For some things we will have to keep beating the drum until there’s no drum left.

    I know how much relief I feel when I make the little changes. Even something seemingly simple of not buying liquid laundry detergent and opting for powder because it comes in cardboard and not plastic adds to the effort. And it feels awesome to recognize and act on those changes.

    And asking questions. I got to work on a project a few years back where we were looking at sustainable practices etc. and even on the “biodegradable” labels you have to ask questions and do the research. We found out the decomposition time on some big items labelled ‘biodegradable’ were still decades etc.

    We have ways to go and it is messages and reminders like this that help us move into action-ing the change. Fuel the flames!

    xox

  • Avatar of Ally
    Ally said ...

    This reminds me of a story you shared with us long ago…from early on in your career when you first started receiving “fan mail”. You had a simple PO Box where you went and collected it yourself …

    You had just broken a fingernail (not sure if they were acrylics back in the day? :) ) You opened a letter from an admirer, and lo and behold, they had sent you a nail clipper … Just what you needed at that exact moment ….

    If the zodiacs hadn’t swooped in, I believe a day would come when you’d be riding a wave somewhere , and a little green & yellow wrapper would float gently towards you…giving you the chance to make things right . The universe always looks out for the kind souls who do their best …

    (And CRAP! Who amongst us doesn’t love a good poop joke :) )

    ~Ally Old Soul
    xox

  • Avatar of gmhefner
    gmhefner said ...

    oh my, J, your funnies are WAY better than sarah silverman! :) i’m cracking up!

    but wow, how profound a moment when the gust lifted your wrapper away….like a cosmic sign….the ultimate symbolism. and then also someone coming along behind and picking it up. speaks volumes! what a message and what an experience!

    as a teen (won’t say when that was – heehee), i was leaving the house on my way to work just as the garbage guys picked up our trash and i had to drive along behind them for several blocks….very slowly. LOL i remember seeing our trash, OUR trash, being carted away along with dozens of other folks’. that was the first time i truly realized that when you throw something away it doesn’t “disappear.” ever since then, i’ve been an environmentalist. or try to be. i was interested and concerned with nature as a child growing up, but that day really internalized it for me.

    i’m so glad that incident happened to someone like you who actually SAW what happened – with your mind and heart – and then did something about it. i hope things like that happen to more people.

    namaste, brother. :)

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