The Second Battle Of Midway: Horror, Courage – and Love

Currents and Futures

Greetings;First, take a look at this haunting and beautiful 4 minute trailer for the movie, “Midway”.

Midway Island was the location of a pivotal battle in World War Two.  (Midway Irony #1: that famous battle took place 2,000 miles from either the US and Japan.)  Those on both sides followed the fighting, mourned their losses, celebrated their victories.  And, after several documentaries and a Hollywood movie, we forgot about this remote chunk of land.

But… we didn’t go away.

We are invading the beaches and seas around Midway a second time… a plastic invasion that has been nearly invisible (to us), insidious, and fatal to the local wildlife, including seabirds.

Thanks to Chris Jordan for making our plastic warfare on Life visible to our eyes and our hearts.

Breakers – Large and Small

There are two seaborne agents in this warfare – and we support both of them.

Agent #1: Oceangoing Cargo Ships (Pre-Consumer Junk).  There is a fleet of super-sized container ships, some up to a quarter-mile long, carrying thousands of pre-loaded containers, each destined to be attached to an 18 wheeler and go whizzing down the highway, each destined to deliver its contents of unnecessary plastic junk to our stores for our consumption.

Cargo ship 01  Cargo ship 02

Some do not meet that destiny.  Every year, containers (and entire ships) are lost at sea, due to storms, equipment failures and human sloppiness, spilling their contents into the ocean.  The heavy stuff sinks to the bottom, the plastics float – and are eaten by sea creatures, including the sea birds in Chris’ film.

Cargo ship 03   

How many containers don’t make it?  Approximately 10,000 containers go overboard – per YEAR!  Because the containers are insured, because everybody makes money from what washes overboard – no one really cares.  And most of us don’t know about it.

(Midway Irony #2: The container ships burn a super-dirty fuel, oil that no country would allow to be burned in their borders.  The pollution of just 16 Super Cargo ships equals that of all the cars in the world!  How many cargo ships are there?  There are 5,000 cargo ships, and 50,054 ships overall.  (More on this later…)

Agent #2:  Our Garbage (Post-Consumer Junk).  The amount of our trash that turns up in our oceans is staggering.  Dropped by a careless child (or a childlike adult), blown from the back of a trash truck, leached from a landfill… Everything goes somewhere.  And “somewhere”, increasingly, is in the bellies of living creatures.

Exercise: How close are you to plastic, right now?  Without moving, how much plastic is in your sight, your grasp, right now?  (Don’t forget the screen and frame of the device upon which you are reading this, the keyboard, perhaps the tabletop, the soles of your shoes, your socks, frames and lenses of your glasses…) ALL of this, every bit of it, will be discarded at some point.

Through the use of computers and RFID tags, researchers have studied where this post-consumer junk winds up.  Much of it goes into what is now called the “Great Pacific Dead Zone”.

I recently made my own contribution to the Dead Zone.  Riding my 20 year old bicycle on my daily Post Office run, I heard a loud crack, followed by the tinkling sound of broken plastic.  The plastic spokes shield on my back wheel gears had given up the ghost.  Small bits of plastic were on the roadway, already being driven over by cars.  Oh well.  At over 20mph, I wasn’t going to stop, go back and stop traffic, trying to find and dispose of the plastic bits.  I shrugged and rode on.

Those bits of plastic got washed into the nearest storm drain by the rain (or city maintenance worker), then into the Willamette, the Columbia, and then onto its destiny in the Great Pacific Dead Zone.  (The other day, when I saw Chris Jordan’s trailer, one of the objects he removed by hand from the gut of the dead sea bird looked a lot like the plastic from my bike.)

Are Breakers “Evil Actors”?

In Creating a World That Works for All, I refer to those of us who are out of step with Nature as “Breakers”.  What I may refer to as “The Web of All Life”, the Hopi Indians refer to the as the “Sacred Hoop”.  We constantly BREAK that Sacred Hoop, by producing things that are toxic and deadly to all other beings.

How could a moral man or woman make the choices to dump plastics in the ocean, or burn super-dirty fuel?  Seeing these results, people believe that there are “evil actors” in the world – people who WANT to do harm to the planet and to other species.

Our reality is NOT the result of “evil actors”, but reasonably decent people who believe they do not have the power to act.

Many of us are engaged in work where we make only partial decisions, many times far removed from the consequences of those decisions.   We come to believe that our actions do not have consequences, or that the consequences are dictated by “Fate” or “The Law”.

We don’t do what’s right, because we’re not ASKED to do the right thing.  We’re not ALLOWED to do the right thing.  We’re not EXPECTED to do the right thing.


Step One: Mindfulness – Loving the Earth…

“Loving the Earth” doesn’t mean posting yet another heavily Photoshopped picture of a sunset on your Facebook account.  “Loving the Earth” means becoming CONSCIOUS: becoming mindful of what you are doing, and becoming mindful of what is being done in your name, with your dollars, without your involvement, without your permission.

Step Two:  Witnessing…

The next step after becoming mindful is being a WITNESS.  Witnessing means seeing – a very special type of seeing.  Seeing not just for yourself, but seeing for others… seeing to expand the consciousness of yourself and others, seeing so that both you and they can become more mindful.

Witnessing is not always pleasant.  Focusing only on “happy, happy” thoughts does your soul a disservice.  Here’s a portion of my correspondence with Chris Jordan:

People ask me why I’ve spent so much time in refugee camps (Sri Lanka, Uganda, elsewhere).  My response:  I absolutely HATE going to them — but someone has to.  And, as much as I hate witnessing human suffering, I understand that I am here to be of service, and this is my service.  That service is love.

I think Midway is your refugee camp.  Or, the refugee camp is my Midway.

This means being witness to the horrors on our planet.  It also means being witness to the joy and the beauty of our remarkable planet.  I think that Chris Jordan has done an excellent job of capturing both the horror and the beauty.

Step Three: Compassionate Acting…

After mindfulness and after witnessing comes the third step: action.  We must act, compassionately, nonviolently and directly, to mend the Sacred Hoop.  Our actions must be commensurate with our challenges.  (In the face of witnessing 5,000 cargo ships spewing high-sulfur, dirty pollution around the planet, it’s not enough to just buy a Prius or do car-sharing.  In the face of 10,000 loaded containers being dumped in our oceans, it’s not enough to just recycle.)

Yes, greed is a large part of the challenge (“Occupy” got that part right).  But, that’s not the full picture.  Fear is the ugly twin of greed.  I personally know very few people I would consider “greedy” (that includes many of my multi-millionaire friends).  But, many of the people I know refrain from taking effective action because of fear – fear of losing their jobs, their status, their friends.  Fear of having their feelings hurt.  Fear that they may lose a few points on their credit rating, or fear that they may lose a few dollars out of their already stuffed bank accounts.

The opposite of fear is courage.  Compassionate action means having courage. Seen in this light, the first place we must take compassionate action is within ourselves.




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16 Responses to The Second Battle Of Midway: Horror, Courage – and Love

  1. Sharif, though painful to witness, thank you for reinforcing not just the importance of being aware of the interconnectedness of All (Web of Life), but for inspiring action in response to the imbalances that breaker behavior has manifested.

    It is all too rare that situations like Midway are brought to the attention of the masses, and so much more rare that we alter our choices and behaviors based on that witnessing.

    Even the reference to “the masses” can allow us to perpetuate the illusion of separation and leave it in the abstract. The truth of the matter is: I am/we are the masses. Our every choice impacts everyone and everything else, even when we cannot discern in what ways that is true. This includes not only material goods choices, but how we use and express energy in each moment.

    Humanity stands a chance if we can face, turn toward and respond to the deep, unconscious inner starvation that comes from being in separation from the truth of who and what we really are; from the essence of our being; from the One Web of Life.

    This inner starvation, along with avoidance of pain, fear there won’t be enough for “me”, etc. — lost in a mind-made disconnection from the All That Is — distorts our perception and overrides our inherent, natural wisdom. In this confused state we seek out things, people, etc. to make us feel better, to simulate feeling whole. We want bigger, better TVs, more ice cream, faster computers, better looking spouses, higher status, more money, more stuff.

    Operated by and from this pattern/confusion/illusion of separation — identified with the egoic mind-made sense of self — we are able to cut down the lungs of the planet, buy unlimited amounts of plastic and think that since we’re recycling it that it’s okay regardless of the myriad toxic impacts of the manufacturing process alone.

    We have tremendous potential to move further along the path of awakening, and with the clarity that arises from our deepening and expanding awareness, we can become able to respond more and more consciously to the immense challenges we face in our lives and in the world.

    Committed to not enabling old breaker patterns, we can support each other by being gentle with ourselves and others, assisting each other in facing the truth of how we are individually and collectively showing up in the world, and allowing ourselves to be moved and inspired to respond consciously, powerfully, compassionately, effectively…Now. Always Now.

    Thank you for vulnerably and courageously sharing your insight, your internal process, and your wisdom.


    • Sharif says:


      Thanks for taking me up on posting your comments — very relevant.

      You said:

      Humanity stands a chance if we can face, turn toward and respond to the deep, unconscious inner starvation that comes from being in separation from the truth of who and what we really are; from the essence of our being; from the One Web of Life.

      It is doubly-damning, when we are told that the things which CAUSE (and/or deepen) our spiritual starvation are supposed to be the CURE. We know that something is wrong, yet the things we turn to turn us further away from our task: doing the heavy lifting of facing our GREATNESS by not denying our EMPTINESS.



      • Yes, and that’s the great trap: seeking out that which we think will make us feel better (including seeking enlightenment to feel better, to fix “me”), which ultimately is a path of illusion and allows the perpetuation of our breaker uncivilization.

        But it’s all fool’s gold. While those things we chase, once acquired may have a payoff (the cessation of desire feels really good), once we have it, it’s just short-term pacification.

        Instead of seeking “out” to get our needs met, in truth, diving IN is where the vibrant, alive action is; and, it’s where great, empowered, responsive, creative action — the heaviest lifting — arises from.

        This path is NOT for the faint of heart, and is best done with mutual support of people on the path together, as one. This is why communities like Common Way are so important and need to be actively engaged in, and supported energetically and financially.

        Thank you, Sharif.

  2. Lakshmi says:

    Your ability to break down societal problems into tangible action steps is inspiring. I particularly enjoyed the part where you shared your piece of the puzzle and took the massive problem home. You are the solution. We are the solution. It is happening.
    Much admiration and Love

  3. what a beautiful and tragic film! I think you should bring this documentary to film festivals throughout the country and raise awareness…so many of us don’t realize half of what is going on in the pollution of our natural world!

  4. Ann Huntwork says:

    Hello Sharif,

    As usual you offer both challenge and inspiration. One way I like to help is by forwarding your report and reflections to people I know who could definitely respond – especially some of the youth who need to carry this further if they are even to survive. Being 80 with a bunch of health stuff is just more restrictions than I am very patient with but I want to be active as long as I can – it’s actually a whole lot more fun than sitting around waiting for something to happen!

    We are all given a small chance to offer whatever we can to the network of peacemaking.

    Again, thank you for your presence in this work.



    • Sharif says:


      I think that you are the kind of inspiration we need! Not to let age, health or circumstance deter you from the task that needs to be done, the task you were put here on Earth to do. I think it is especially important to awaken our youth, from their digitally-induced trance, to help them to actually USE the non-digital organs that they’ve been given (heart, brain and feet). I think that’s what being an “elder” is all about…



  5. Su(e) Nia Diyg says:

    Sadly, I didn’t have the link to that trailer on my phone…but i WILL check it out on my laptop…however, i have been aware for many years of the inherent danger to wildlife posed by the plastic soda can & bottle holders…& ever since i found out, have made a point of cutting them open before discarding them…not to mention re-using plastic freezer-grade bags until they are worn out…and recycling…as well as buying from Goodwill & other thrift stores, for many household items, as well as at least HALF of my clothes…& i look FAR from secondhand when i’m rockin’ my look…! Since i was unable to afford a Prius the last time i was in the market for a car (plus, since i live in an apartment, i can’t keep one charged up…i do what i can in as many ways as are feasible.
    i am a STRONG advocate of spreading the word, though…and WILL commit to share, share, share[ing] !

    • Sharif says:


      I recently “lost” a plastic water bottle (it got picked up for recycling)… I had been re-using it from when I first got it… in Russia, almost two decades ago!

      I have a friend who imports art from Asia. He packs his shipping containers with empty plastic bottles that litter the countryside in Indonesia. He brings the empties to the US, where they can be recycled properly.

      We all do what we can. And, we should all recognize that still more is being called of us…



  6. ptery lieght says:

    Even further, is how to really listen to each other to uncover each other’s fears and desires so that we can assist each other in waking up. A large part of being human, at least in these times is spending a large portion of our lives in a trance state. Changing the dream we have been given and weaving a new context is the work I am invested in.
    Thanks for the essay and exercises and, there is life after the worst happens!! We are resilient animals with full senses of humor to boot. Namaste

  7. inger easton says:

    Such a beautifully sad film. Very moving and shocking. I did not know about all the ship containers and the dirty oil either. That should be spread around more in the alternative media- so folks can be more aware and shake up some complacency. I shared it on……..and I will watch what I do with my plastics.

  8. Deb Rodney says:

    Well said. Thanks!
    Saw Joanna Macy Friday night and your thoughts touch on her ideas of Active Hope.

  9. Carol Hunter says:

    Sharif, dear friend,

    Your every communique touches me deeply and continues to inspire me to carry on with our work. This writing of yours re: plastics and what they are doing to Nature is deeply touching. To see those photos of the birds’ stomachs turns my own.

    Yes, I did what you said and turned to look beside me at all of the plastic within only three feet of me as I sit here. Simply more than I could have imagined. It’s the miracle substance of our own childhoods! We were taught to be amazed, grateful and admiring. Now we see it in the bellies of beautiful birds and their young, killing them slowly.

    Often, as we share with our groups about Keepers, Menders and Breakers, many can easily become defensive. However, because they are thoughtful and bright, caring individuals, they understand and begin to make subtle changes. However, none of it is really enough.

    So much of what’s happening remains to be about corporations making more money, not about making the world a better place. I won’t give up, however. Knowing you are out there, our partner in this work, keeps us going. Your writing influences us and others with whom we share it.

    Take care of your health: mind, body and spirit.
    With love and friendship,

  10. Tim Rouse says:

    Dear Sharif,
    This is a beautiful essay about a tragic subject. And the trailer for the film is shocking. I knew about all the plastic bags in the Pacific dead zone, but was not aware of all the other plastic that has made it there. The beauty of the birds and the horror of the deaths is startling counterpoint.
    Your essay is really a masterpiece. I look forward to sharing it. Thanks. Love, Tim

  11. Thank you, Sharif, for your mindfulness and your thoughtfulness in bring into the open some of the concerns you have about our “being” or
    not being.” I honor your work and will follow it ceaselessly to help “right thinking” and “right acting” becomes a way of life for all of us inhabitants of Planet Earth. Bradley, from the 2003 Conference in St. Petersburg, Russia.

    • Sharif says:


      It’s certainly been awhile since St. Petersberg! Thanks for the kind words… and for the commitment to be a compassionate actor on our Earth Path.



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