Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the first feature-length documentary from journalist Angela Sun, and is the culmination of an eight-year labor of love. Thousands of miles away from civilization, Midway Atoll is in one of the most remote places on earth. And yet it’s become ground zero for The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, siphoning plastics from three distant continents into a vortex of trash.
In this independent documentary film, Sun travels on a personal journey of discovery to uncover this mysterious phenomenon. Along the way she meets scientists, researchers, influencers, and volunteers who shed light on the effects of our rabid plastic consumption and learns that the problem is more insidious than we could have ever imagined.
The Whaleman Foundation is honored to welcome Angela Sun as our newest spokesperson, and we sat down with her recently to discuss her work.
The Whaleman Foundation: Angela, your work is so fascinating and impactful. What motivated you to create this documentary?
Angela Sun: Plastic Paradise came from an innate love for the oceans. I grew up watching Jacques Cousteau documentaries and Voyage of the Mimi, where I first learned of the underwater world and I said to myself one day, I want to scuba dive and see this for myself, which I accomplished while studying abroad in Australia. I took my niece and nephew to Disneyland a few years ago, and while on the Finding Nemo ride, I looked out from the fake submarine at the plastic fake fish and fake paper mache ocean, & realized I didn’t want that to be their only notion of coral reefs. I wanted to share what I have seen of real underwater life with them and to preserve those brilliant experiences for future generations. I am a surfer, scuba diver, paddle boarder, and journalist by trade so telling untold stories and investigating issues is just something I have always been driven to do.
TWF: What was one of the most shocking things you discovered while making Plastic Paradise?
AS: One of the most shocking things I discovered was how much plastic was woven into the fabric of our lives. We literally live with chemicals from plastic in our systems everyday. Another thing that was really shocking while filming was identifying bird remains on Midway Atoll by the little piles of plastic where birds used to be, because the plastic they ingested that killed them lasts forever, whereas the natural carcass of the bird returned to the earth.
TWF: Looking around our daily lives, it seems as if there is plastic everywhere. What are some steps that people can take to reduce the use of plastics in their every day lives?
AS: There are many simple things we can do, firstly is to REFUSE single use plastic before you reduce, reuse, and recycle. Saying no to the coffee lid-or ask for it in a “for here” cup, straws, bringing your own reusable cup, bottle, or utensils. Minimize take out or to go orders. Don’t buy personal care products with microbeads – they are plastic and go directly down the drain to our waterways! It may seem awkward at first but we have a 2 week pledge you can take that will help jumpstart these simple changes. And you can also win cool prizes from our sponsors!
TWF: What are some of the key messages you hope people take away from your film?
AS: I hope people will feel empowered to share the story and
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have a sense of ownership with the film. We vote with our wallets and voices everyday. This documentary is different because you can actually DO SOMETHING immediately after watching it. Plastic is so pervasive that even just noticing that it is everywhere is a step forward. Knowledge is the beginning of change. Education, as Nelson Mandela says, is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
The dangers of plastic pollution extend to animals small and large. In one month, seven sperm whales washed up on Italian beaches after dying from intestinal blockage after ingesting plastics. It is all too common for sperm whales to die this way after mistaking a
floating plastic bag for a squid. Following Angela’s tips to reduce plastic pollution is one way that each of us can directly help save the whales.
Please visit Plastic Paradise to learn more about the film and screenings.
Sports fans will undoubtedly recognize Angela Sun as the first Asian-American female sportscaster to appear on ESPN, Yahoo! Sports, Tennis Channel and Fox Sports. She currently serves as the host of Yahoo! Sports Minute, the longest running daily sports
show online, which is watched by millions daily.
When she’s not working or saving the world, you can find her running adventure races, surfing, and filling her third passport with stamps and misadventures.