Litter isn’t just ugly and dirty—it kills. Artist Chris Jordan took a series of photographs of albatross chicks, and the photos are so surreal that I thought they were part of some strange pop-art installation meant to shock and disturb the viewer. The genuine shock, though, came when I found out that these are unaltered images of real birds.
Taken at Midway Atoll, a remote stretch of sand and coral near the middle of the North Pacific, the photographs depict corpses of albatross chicks whose parents mistakenly picked up plastic in the ocean thinking it was food. With bellies full of plastic, the chicks died from starvation, toxicity, and choking.
This isn’t the first time that this tragedy has been documented. Wildlife filmmaker Rebecca Hosking used her film documentary about the Midway Atoll to get the very first ban on plastic bags enacted in Modbury, England, and her essay about it was published in Ingrid E. Newkirk’s book, One Can Make a Difference.
Every year, this lethal diet of trash kills tens of thousands of albatross chicks on Midway, which is 2,000 miles from the nearest continent—proof that the empty lighters and fishing line that people carelessly discard on roadsides and beachfronts suffocates and poisons animals who inadvertently consume it. It takes only seconds for us to throw away our trash instead of littering and putting the lives of countless animals in danger. If you spot litter, pick it up, and if you catch someone littering, say something—you may literally be saving a life. It really is that easy to be kind.
Written by Logan Scherer