Skies may have looked clearer last year than in 2019 due to COVID-related lockdowns and a drop in air travel. But just because we were all locked inside, doesn’t mean our ecological problems suddenly vanished. Forests around the world continued to get cut down, protected lands continued to be threatened, and that island of plastic that’s been forming in the Pacific Ocean continued to grow.
Hawaiian blues balladeer Tavana is helping to put that into perspective with the video for his new single “Plastic Island,” which artfully combines stop motion animation with local microplastic sourced directly from the Hawaiian shores. Made in collaboration with fellow Hawaii-based musician Paul Izak, the Hawaii-based art collective Three Tree Creative, multi-dimensional artist Charles-Antonie Vallieres, and released in partnership with the Surfrider Foundation and Kokua Hawaii Foundation, “Plastic Island” is probably the coolest and most artistic display of the environment-ravaging effect of microplastics we’ve ever seen.
Alas, the incredibly creative video also acts as a bittersweet reminder that we’re slowly destroying our planet with our own waste. In fact, that was kind of the point. The video was made, in part, to raise awareness of the state’s continued efforts to battle single-use plastics, something that is increasingly becoming a problem for a state with an economy that revolves entirely around “island paradise” status.
“In the past, our beaches were comprised of natural materials like driftwood and shells,” says Lauren Blickley, the Hawaii Regional Manager at Surfrider Foundation. “Today many of these natural materials have been replaced with plastic — a material that is responsible for the large-scale pollution of our ocean and environment.”
The state is fighting back, though. In November 2020, the island of Oahu passed Bill 40, which seeks to ban single-use plastic on the island and would stand as one of the strongest bans on single-use plastic nationwide. The bill was supposed to go into effect on January 1st, but was delayed for a “90 day education period.”
Lawmakers are now facing increasing pressure from both the plastic industry and lobbyists who are attempting to delay the bill from going into effect for an additional two years. The Surfrider Foundation and its Oahu chapter are hoping to raise awareness to help ensure the bill takes effect not later than April 1st.
While the stakes are clearly high, Tavana approaches the track with a sort of laid-back plain-spoken approach that is both educational and supremely chill. “Plastic Island” opens with a cascading acoustic guitar riff that quickly dips into delta blues territory as Tavana directly addresses the origins of The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, without ever getting too heavy or preachy — delivering truths with laid back lyrics like: “How did it get there, man? How could it be? It’s the plastic thrown away by you and me.”
“I think it’s wonderful when art and raising awareness for a noble cause come together so seamlessly,” Tavana told us. “I hope to continue to find ways to use my music to heal the earth.“
That quote itself embodies the vibe of the song, which is sort of like if the Bill from Schoolhouse Rock smoked a joint and started waxing poetic about ocean pollution. It’s a whimsical, fun idea but also a painful reminder that all of the cute plastic in the “Plastic Island” video was directly harvested from the beaches of Tavana’s home state. According to Forbes, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch currently covers an approximate surface area of 1.6 million square kilometers, an area twice the size of Texas.
Check out the full video for Tavana’s “Plastic Island” above.