"We are spending billions of dollars on searching for life on other planets and billions of dollars killing the life on this one". It is impossible to determine the author of this famous quotation from the internet, but it is possible to determine the scales of how true it is: It is absolute. The truth is also this, but it became a cliche today: Not an inch of this planet belongs to people. We can kill each other over the land for this or that reason, but that won't change the fact that it isn't ours. Our name can be listed in register books which states that we are the "owners" of this or that land, but that won't change the fact that it actually isn't ours. From God's perspective, or planet's, or the Universe's, or whatever you want, "your" land (to use the traditional example) is equally yours as much as it is the land of the moles living under its surface.
But the human species lost consciousness about it, it happened sooner or later in different parts of the world. In the meantime, a series of industrial revolutions happened, innate human greed and money-grubbing exploded and reached unheard heights, the profit became the only thing that matter, and in combination with innate neglect and short term thinking, it led to the situation we have today.
We have polluted the environment, and then all other environments. The worst thing is that we raised generations which think that pollution of the neighborhood is a completely normal thing. That is is completely normal to pour poison instead of the cure into the bloodstream (rivers, lakes, oceans) of the lady planet Earth, the dying patient. And that it is completely impossible for it to survive with such a bloodstream.
And then, a kid named Boyan showed up, and he decided to save the world. Perhaps it sounds like the beginning of the SF movie about superheroes, but it is something that is actually happening. It is a real superhero, and surely a future winner of some of the Nobel Prizes.
VIDEO: Boyan Slat presents his ide at the conference "Ted" in Delft 2012.
Boyan Slat will be 25 years old on 27 July. He was born in the province of Southern Holland, in Delft, the city of great Johannes Vermeer. His father, Croat, an artist just like Vermeer; but Boyan didn't grow up with him, but with his Dutch mother, since his parents divorced when he was just one year old, after which, he returned to Istria and he is now living on the peninsula, in the village Baderna, around 13 km southeast from Porec and the Adriatic coast (according to his own confession, Boyan knows a "very limited amount of Croatian words"; he visits his father once a year and he spends a week with him, but he has no friends in Istria because he spends all the time with him).
The word "genius" is very depreciated (like most other words) since it is used to describe all different kinds of non-genius, while the word "ingenious" is used to describe everything which slightly deviates from the usual average. In order no to accidentally further devaluate this word, we won't call Boyan Slat a genius yet, because that is something he is yet to show in the upcoming years and decades; however, there is no arguing that it is a boy with extraordinary intelligence, bravery, and energy who is "creating things" since he was little (he made a table before going to school, because it made more sense than buying one), and who broke the Guinness record at the age of 14 for the number of simultaneously launched so-called water rockets.
It was then seen that the guy, whose idol is Nikola Tesla, was destined for great deeds. The key event in his life happened the following summer, after breaking of this record. In 2010. this recreational diver, during his family trip on the Greek island Lesbos, had the opportunity to see "more plastic bags than fish" under the water which made him think about the ways to solve the problem. He started exploring, reading the texts and books he could find and he realized that all possible authorities in the fields of protection of environment claim that removing of toxic waste from the ocean is impossible, that it is a waste of time, energy, and resources which can be used in a much smarter way.
Perhaps that was the time when his half crazy, half spite Balkan gene woke up and made him say: Let's at least try the impossible.
That "impossible" has a lot of bases, because there are around 5.5 trillion pieces of plastic in the oceans, and they are mostly concentrated on "garbage carpets"; quiet parts of the world oceans which have powerful currents around them which accumulate garbage in that area. The largest of them is "Great Pacific Garbage carpet" which is in the north part of the Pacific, between Hawaii and California, which approximately has around 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic; together with all other trash, it represents one of a kind dispersed trash continent and some say that it has a total surface of two France.
Over twenty percent of that plastic is actually big pieces, but the decomposition already started and smaller parts end up in the bellies of all kinds of animals who replace them for food, which threatens to destroy all living world (and us as well, since we are on the top of the food chain; you, who are reading these lines, know that there is a great chance that you entered tiny particles of plastic in yourself by consuming river and sea fish, which you brought home in a plastic bag, which takes a zillion years to completely vanish.
However, due to the nature of ocean currents, due to the decomposition of plastics to molecules, due to existence of five great "carpets" on all of the oceans (it is presumed that the weight of all of the carpets will reach 7.25 million tons), due to the fact that those aren't actually carpets but a lose and heterogeneous islands moving all the time - the conventional idea where we would send a fleet of a large number of ships to collect this "carpet", where we would spend billions and billions of euros, isn't doable in a short term because we would need, as they say, 79.000 years (under the condition to stop throwing garbage into rivers, seas, and oceans, which you must admit, isn't really realistic).
VIDEO: A great display of Boyan Slat idea about cleaning the ocean from plastic
And now, we said that we won't call Boyan Slat a genius just yet, and we will stick to that; but the only world for the idea he came up with in 2012 us "ingenious", he presented in the video clip at the "Ted" convention, held in his home town Delft (video became viral and it was seen by 3 million people). He suggested the following. Instead of cleaning the ocean, let the ocean clean itself. How? By putting an obstacle, ocean current, into our advantage and we will make a "weapon" of cleaning.
His idea seemed really simple and he said it himself (however, his team spends a lot of energy to keep maintaining everything within limits, avoiding complications): to create large "cleaners", actually "gatherers", which will float on the ocean currents and they will collect trash, it will such in garbage and it will throw out plankton, it uses solar power and the energy of the currents, it will wait for a ship to come every few months to take the trash and to take it to land, for recycling which will pay for further cleaning of the oceans. All the time, the system will be monitored and controlled via satellite and also, it will be continuously upgraded. Slat's estimate is that sixty of these systems would collect 50 percent of the garbage within 5 years, and over 90 percent by 2040.
We have mentioned Boyan's team. It is the foundation "The Ocean Cleanup" which he founded in 2013, right after leaving the studies of aerospace engendering on the Technical University in Delft. After that, he sent emails to numerous companies in an attempt to find the sponsor for his ambitious undertaking, but since he didn't succeed, he decided to turn to crowdfunding (if you haven't landed from Mars this morning, you must have heard about Crowdfunding): the following year, he managed to gather 2.154.282 American dollars and over 38.000 small donors from 160 countries of the world.
VIDEO: Boyan Slat in one of the latest speeches where he speaks about the next moves and redesigning of the system
That has enabled him to break through; the Dutch government is also helping him today (the crowdfunding campaign is still active and it has gathered 31.5 million dollars up to 2017), and the foundation with the headquarters in Rotterdam hires over 80 engineers, scientists, ecologists, and experts from various spheres, who are developing the system, and who are mostly much older than him (unlike stupid politicians, smart people surround themselves with people who know more than they do).
A few prototypes of the "gatherers" (created from the ecological materials - thermoplastics and high-density polyethylene) already spent time in the oceans, which brought priceless experience despite the apparent failures and allowed them to continue with the improvement of the system (the original idea evolved from the system which was fixated to the bottom of the ocean). They are preparing to relaunch the prototype and to transfer it to the "Great Pacific Trash Carpet", but this time, with three times the smaller dimensions (in order to speed up the process of acquiring parts, assembly and transportation, which will further accelerate the development of the final model, which is a priority). We desire all the luck of this world to him and his team convinced that this system will become fully operational and that it will applicable someday to the cleaning of rivers, Sava, Danube, Drina, Morava, Tisa, and other European and world rivers. The pollution of the planet will continue since the most of those who are making the planet dirty didn't reach this line of the text about the new superhero of our time and the future winner of Nobel prize, we are sure of that.
Despite everything, Boyan Slat, whose role models next to Tesla are also Wright brothers, is personally not deeply convinced into success: "I am telling my team that you have to strive for success, but assume failure. To be honest, I didn't think if this is going to work or not. I just thought it is important to at least try". Yes, it is important to try. Our survival depends on it. And humanity continues to live just because of the people who are not afraid to try.
Boyan, thank you and we are proud of you.
VIDEO: Grany throws trash on the grass next to a railway
(Telegraf.co.uk / A.J./M.B.)