Posted by: Mr. Austin | April 9, 2009

Must Read: “You Are Here” by Thomas M. Kostigen

Update 7-23-10: In the months since I interviewed Tom, I’ve gotten to know Dr. Marcus Ericksen and Anna Cummins of the 5 Gyres project and Algalita Marine Research Foundation. If you found Blue Planet Almanac because you were searching for “the Eastern garbage patch” or the “great Pacific garbage patch”, then I’ll guarantee you’ll be interested in what Anna and Marcus have shown with their new research. Click here for the post about the recent June 28, 2010 Blue Planet Almanac show with their interview. The characteristics of the plastic debris, toxic chemical sludge and trash in this patch usually make its individual particles small and diffuse. So the Pacific Garbage Patch’s scale is massive. Anna and Marcus say to think of a soup of debris instead of floating islands or patches. Above’s a good interview with Anna by Discovery News’ Jorge Rivas, showing you what a marine garbage patch really looks like.

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"You Are Here" by Thomas M. Kostigen

"You Are Here" by Thomas M. Kostigen

You know, when my 12 year-old was excited to tell me he was reading an environmental book, “You Are Here: Exposing the Vital Link Between What We Do and What That Does to Our Planet” last Fall, I was melted by his initiative and caring about the solutions to some of Earth’s pressing problems in sustainability. He enjoyed the book and began citing examples of what its author, Thomas M. Kostigen had written about. My son’s a thoughtful, caring child and I’m especially thankful for him.

I’m often surprised by what my 12 year-old notices and interprets about our world, but I hadn’t yet noticed that he was onto a book beyond his years. At that point, I didn’t know anything about the book or Kostigen, or that he had also co-authored the New York Times’ bestseller, The Green Book:  The Everyday Guide to Saving the Planet One Simple Step at a Time, or that You Are Here has a foreword and video by Kevin Bacon. When you watch Bacon’s vid, consider the Hindu dedication I read a looong time ago, at the front of a book, “Wholly Round”, by Rasa Gustaitis, “What is here is elsewhere. What is not here is nowhere.”

Thomas Kostigen

intrepid author and journalist Thomas M. Kostigen

Eventually I came to discover that the intrepid and adventurous Kostigen had received well-earned attention for his thoughtful and heartfelt messages about sustainability, summarized in You Are Here through media outlets like: Fox News, The Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch, Bloomberg, Media Bistro, MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Discovery Channel’s Planet Green, The Dennis Miller Show, Oprah, The Today Show, USA Today/Weekend, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Discover Magazine, Sprig, USA Network’s Characters Road Trip, Good Magazine, The Daily Green, Sundance Channel, Good Company on Lime and The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

But while my son talked with excitement, I just knew Kostigen’s research and writing had gotten my son’s attention. As he talked about what was in the book I actually got uneasy about the depth of the information he was expressing; my child had come across some things which have been particularly tricky subjects in my own life. He mentioned, for example Kostigen’s account of the Eastern Garbage Patch (a.k.a trash in ocean size of Texas,  garbage patch like Texas,  garbage patch,  Good Morning America Great Pacific garbage patch, Texas sized trash in ocean, garbage in the ocean size of Texas and Oprah garbage patch the size of Texas) and other environmental scenes discussed in You Are Here.

According to the astonishingly-thorough research and fieldwork contained in You Are Here, the Eastern Garbage Patch is literally the Earth’s biggest waste dump, around twice the size of Texas. Bigger than the fabled Fresh Kills Landfill in New York. But everyone knows humans leave big trash. So, what’s the big deal… even if culture samurai Bill Maher has mentioned it on his show, Real Time? The arresting thing about this is that the Eastern Garbage Patch was unintentional; no one ever intended to create it.

A miniscule bit of the Eastern Garbage Patch, which is actually twice the size of Texas

A minuscule bit of the Eastern Garbage Patch, which is really a dispersed, thin soup.

And it’s not on land; it’s in the ocean. Intrigued now?

But because I was uneasy and got busy, I forgot about what my son had mentioned. Of course, just because one’s feeling at arms-length about something won’t make it disappear.

And then five months later on another site I write, HarperCollins noticed my musings on consciousness and asked if I was interested in reading any any of their books from The Dalai Lama. Although I consider meeting the man to be one of the highlights of my life and I thoroughly enjoy him and his message, I replied, “Thanks, but no.” But I also asked, “Might you have any good titles on environmentalism and consciousness?” Guess what book they suggested? You Are Here. And, no, my son’s not moonlighting for HarperCollins between seventh-grade science projects.

You Are Here is absolutely fascinating and I couldn’t put it down. And there’s new information here which most of us don’t know about. An example is contained in Kostigen’s chapter which uses the Great Lakes as a concept to introduce “The Greatest Problem No One Knows About.” Through humanity’s activity Kostigen also shows us additional, immortal snapshots of what we’ve done in Jerusalem, India’s Mumbai, Southeast Asia’s Borneo, China’s Linfen City, Alaska’s Shishmaref Village, The Amazonian jungle, New York’s Fresh Kills Landfill, The Pacific Ocean’s Eastern Garbage Patch and Minnesota’s Great Lakes and Duluth region. You’ll want to read about his experiences in all of these places. All you gotta do to come to the party is pick up the book and read it. Then you can decide what you’re gonna do next.

author Kostigen and friends during research in Borneo

author Kostigen and friends during research in Borneo

So, fellow Earthlings, here’s the scoop. Almost everyone in the world these days needs a reality check about what we’ve done with our little home in the past 200 years. If you plan on living here, or if you plan on having your children live here, now’s the time. Trust this idea – there won’t be a later unless all of us get busy right now. And I’m not, by any subversion of imagination, the first person to suggest that. Kostigen’s one of the most experienced, educated messengers you’ll ever find, the one who can stand at the front of the class and explain what’s going on. School’s in session.

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