by Lisa Kaas Boyle

It was a FMLY affair at McWorld with Amy Blount Lay, of PPC Coalition member Surfrider Foundation making a riveting presentation about monsters of myth and reality before setting those assembled free to create a giant sea monster out of plastic trash.

Amy showed us how to use salvaged PVC pipe as the substructure for the sea monster to which we glue-gunned our plastic trash to create a mighty monster of the deep – in this case to be installed upside down from the ceiling of McWorld.

Amy, a Surfrider volunteer who teaches Studio Art and Visual Culture at Pierce College, devised the sea monster project to educate people about plastic pollution in our oceans.  She has variations of the project for every age audience starting with preschool.  I asked Amy to elaborate on one of my favorite Greek Monsters, Scylla and the terrifying Charybidis, a  legendary whirpool which sounds much like the very real oceanic gyres.

Amy:  “Between Scylla and Charybdis” is where we get the phrase “between a rock and a hard place.” I like to use this Classic dilemma as an analogy for where we are in the environmental movement in regards to plastic. On one side we have Scylla the many-headed beast. She represents this “monster” of a product, plastic. On the other side we have Charybdis a bottomless whirlpool.  The whirlpool, to me, is like all of our attempts to stem the problem: recycling, reusing, renewing… etc.”

I asked Amy what inspired her to dedicate herself to the plastics issue.  Amy: “I began surfing 14 years ago at El Porto in El Segundo. With the power plant to my back and the oil tankers on the horizon I don’t think I ever had the “surfing Eden” experience that some people claim to have. I’ve been hit in the face with everything from plastic cheese stick wrappers to gaffer’s tape to pantyhose. Almost every session I stuff my wetsuit legs with old balloons, plastic bags or candy wrappers. It’s absolutely disgusting!

When I had my son five years ago I decided the odd beach clean up just wasn’t enough for me. In 2009 I enlisted my friend and fellow activist-surfer-mom Nancy Hastings and together we developed the Sea Monster idea into a preschool pilot program for Surfrider Foundation’s R.A.P. (Rise Above Plastics) program. “

Back  at McWorld, the most intriguing ideas of the night came as questions posed to the crowd by Amy.  What is a monster?  Do you believe in monsters?  What role do monsters play in modern society? After the night of education and the creation of our own plastic trash sea monster, all assembled were in agreement that plastic pollution is a real and terrifying, modern-day sea monster.