At the north-western edge of our continent lies the Tongass National Forest: a wilderness of stunning beauty and solitude, filled with ancient trees, whales breaching, and the sound of sea otters cracking shells. It is also filled with our trash. The U.S. Forest Service invited me to accompany them on one of their wilderness monitoring programs to the West Chichagof–Yakobi Wilderness; a ten-day kayaking trip along the outermost islands in the forest. While the purpose of the trip was to monitor human activity, it became clear that human waste is far more pervasive than humans themselves. Over the course of the trip, we picked up 580lbs of trash, including 600 plastic bottles.
At the murky edge of humans are the objects we create, the objects we buy, the objects we eventually toss. Here, in the West Chichagof–Yakobi Wilderness, our objects are entangled in the environment; buried under a thick moss, caught on a driftwood branch, entwined in seaweed. They are ghosts of massive storms, fishing expeditions, and above all human hubris.