The vitality of the world’s oceans is in peril: ocean acidification has devastated sea star populations; mounds of swirling trash – gyres – have formed toxic blockades. Enter Project Komodo©: a new mission produced by ocean stewardship non-profits Save Our Leatherback Operation (S.O.L.O.) and 11th Hour Heroes, which seeks to collect and dissolve ocean debris and junk, leaving nothing behind.
By John Tapley
Project Komodo© plans to construct a barge (or “electronic breadbox”) device using old and existing technologies to scoop upgyres, sort the debris, and send the harmful materials to recycling. The barge will be designed with aquatic environments in mind and will leave a carbonless footprint (after combustion). Project Komodo© has a global purpose – according to data gathered by the University of Georgia, University of California, and Sea Education Association, 83 percent of ocean plastics come from countries with inadequate or limited waste management. The project aims to follow in the success of banning shark fin soup; the sale of Chinese shark fin soup has been reduced by 81 percent.
Project Komodo is headed by S.O.L.O. and 11th Hour Heroes founders Dr. Larry McKenna, his wife Bonnie McKenna, and S.O.L.O. directors Dr. Mike Miller and Pam Miller.
We spoke with S.O.L.O. and 11th Hour Heroes founder Dr. Larry McKenna about Project Komodo© and its meaning.
John Tapley (JT): Larry, thank you for taking the time to speak with us today. What was your inspiration for founding Project Komodo®?
Larry McKenna (LM): We’ve come to realize, while traveling around the world, that oceans are sick and decaying. Our efforts to find ways to save leatherback sea turtles from extinction have been successful, and having completed this mission, we’ve recognized someone must step in and do whatever it takes to bring the oceans back to a productive life.
Our directors, Bonnie McKenna, Pam Miller, Dr. Mike Miller, and I declared a unanimous decision to tackle the gyre… to find solutions. Dr. Miller went further with his quiet investigations concerning the gyre phenomenon. Project Komodo© was founded to develop methods of solutions, and as it develops, we expect to be joined by donors and volunteers.
JT: What are some factors affecting the environment you’d like to share with us?
LM: This situation has been happening for approximately 45 years and it’s important that people accept everyone on this planet has created this problem in small and big ways. For all this time, people have carelessly thrown around plastic, plastic bags, clothing, old fish nets, and just plain junk – for the ocean to take it away and make it “disappear”.
People who live away from oceans toss their trash into the street or into small waterways, it all finds its way to the ocean. In many locations around the world, people pay trash collecting companies to take away their garbage thinking it will be disposed of in a proper way: but in so many cases, we’ve learned the trash is dumped into the ocean where nobody can see.
On a much larger scale, the huge manufacturing companies produce everything in factories that process environmental poisons, which are put into pipes and pushed out into the oceans: further compounding the pollution in our seas. Chemical and petroleum industries are probably the worst offender, and oceans are still trying to process the huge petroleum disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. We estimate the heavy oil sitting on the bottom is destroying plants, fish, shrimp, and lobsters. Some environmental experts estimate it may take up to 100 years to break down this layer of unrefined petroleum. A simpler, almost everyday example– a white Styrofoam cup will take about 50 years to dissolve.
JT: What does Project Komodo© mean? What is the importance of its name?
LM: We selected then name to be symbolic of the eating habits of the giant Komodo dragon, which lives in eastern Indonesia. The Komodo digests everything and leaves absolutely nothing to give you the idea it had a meal: if it catches a deer, there’s no bones, fur or teeth left; just a small pile of white powder.
We intend to develop new technology and re-design existing technology to collect and dissolve the masses of junk floating around the ocean: leaving nothing – no carbon footprint – in its wake.
JT: How much do you estimate the barge will cost and how will be it funded?
LM: Our first stage, the barge, and related research is budgeted at $660,000. In past events our directors, out of pocket, funded what they could. We have been financially assisted by a small cadre of supporters who have given us the ability to develop the path to survive. This is a “must do” project. Without financial help, we cannot proceed.
JT: Thank you for the conversation, Larry. How can our readers get involved with Project Komodo©?
LM: Thank you, John. Our directors can easily be contacted at our websites: www.leatherbackturtles.org and www.11thhourheroes.org. Become a donor and get others to donate now! We all caused this real, pending ocean disaster. Fix this mess right now!