Opinion, arguments & analyses from the editors of Scientific American

Intolerable beauty: Plastic garbage kills the albatross


Each year thousands of albatross chicks die on Midway Atoll from starvation, toxicity and choking. The culprit: plastic trash accumulating across a vast area of ocean known as the Pacific Gyre. The nesting babies on the tiny, remote island are fed bellies-full of plastic by their parents, who soar out over the polluted water collecting what to them looks like food.

Chris Jordan, a photographic artist and cultural activist, recently photographed the albatross’s fate. He says that in order for people to really become inspired about cleaning up the planet, sometimes we have to stop and grieve about what is being lost every day.

Jordan has woven his beautiful, terrible photographs into a video slide show, which you can see below. Turn up the sound on your computer before you begin, to hear the original soundtrack, which will enhance a haunting sense of awe, discomfort—and perhaps inspiration. More of the artist’s work can be seen at




The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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