Monday, November 12, 2012

Jeb brings Bag It to the Outer Banks

by Jeb Berrier:
Jeb Berrier in the Outer Banks, NC
My next stop on the Southern Circuit was Manteo, NC, home of the famous Lost Colony of 1583. I say famous, but I had never heard the story, shame on me because it’s a good one, and something we all should know. Manteo was a Croatan Indian chief that befriended the English explorers who landed at Roanoke Island in 1584. This pre-dates Jamestown by more than 20 years. Manteo traveled to England several times where he learned the language, was appointed Lord of Roanoke, and returned in 1590 with the English to find the entire colony gone, without an explanation. The mystery has never been solved. I can’t believe this was the first time I’d heard this story, or maybe I had and like so many things learned in school, it had faded into my 40 something brain. The other bit of history that is right across the water from Manteo is Kitty Hawk, site of the Wright Brothers’ fist flight. I actually stayed right on the beach in the Orville and Wilbur Wright Days Inn. Pretty awesome, and pretty windy, which is part of the reason they picked it for their flight. 

I was picked up and brought to the screening by my host, Chris Sawin, who works for the Dare County Arts Council in Manteo. We went to their brand new building, actually their brand new building is about 100 years old. It’s the old courthouse that they have taken over and have turned into an arts center. Art galleries on the whole first floor, featuring painting, photography, sculpture, and my favorite, an old cigarette machine which has been retro fitted to dispense art. For real, it’s full of cigarette sized art pieces that you can buy for $5. A good use of a beautiful old machine, and how fitting for North Carolina. The upstairs was the old courtroom, which is being turned into a live performance venue. The courtroom was also the setting for an episode of Matlock, which many of the town’s people were in. Andy was an Outer Banks resident .

After the tour we headed over to the theater and screened Bag It to a small but enthusiastic crowd. Just so you know, this was Election Night, and there was a big storm happening, so we were grateful for any crowd at all. I was told that some of the towns on the Outer Banks have actually ‘Bagged It’ already and instituted a plastic bag ban in the large supermarkets. Needless to say, another great Q and A with a group of appreciative and inquiring folks.

Next day was a biggie with three high school classes and a lunch. I was taken to Manteo and First Flight High Schools by Richard, who had run the local alternative school for 30 years before his recent retirement. We started with Miss Shimi’s (apologies to her for not knowing her full name, she goes by Shimi) class who had been asked to name things they use every day that are made of plastic. Thank goodness for Shimi! She’s a great teacher who really asked these kids to think and participate, which they did.

It’s always fun to see kids that age think about a life without single use disposable plastics. They have never known anything different, but at the same time they are often quicker than adults to see the problems with some of our more wasteful and destructive ways, and to be open minded about ways to help make things better.

Next, after a meeting with some of the environmental club we headed over to First in Flight High School for Katie Neller’s advanced science class. These were kids who had done a variety of AP environmental science, chemistry, and physics classes. After discussing the issue of bottled water (one poor girl had brought a water to class and took some playful ribbing from the other kids) we came up with a possible exercise of carrying their water around school for one day in something other than plastic. Mason jars, spaghetti sauce jars, or anything that was not single use plastic. At first they shuddered at the thought of the un-coolness factor, a legit fear for any high school student, but after being offered extra credit by the teacher, they all seemed to get excited about it. What better way to open a dialogue about why we don’t need to be drinking tap water shipped from Fiji in a throw away bottle, than to wear a mason jar around school on your belt. Might even become a fad. J Ms Neller also wants to get the kids out in the field doing research on plastic to plankton ratios in their ocean water.

Lunch was at a delicious fish place called Tortuga’s Lie, with some members of the Arts Council and two local filmmakers, one of whome, Corey Godwin, had just won an award at the Blue Ocean Film Festival in Monterrey, CA. One of Bag It’s prouder moments was when we took home the grand prize at Blue Ocean in 2010. Almost everyone at lunch was a member of Surfrider, a nationwide group devoted to protecting the oceans and beaches. Corey’s film was about the stranding of sea animals on beaches, why it happens and who are the people who save them. The film looks great, albeit a little upsetting. They don’t know why marine strandings happen when they do, but in many cases the animal has ingested, guess what………….wait for it……….,you got it, plastic, and it goes on shore to die. These stories are all connected and make me glad to know that there are people all over the world who care and who are working to make a difference.

Other things I got to see: The new public pier built to access some of the best fishing in the world on the Outer Banks, a beach that was re-sanded to fight erosion at a cost of 30 million dollars, they’re hoping it works, a lot of waves and beautifully rugged beach, and finally my pillow.

Farewell Manteo, next stop Miramar, FL.