“It is the responsibility of the people who made the mess to clean it up… We need to leave places better than the way we found them, and we are not doing that very well right now.”
Max Haworth arrived in Oregon 6 years ago, bringing with him a passion for activism and environmental protection. Max first encountered plastic pollution on the beaches of his home state of Hawaii where pieces of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch washed up with the waves. After researching this issue for a high school biology project and finding out there is a patch of garbage floating in the Pacific Ocean larger than Texas, Max knew that he couldn’t stand by and let this happen. He said that often when you learn about something but don’t have any way to take action, it can be a really scary thing, so Max started looking for a way to take action. He got involved with the Surfrider Foundation and began volunteering at beach cleanups, but soon realized that was not the solution to plastic pollution. “We would weigh the trash and it was basically the same every time. It was apparent that this was only treating the symptoms of this problem.” Max dove further into this issue and began working on the movement to ban plastic bags in Hawaii, with the goal of passing a statewide ban (which was passed in 2014). He educated the public on the effect of plastic pollution, organized volunteers, and encouraged individuals to make their voices heard on this issue.
After moving to Oregon to attend college, Max learned about Environment Oregon and was excited to hear about its legacy of working on the issue of plastic pollution in the ocean and plastic bag bans throughout the state. He has been working with Environment Oregon for two years now, and is one of the leaders of the Wildlife Over Waste campaign.
Max could not be more enthusiastic about canvassing, saying that he believes face-to-face conversation as a tool of organizing people will never become obsolete because it is so powerful and so important for conveying issues to the public. “Canvassing is an effective way of conveying that the public wants change. It is a strong political statement, this is how democracy continues to live.” Max has witnessed the power of canvassing this past summer working to gain support for a ban on polystyrene, more commonly known as Styrofoam. He says the support for this issue has been overwhelming. Max credits this in part to “the groundwork of organizations like Environment Oregon and Surfrider that help get us to the understanding that plastics are not a thing that should be presented as single use item.” He says that one of the most powerful things that has been said to him while working on this campaign is that the moment plastic pollution became an issue was when it was presented as a single-use item. “I don’t think plastic in itself is evil,” says Max, “It’s all about the way we use it and commodify it.”
“The ocean is like… my love. I am very passionate about the ocean, it has given so much to me in experiences. I used to go snorkeling and go to reefs and see whales and turtles. Turtles are my favorite.” Growing up in Hawaii, with its stunning beaches, has cultivated Max’s love and appreciation for the Pacific Ocean. Having the privilege of living in such a beautiful place has made Max realize the duty we have as humans to keep our planet clean and healthy. “It is the responsibility of the people who made the mess to clean it up… We need to leave places better than the way we found them, and we are not doing that very well right now.” He says that how we treat our planet shows the respect we have for it. “My question is, what do you want to be remembered by? Do you want to be remembered as the people who left the tab for the next generation?”
Max really believes that Oregon can be a leader in environmental issues, and has an incredible amount of hope for the future. He says are now in a critical time when the people still have the power to make change, but it might not be that way forever. “It’s easy right now to feel hopeless, but we need to realize it’s times like these when we need to amp up our actions… Now is better than tomorrow.” Max says it is obvious that Oregonians care about ending plastic pollution. “If you want to have true state pride you have to show it by taking a stand, by picking up trash on the street – the little things that add up show the true character of people and of Oregon. I do believe people have this character and we can get this done because enough people care to get this done… all you need is enough people who care.”