The Pacific Ocean Is a Dump, Geneva and the Au Sable Institute Can Help - Geneva College
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November 9, 2018

The Pacific Ocean Is a Dump, Geneva and the Au Sable Institute Can Help

by Jessica Wilson ‘21

In the Pacific Ocean, plastic particles float in the water polluting the natural ocean and damaging its marine life. This pollution has been named the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, but the image it conjures of trash floating in the water is an incorrect assumption. Rather this “garbage patch” is several moving masses of plastic particles. Plastic does not biodegrade with time but breaks down into tiny, microscopic pieces of plastic that move with the water in vortex-like patterns. While they are too small for the eye to see, the tiny particles are present in certain areas of the ocean. These vortexes of microscopic plastic are what are known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Many marine life forms eat these plastic particles instead of or in addition to their food source. This can negatively affect the animals’ health. In Genesis 2:15, God calls his people to take care of the earth, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it,” and this Great Pacific Garbage Patch of micro plastic particles shows one way the world is failing to fulfill this call. Geneva College and The Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies partner to help teach students how to better fulfill the calling to take care of the Earth and its inhabitants.

This partnership with Au Sable enables Geneva students to earn credits through interactive learning and making a positive impact on the environment. Au Sable is a Christian organization seeking to educate people on how to serve, protect and restore the Earth.

The Au Sable Institute began in 1958 as a camp giving Christian boys a chance to learn about the world. In 1979, it became a formally established institute of environmental studies and has grown with the vision “A global community equipped with environmental knowledge, skills, and ethics to faithfully and fearlessly pursue the Christian vision of a flourishing earth.”

Students at Geneva College enroll in classes at the Au Sable Institute for May Session, Summer Session I or Summer Session II. They earn Geneva credit while studying aquatics, wildlife, sustainability, marine biology and environmental health.

Au Sable has locations in Michigan, Washington State, India and Costa Rica. Each base provides different experiences to further the students understanding of and impact on the environment.

At their Great Lakes Michigan base, Au Sable offers a course in Aquatic Biology, which focuses on understanding plants and animals inhabitating the Earth’s waters. The students explore the lakes, bogs, ponds, marshes and streams of the surrounding areas to get hands-on experience in understanding underwater life.

The Pacific Rim Institute in Washington also has several marine specific classes that enable a greater understanding of this unique habitat. Lessons and skills from these classes can easily be applied to work cleaning up and preventing damage from the plastic problem in the Pacific Ocean. The Pacific Rim campus facilitates classes in both Marine Biology and Marine Mammals. These courses offer specific focus on marine animal and plant life; they also highlight some of the roles sea birds play in these wet ecosystems.

Another course of study applicable to the stewardship of the Earth and how to prevent environmental problems is International Development and Environmental Sustainability. This class teaches students skills and concepts for sustaining natural ecosystems and illustrates ways to further social, cultural and economic ecosystems in an environmentally friendly way. Though it is often thought that side effects like polluting the oceans with plastic are necessary for man’s advancement, this program illustrates why innovation can be both Earth-shaking and Earth-saving. In other words, there are ways to be both ecologically and economically friendly.

These are just a few of the many courses Au Sable offers within their three-term summer program. Geneva students of all majors gain valuable experience through this opportunity to learn environmental sciences in a way that seeks to glorify the kingdom of God and help the Earth flourish. One of these students or a group of them may even help solve the problem of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. 

Geneva’s partnership with the Au Sable Institute helps students learn, protect and preserve the Earth’s ecosystems with the goal of good stewardship to the planet God has given. If you are interested in learning more about the Geneva College Environmental Science program, visit or contact Admissions - or 800-847-8255.

Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash