15 min read

On mylar balloons and forgotten futures

Some thoughts about mylar balloons, what they represent in the paranormal, and what else they might mean in terms of our world and our future.
On mylar balloons and forgotten futures

Listen to the episode audio here.

Some thoughts about mylar balloons, what they represent in the paranormal, and what else they might mean in terms of our world and our future.

Highlights include:

  • mylar balloons' history in the paranormal and position as garbage
  • the idea of being haunted by trash
  • the power of imagination
  • some solarpunk reading recs

Episode Script for on mylar balloons and forgotten futures

DISCLAIMER: I'm providing this version of the script for accessibility purposes. It hasn't been proofread, so please excuse typos. (Especially because I use dictation software for a lot of my script writing!) There are also some things that may differ between the final episode and this draft script--some of this transcript may feel a bit incomplete. Please treat the episode audio as the final product.

Mylar balloons as synchronicity

  • mentions of mylar balloons on Hellier and Strange Familiars
  • Connections have been made between mylar balloons and bigfoot: http://squatchable.com/article.asp?id=595
  • my own experiences
    • Randonautica
  • I suppose it's also worth mentioning that when I searched "mylar balloon paranormal" there were some results that mentioned that some people mistake mylar balloons for ghosts, UFOs, etc, since they're shiny objects that float around

Mylar balloons as trash

I've been reading tons of books about reuse and repair and the environment and stuff and many of them have mentioned mylar balloons as a common sight when it comes to waste.

  • haunted by trash
    • mummified trash in dumps (Garbology by Edward Humes)
    • mylar balloon as a symbol of being haunted by trash
  • Excerpt From: "The Buy Nothing, Get Everything Plan: Discover the Joy of Spending Less, Sharing More, and Living Generously" by Liesl Clark and Rebecca Rockefeller
    Read this book on Scribd: https://www.scribd.com/book/449739458

When we looked more closely at the sand beneath our feet, we found a couple of three-millimeter-wide plastic discs. (We later discovered these are called nurdles, and they are industrial feedstock for all plastic products.) It soon became clear that the discs made up an alarming percentage of the beach-scape that day. As the kids ran along the logs, yelling out with glee about their newfound game, refusing to touch the “plaastic saand” with their feet, we trained our gaze to look at what else was commingling with the sand, shells, driftwood, and seaweed around us. We found larger bits of plastic debris that were even more disturbing: syringes, a green army man that Finn was happy to add to his collection, coffee stirrers, PVC pipe, pens just like Cleo’s from home, light switch covers, a Mylar helium birthday balloon like the one that Ava lost at a friend’s party when it slipped free from her fingers the week before, cigarette lighters, a bright yellow baby toy just like one Mira remembered having, car bumpers, and tampon applicators—ob-jects of our everyday lives, all made of plastic, all washed up on our shoreline.

  • After reading that, I wanted to do a bit more digging and see who else was talking about finding mylar balloons out and about in nature.
  • I ended up coming across a thread on arizonahuntingforums.com, from March 2022. I like this because it was hunter's talking about it, not hippies or anything. But I thought they painted a really good picture of what it's like to be in the woods and come across tons of mylar balloons, because apparently that is a thing.

A Buddy and I went out scouting/ shed hunting over the weekend.
We saw some great areas that we may hunt come August for bow.
But we also saw, and I come across this every time I am in the woods, not one but two mylar balloons. Ironically, they both said, "You are Special" A special kind of idiot for releasing them into the air.
My daughter and her girl scout troop have actually been trying to push for legislation to educate and stop the release of balloons into the air as they, inevitably, find their way into wild places. They were able to take it all the way to the capital building where they spoke on the subject.
I guess my point is not really a point but a venting due to how often I come across this.
We collected both balloons and carried them with us through our hike then proceeded to collect a trash bags worth of garbage in the few hundred yard area near where we parked our car - mostly beer cans/ bottles. People cannot be bothered to venture deeper into the woods - fortunately - to drink. Nor can they be bothered to collect their trash.

Replies:

I hear you Robert, Everytime I go to Tonto creek to fish, so much trash, hook wrappers, bait jars, lids, worm containers, you get the point. If you carry it in, carry it out, takes so little time to do it. And YES Ive seen my share of Mylar balloons.

  • Another:

I find those balloons in the middle of the desert in 28 all the time. They catch your eye easy because the sun reflects off them a mile away. No one bothers to think where they land after being released.

  • Another:

I did a whole rant on Mylar balloons when posting some hiking photos on another site. I find them in the most remote locations and they never seem to die. They need to be outlawed as an environmental hazard.

  • Another

Well fellers, here is a point that we are in total agreement. Here on the coast, you can't go on the beach or offshore any distance without finding some sort of released balloon or other such trash- I include Wal Mart bags here in particular. And the worst part is, here on the Gulf our sea turtles which are having a hard enough time surviving come upon these floating balloons and they look just like a jellyfish which is prime sea turtle food. the poor turtles eat the plastic and they die a terrible death from their guts being clogged with the trash.
Brothers, you are all singing the right song- these damned balloon- and plastic Wal Mart bags- ought to be banned and taken off the open market.

  • Another (RK)

The thing about the mylar balloons is that they can get to parts of the planet that Walmart bags are unlikely to. Those helium filled balloons can literally find their way to every nook and cranny of the most remote wilderness areas. It is pretty disheartening to find a spot that may not have seen human foot traffic in a hundred years or perhaps much more, but there is a f** mylar balloon.

  • Another:

100% RK!
I tend to hike fairly deep into the woods and will always find. I have yet to go on a hike, scout, hunt and not come across one, often 2-3!

-Another:

I believe picking up mylar balloons is a good way to turn the luck on a hunting trip for the better.

  • Another:

My spooky Milar balloon story, and I may have told this before I don't recall.
My son-in-law and I are driving down a forest service road at 0-dark 30 on the way to a turkey setup. We are both only about half awake and he is driving. All of a sudden, a flashing, sparkly item floats across the road ahead of us about two feet off the road surface. I think I spit out coffee but my comment was "what the hell is that?" The thing is flashing like a set of LED light bars on a police car. I'm thinking Roswell but as we get closer we see it is a half inflated Mylar balloon floating and rotating in the breeze as it crosses the road.

My son and I were out dove hunting. The doves were flying and the shooting fast. I caught motion above me. Low and behold, a mylar baloon making its final decent.

Found another one today after work... tangled in a juniper bush. They're everywhere out here. The wind blows from the south west and there's almost nothing southwest of me so probably from Phoenix or Tucson years ago.

Those balloons make a lot of trash, I tuna fish off San Diego and Mexico, every graduation year, and plan on seeing them off the coast as we fish everywhere. I could pick up 10-20 of them most weekends in the summer after graduation about 10-30 miles off the coast. Odd that straws are banned there yet you can buy mylar balloons and release them, knowing there is a strong chance they'll be in the ocean in days, yet they were all about straws killing things off their coast. I wanted to mail those balloons to Sacramento when I lived there and ask them why they banned straws and bags yet let mylar balloons float for weeks or months in the ocean till they sink or wash up

  • But I guess mylar balloons are such a widespread issue and are found so often out and about in nature that there are a lot of websites dedicated to spreading the word about how environmentally damaging they are. There's even one called mylarmistake.com.
  • And I say this not to try to debunk paranormal experiences that anyone has had with mylar balloons. But I do think it's really important to keep in mind that it turns out that mylar balloons are just really common out in nature. so as always, with the paranormal it is important to know kind of the likelihood is something, because if you're observing a synchronicity, it might feel less and less like a synchronicity the more you realize how commonplace an object is. That being said, things like Hellier, to me, have a really convincing argument for mylar balloons being tied to the paranormal and synchronicities.

https://www.adirondackalmanack.com/2022/03/dirty-30-mylar-balloon-pollution-collected-by-herkimer-county-office.html

https://citizensustainable.com/balloons-environment/

https://www.conserve-energy-future.com/are-balloons-recyclable.php

https://www.thriftyfun.com/Mylar-Balloon-Uses-Guide.html

http://mylarmistake.com/

Dangers of mylar balloons

Mylar balloons have also proved to be a constant menace to utilities and fire departments. Their silvery coating serves as a conductor for electricity, which means they can short transformers and melt wires just by coming near a high-voltage line. . . .
The California utility recorded 80 outages in February involving balloons and 217 in June. Last year, it tallied more than 1,000 outages related to mylar balloons, including dozens of incidents involving downed power lines.
"There have been times when they make contact that there is this gigantic explosion," the SCE spokesman said, citing one such blast in July 2017 in Long Beach, not far from where utility crews were working. "The supervisor had them come down away from the area, but it could have been really dangerous."
. . . {First Energy} blames mylar balloons for more than 200 power outages in 2018 and 2019 across its service area, which includes parts of Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

Imagination and the paranormal

  • So why am I talking about this? Well, it's partially because I've been reading and thinking a lot about the power of imagination, and I've been reading books about imagination and trying to make the world a better place while also reading stuff talking about the environment and mentioning mylar balloons.
  • If you're listening to this, you probably have a lot of imagination. That's because being interested in the paranormal requires imagination.
  • And no, I'm not saying that the paranormal is all made up. What I'm saying is that the paranormal and the occult is all about the things that are at work in this world that we can't see and there about an alternate way of experiencing reality.
  • You have the whole world telling you that the only things that are real are what you can see and measure. But the paranormal is all about things that are harder to measure scientifically or harder to explain or are just out of sight and accessed through unusual means. So you have to have a lot of imagination and a lot of vision to have the courage to consider that there's something else out there.
  • And I would argue that if you are interested in history, you have to have a lot of imagination as well. Because to study history and to learn about history you have to be able to imagine things being different from how they are now.
  • There's a great book called From What Is to What If: Unleashing the Power of Imagination to Create the Future We Want by Rob Hopkins, which I'll talk about more in a bit. But the book talks about how nowadays people's imaginations are constrained. People are taught not to be imaginative, but also stress literally damages the part of your brain that allows you to imagine things. So in a world where we need more creative solutions for difficult problems than we ever have needed before, we are ending up with a population of people who are finding it more and more difficult to imagine. I don't know about you, when I think about times my life and I've been extremely stressed out, those are times in my life where I didn't even have the mental space to imagine anything. I couldn't really imagine anything getting better in my own life, much less the world. And I think that most people are like that, because that's literally our brains work.
  • But if you have no imagination, then you end up rooted in the here and the now and in the measurable and you are confined by the restraints that are put around you by the consensus of what reality is. So to be interested in history or the paranormal, you must be able to imagine a world that's different from the one where in right now. And that sort of imagination is exactly what I want to talk about here.
  • Right now, we are in a world where pretty much everything is bad. Kind of anywhere you want to look, whether it's the environment or politics or public health or the cost of living crisis, things are terrible and the consensus is that things are going to keep getting worse and worse and worse. But what if it were possible for things to get better? Can you even imagine a world where things could get better?
  • I think that a lot of people who imagine a better world are just imagining a past world. They're imagining maybe the 90s or the 60s or some other time when they think things were better than they are now.
  • But, to quote my Cajun grandparents, "there's no such thing as the good old days" and they should know because they grew up in Louisiana without air-conditioning and indoor plumbing. We don't need to regress to a previous time when maybe some small number people might have had things better than they do now, but most people still were struggling. Instead, we can imagine a better future. And that's what I want talk about here.
  • So anyway, let's loop back to the mylar balloon.
    • The mylar balloon something that is meaningful in the paranormal, but in a more realistic sense, mylar balloons are just the thing that you encounter a lot out and about in nature. And that's because people release them without thinking about what kind of damage it's doing.
    • So I could just say that when you see a mylar balloon out in the woods, you shouldn't think of synchronicity, you should think about litter and the environment.
    • But that's not what I'm saying here.
    • I think that it is important to think about the environment.
    • But it's just as important to think about how things could be improved as it is to think about how things are bad and getting worse.

Forgotten Futures

  • Right now, things are feeling pretty bleak. And I say this not to try to freak anybody out or bum anybody out, but to say that were up against a lot and it's worth pausing and trying to find a way to feel more hopeful about things. Because otherwise you just end up miserable and crushed and unable to even imagine a less miserable fate.

From What Is to What If: Unleashing the Power of Imagination to Create the Future We Want by Rob Hopkins:

In August 2018, the journalist Will Hutton reported on a new colloquialism being used by doctors in the United States and United Kingdom to describe ‘a tangled mix of economic, social and emotional problems’, which ‘consists of low mood caused by adverse life cir- cumstances’. ‘Shit life syndrome’ (SLS), as the doctors call it, is when ‘finding meaning in life is close to impossible; the struggle to survive commands all intellectual and emo- tional resources … It is not just poverty, but growing relative poverty in an era of rising in- equality, with all its psychological side-effects, that is the killer.’¹ Although Hutton was primarily describing SLS as an argument against austerity and growing inequality, it seems to describe how an awful lot of people, rich or poor, are feeling these days.

Excerpt From: "Stitched Up: The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion" by Tansy E. Hoskins. https://www.scribd.com/book/314635741

I agree with the activist economist Michael Albert who wrote: ‘Our negative or critical messages don’t generate anger and action but only pile up more evidence that the enemy is beyond reach.’⁴¹

  • From the intro of From What Is to What If: Unleashing the Power of Imagination to Create the Future We Want by Rob Hopkins, What if things turned out okay? The author imagines a nice future.

I wake, well rested, in the straw-bale-walled apartment my family and I call home. Built fifteen years ago as part of a sustainable-con-struction initiative throughout our city, the three-storey-high apartment complex costs virtually nothing to heat, its basement hosts composting units for all the building’s toilets, and the solar panels on the roof generate all our electricity needs. I wake my kids, get them dressed and fed and accompany them to school – a walk that takes us through shared gardens with a diversity of food crops, including young ruby chard whose deep red leaves radiate like stained glass caught in the brilliant sun of this late spring morning. The streets are quiet, due to sparse motorised traffic, and they are lined with fruit and nut trees in early blossom. The air smells of spring. Each bus stop we pass is surrounded by a garden on three sides, part of the Edible Bus Stop network that now includes most bus stops across the United Kingdom. Anyone can graze while they wait for the bus. In our community, the kids seem to have radically different feelings about school than they did ten years ago. The education department’s decision to eliminate testing, to give ample space for unstructured play and to provide students with opportunities within the community to acquire meaningful skills that enable them to live happy and healthy lives by their own definition means that most kids here now love going to school. My son, for example, recently upped his cooking skills by spending a week at a local restaurant. My kids and I approach the school through intensive food gardens, planted and managed by the students, and walk into a building where we are greeted by the smell of baking bread and the sound of happy chatter. After we say our goodbyes, I pick up a public bicycle and head into the city on one of our cycle networks. With more bicycles and fewer cars on the road, air quality has improved, and public health along with it. I call into my favourite bakery to buy bread. Launched fifteen years ago on the premise that ‘baking is the new Prozac’, the bakery’s mission is to provide meaningful work opportunities for people who lack housing and job security, and who struggle with mental health.¹ The bakery prioritises local produce, grows a thriving rooftop garden and uses bicycle-powered delivery around town.² With the bakery’s support, many of its employees have launched other successful businesses across the city.

https://www.scribd.com/book/427041315

  • solarpunk vs dystopia (ppl are so focused on dystopia and fear that they forget to focus on the future they want to live in)

  • Moore Jackson cemetery

  • And my hope is that by the time I'm done talking about the topic of imagination and the possibility of forgotten, better futures, when you see a mylar balloon, you think about synchronicity and all the things that could represent the paranormal. But I also hope that you could use it as a trigger to remind yourself to think about how things could be better in the future.

  • The more we suppress our imagination and the more we tell ourselves that things can't improve, the more screwed over we are. And if we humans have any hope of improving the state of things, we have to have the courage and imagination to envision a world where things are better. And that means being able to see beyond what governments and corporations and the hegemonic structures of our world tell us is the only option.

  • When it comes to mylar balloons, I'd like to challenge you to use it as a prompt to pause and think about what sort of forgotten future you'd like to reclaim, what sorts of what ifs you'd like to dream into being.

  • I'm planning to explore this a little bit more in a future episode, but I wanted to at least get this conversation started. I would love to hear people's thoughts about this topic, because something I've been thinking about a ton lately. And for me, just finding a way to imagine a future in which not everything is completely screwed up, has become an important component of my mental health maintenance, I guess you would call it. I've read a huge number of books about this this year, and I'll plan to put together a list of some of those books in case anyone's curious I guess the next episode I do about this, but in the meantime, here are some places that might be helpful to learn more about this idea.

Where to start: People to read, watch, or listen to

  • Andrewism (https://www.youtube.com/c/Andrewism)
  • Cory Doctorow's podcast (https://craphound.com/podcast/)
  • From What Is to What If: Unleashing the Power of Imagination to Create the Future We Want by Rob Hopkins
  • Becky Chambers, especially the Monk and Robot series (starting with A Psalm for the Wild-Built) and Record of a Spaceborn Few