November 05, 2007
by: jovial_cynic
Remember Ranger Rick? Back when I was in elementary school, one of the magazines available in the classroom was Ranger Rick, which provided all kinds of neat articles about animals, their habitats, as well as fun little games inside.

I distinctly recall reading one issue that introduced me to the horrors of litering. It had a picture of Rick on top of a trash heap, and the story was about all the stuff people threw away, and how if we weren't careful, the land would be completely covered in garbage.

As a result of that article, I've had that concept etched into my mind, and have been an advocate for reusing, repurposing, recycling, etc. R's and all that.

Years went by, and I grew up, and I never encountered out-of-control trash heaps. I didn't have to wade through sludge to get to my car before I headed off to work, and I didn't have to climb over piles of trash to take a walk. None of it seemed true. Had I been worrying for nothing?

And then I ran into this article.

[The] Great Pacific Garbage Patch - a heap of debris floating in the Pacific that's twice the size of Texas, according to marine biologists.

The enormous stew of trash - which consists of 80 percent plastics and weighs some 3.5 million tons, say oceanographers - floats where few people ever travel, in a no-man's land between San Francisco and Hawaii.


"With the winds blowing in and the currents in the gyre going circular, it's the perfect environment for trapping," Eriksen said. "There's nothing we can do about it now, except do no more harm."

The patch has been growing, along with ocean debris worldwide, tenfold every decade since the 1950s, said Chris Parry, public education program manager with the California Coastal Commission in San Francisco.

I did some more research and came across this paper from the Natural History Magazine that was written back in November 2003.

I often struggle to find words that will communicate the vastness of the Pacific Ocean to people who have never been to sea. Day after day, Alguita was the only vehicle on a highway without landmarks, stretching from horizon to horizon. Yet as I gazed from the deck at the surface of what ought to have been a pristine ocean, I was confronted, as far as the eye could see, with the sight of plastic.

It seemed unbelievable, but I never found a clear spot. In the week it took to cross the subtropical high, no matter what time of day I looked, plastic debris was floating everywhere: bottles, bottle caps, wrappers, fragments. Months later, after I discussed what I had seen with the oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer, perhaps the world's leading expert on flotsam, he began referring to the area as the "eastern garbage patch." But "patch" doesn't begin to convey the reality.


In 2001, in the Marine Pollution Bulletin, we published the results of our survey and the analysis we had made of the debris, reporting, among other things, that there are six pounds of plastic floating in the North Pacific subtropical gyre for every pound of naturally occurring zooplankton.

The problem is that plastic doesn't break down. The article states that "...the plastic polymers commonly used in consumer products, even as single molecules of plastic, are indigestible by any known organism." So it just keeps building up and getting worse. And out in the ocean, no nation wants to take responsibility for putting together the billions of dollars necessary to begin cleaning it up.

It looks like Ranger Rick wasn't wrong, after all.


Wonder said:
Ugh. That's disgusting.

hey, weren't we supposed to take care of the earth?

I always sort of assumed that means not junking up the place..

but there i go, sounding like a "liberal" again....

November 09, 2007

jovial_cynic said:
Yeah. And I think that this is the all-inclusive "we." That instruction was given to all mankind, not just to believers (unlike specific moral laws).

The human, as a species, is such a lazy, slovenly, and disgusting creature. It treats the planet like a run-down trailer park, throwing trash wherever it's convenient to do so.

November 09, 2007

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