Monday, 8 June 2009

Plastic desert in the North Pacific

In the midst of the northern Pacific Ocean is a liquid desert, a vast floating garbage dump, devoid of complex ocean life, prone to doldrums, seldom visited by fishing vessels, away from main shipping lines, and thus rarely seen by visitors.

It offers, by all accounts, a disturbing vision. Anyone sailing through this liquid dump will encounter, from horizon to horizon, concentrations of bobbing rubbish, in every direction, for day after day. Most of what is floating is not even visible, because it is plastic which has broken down into microparticles.

This degenerating soup is [...] about the same size as Britain, Ireland, France, Spain and Portugal. It has been created by a giant spiral of clockwise ocean currents, known as the North Pacific Gyre, which carries human-created garbage that is slowly collected and consolidated by wind and currents.

The phenomenon has a name: the Eastern Garbage Patch. It was first properly documented, quite recently, by a Californian sailor and ocean researcher, Charles Moore, after he took a shortcut by motoring his yacht through the doldrums on his way back from the 1997 Trans-Pacific Yacht Race. A second giant floating mass, created by the same gyre, has been discovered thousands of kilometres away between Hawaii and Japan. Together they are commonly referred to as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The whole thing is to be investigated by a Californian research project, using a boat named "Plastiki", made appropriately from recycled PET plastic. The full article is here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the opportunity to leave a comment. I have been reading over different sites that discuss the ‘plastic swirl’, ‘plastic garbage patch’ and so on. I live in the US and here it is described as being the size of Texas. I have also read about the Californian research project. Therefore, I would very much appreciate any comments you might have on what I’ve concluded.

I see the plastic spiral as yet another addition to the ‘list’. Each member of this list could prove devastating. We are melting the poles, polluting the air, burning the rainforests, fishing the oceans dry, driving the wild life to extinction, growing the deserts …and now…plastic broken down to the molecular level in the deepest parts of the oceans. The answer to the plastic spiral seems to be an echo of the answers I have read concerning my list,” The whole thing is to be investigated”.

Sorry to say, the only thing I have ‘really’ seen coming out of previous investigations is a horrible list of consequences, but no earth shaking change. I have honestly tried to think of an instance in history where mankind banned together to save the earth and the only one I could come up with was World War Two. Hitler proudly announcing that his aim was to rule the world did it. People actually put aside political, ethnic, and very personal difference to defeat a threat, which if allowed to continue, would surely alter the earth as we know it. Great personal sacrifice was endured by countless millions in order to defeat the sociopath and his minions.

I see ‘personal sacrifice’ as the key ingredient in everything I’ve stated thus far. That being said, I would like to offer the US’s recent statement on auto emissions as an example of what level of cooperation this branch of world power is willing to contribute. We were told that a thirty percent reduction in auto emissions was scheduled to be in effect by the year 2016. We were also told that we could be confident that new cars, while producing lower emissions, would still go every bit as fast, as we are all so fond of going very fast here in the US.

I find the first part of the statement placating and a veiled assurance that we of the US (First World) will not have to experience any uncomfortable self sacrificing. And I find the second half of the statement condescending as when one promises a whining toddler that they mustn’t worry, they will still be able to have a much candy as they could possibly desire.

Now, there is one thing I read that at first blush sounded as improbable as my story in paragraph three. It stated similar threats to the earth that I listed above but them said that Bible people had come to the door and showed a scripture that said something to the effect of, “God will bring to ruin those ruining the earth”. This statement appears in the last book of the Bible evidently. This individual went on to say that they found an outraged god finally having enough much more terrifying then never being able to drive their Volvo again. Thus, when I weigh out what I see happening to our beautiful planet (presently populated by an endless supply of whining toddler) I am now forced to acknowledge this latter scenario is actually much more believable.

Therefore, your thoughts on this if you please. Shall we expect that something truly meaningful will come out of the ‘investigation’ of the garbage swirl or shall we invite the Bible students into our homes the next time they call and ask them to put a finer line on just exactly who the ‘those’ are that the outraged God would be planning to ‘ruin’ when he steps in? I’ll watch for your response.

Thank you,