Saturday, August 29, 2009

New attention brought to the Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch

Photo: Reuters/J. Leichter/Scripps Institute of Oceanography

When people ask me "What is so bad about plastic?" one of the first things I mention is the Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch. I first learned about it from this November 2006 article in Best Life Magazine- not somewhere you would expect to find cutting edge environmental news. Lots of people have never heard of it. Others have, and like the threat of terrorism or nuclear war, try not to think about it too much-- it is too big a problem to fathom, and what can I do? Let someone else worry about it.

For over a decade Captain Charles Moore has been studying the Pacific Garbage Patch and sounding the alarm to the outside world. His message has been getting through to some and now is starting to really get out in a big way. The Scripps Institute if Oceanography just completed a 3 week fact finding expedition. Their research and the research of Captain Moore and other scientists is just the beginning in this dangerous problem area- created recently by humans and yet largely unknown and almost completely not understood by science and humanity.

Today the AP has an article about the Scripps expedition. Here is what I find to be new and alarming:
The scientists hope their data gives clues as to the density and extent of marine debris, especially since the Great Pacific Garbage Patch may have company in the Southern Hemisphere, where scientists say the gyre is four times bigger.

"We're afraid at what we're going to find in the South Gyre, but we've got to go there," said Tony Haymet, director of the Scripps Institution.

There is a bigger one out there? Oh, no. I knew there were other oceanic gyres on the planet but until today had thought the Pacific gyre, and its garbage patch, to be the largest.

What can be done? Well, like they say, when you find yourself in a pit the first thing to do is to stop digging. That is why I have my blog. Nothing I do will shrink the garbage patches of the world, but I like to think that by consuming less plastic I'm at least not adding as much to them. If more of us do that they may not grow as fast. If we as consumers and citizens let companies, manufacturers and governments know that we want less plastic, after a while they will listen, and the the patches may not grow as fast.

It has to start somewhere.

1 comment:

John Costigane said...

Hi Juli,

Highlighting the North Pacific Gyre plastic waste is excellent just from the visual aspect. Can anyone justify this eye-sore?

Consumers, as in the UK, have to force the pace of change, against the vested interests who turn a blind eye to their environmental impact.

On a different note is anyone else appalled by top TV and sports stars promoting recurring waste eg plastic bottles and razors? I use a safety razor, on Beth's advice, and avoid plastic bottles like the plague.