Tuesday, February 24, 2009
THE GREAT PACIFIC GARBAGE PATCH
"A Collection of Trash Twice the Size of Texas"
My name is Ben Diamond and I am an intern on the City College Urban Farm. Originally, I wanted to discuss how wonderful and amazing the Urban Farm is (which it is), but after learning about The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, I feel it is something important for people to be aware of.
We live in a day and age where everything is made to make our lives easier and where everything and anything can just be "thrown away". Society acts as if there is an endless supply of resources to create these goods, as well as bottomless land fill sites to get rid of our unwanted surplus. The reality of it all is slowly coming to a crashing halt. Land fill sites are, for lack of better words, filling up and resources are being depleted at an alarming rate. Not to mention all of the pollution these problems bring to the table. This throw away lifestyle that society has deemed acceptable has to stop. It is infiltrating all facets of our life and is becoming apparent on many levels.
On February 11, I attended a talk with guest speaker Captain Charles Moore on the effects of garbage in our Pacific Ocean. Charles Moore conducts research on what is called The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a gyre of marine debris located in the central Pacific Ocean. The patch is characterized primarily by extremely high concentrations of plastic and other debris that have been concentrated by the currents of the North Pacific Gyre. A gyre is a circular pattern of currents in an ocean basin. The patch first received wide scientific and public recognition after Charles Moore wrote several documented articles. Captain Moore discovered the patch accidentally by passing through the gyre after returning home from a sailing race. The patch has formed gradually over time as a result of marine pollution accumulating from such areas as Japan and the West Coast of North America. The patch is said to be roughly twice the size of Texas, containing approximately 3.5 million tons of trash. Although this patch twice the size of Texas can not necessarily be seen by the naked eye, it is there and I feel makes it more dangerous. It mainly is made up of toxic microscopic pieces of plastic, where the ratio of plastic to sea life is an astounding six to one. Plastic is not biodegradable, which means every piece of plastic ever made is here on earth forever(even if it is recycled, which is not often). The plastic mimics plankton, which is a large food source for many oceanic organisms including fish that in one way or another end up making it to our plate. The plastic also ends up in the stomachs of marine animals and birds causing dehydration and starvation. The worst part is that there is no real effort underway to clean the mess of this "natural" floating trash dump. Charles Moore and other activists are doing their best to bring this problem to the public eye, but the process of saving our earth is still a long and slow one.
Why is this so important for everyone to know? Maybe it is because micro pieces of plastic floating in the ocean are more dangerous than any oil spill. Maybe it is because the plastic picks up deadly toxins and later resembles plankton which is then eaten by small fish, thus infiltrating the food chain. Our food chain. Soon, fish will no longer be a viable source of food. Maybe it is because this throw away material is killing massive numbers of animals, both big and small in the ocean's ecosystem. Most importantly, maybe it is because if we don't change our throw away tendencies, change our way of living, there will not be a wonderful world left for our future generations. I hope people will ween themselves from their all encompassing, all consuming lifestyles just long enough, to save and protect Mother Earth.