The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Part of what climate change is showing us is that human beings have to change their relationship with the world around them.  Rather than buying, using, and discarding without giving any thought to the real cost of what we are doing, we need to live in a sustainable way that recognizes that we are part of a larger eco-system and we live on a planet with finite resources.  Just in dollar terms, the real cost of a gallon of gas to Americans  – in terms of subsidies to oil companies, military presence in unstable oil-rich regions of the world, and damage to the environment, increases the price from cents to thousands of dollars per gallon – and this isn’t even counting the loss of both American and Iraqi lives.

FISH FOOD: One researcher holds up a tray of debris pulled from the garbage patch, pointing out tiny pieces of plastic that fish can swallow. (Photo: ZUMA Press)

Another symbol of the way we need to change our lives to live more in balance with our planet is what has become known as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”.  This floating island of garbage stretches for hundreds of miles and has doubled in size in the last decade. It is one of five “giant gyres” in the world’s oceans where humanity’s plastic pollution collects.  Because plastic doesn’t biodegrade, the stuff just sticks around and around, causing problems for the animals and plants that call the ocean home.

It’s the poster child for a worldwide problem: plastic that begins in human hands yet ends up in the ocean, often inside animals’ stomachs or around their necks.” (Mother Nature Network)

It was interesting for me to note that following the article on Roz Savage that “reality checker” provided recently some of the negative comments implied Savage’s work to highlight the garbage patch, and the garbage patch itself,  is a “scam”:

But somehow, envirowackos will have you think that the moment something turns into garbage, it is suddenly immune to the laws of thermodynamics and entropy and remains an eternal corruption upon mother Gaia.” (comment section of CNET article “Roz Savage Rows the Ocean Blue for a Green Cause”)

The implication seems to be that the scientists who are starting to study the patch and other eyewitnesses are wrong just on principle – it can’t be happening, the writer implies, because it’s his/her opinion!  Unfortunately, this kind of non-scientific nonsensical way of thinking that substitutes opinion for critical thinking (“if I don’t like it, it must not be true”) is pervasive in the anti-science mindset that dismisses climate change, too. But sooner or later, humanity will find, the earth will run out of patience with our thoughtless disregard for natural limits.  That is the challenge that we are facing in the next 10 years – to find a different way of being on the earth, or to face the dire consequences.

For more on the Pacific Garbage Patch, check out these links:

What Is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?

An Intimate Look at the Monstrous Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Pictures: Rubbish on the Oceans. NYTimes

0 thoughts on “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch”

  1. Hey Christine,

    to continue with our discussion about books the other day, and relevant to this piece, my boss gave me a stack of books to place on the work website, one of which I picked up and started reading yesterday; “Biodiversity: Integrating conservation and production” (Editors Ted Lefroy, et al.)
    It is, as the name suggests, heavily focused on both ecology and economy and discussions on human behaviour. It, like the other book, has steered me away from that appalling mock of debate regarding to climate change and to what must be the true focus relating to sustainability: education. Giving the like of Monkton air-time and experts being involved in public discussions with such people gives them a sort of credit-through-association, when, if we publicly wrote them off and focused on awareness (as well as practical steps foreword), it must be a good seed for a snowball effect if we keep the ball rolling.
    The second chapter of the book mentioned above was written by Severn Cullis-Suzuki, who writes an amazing piece about how he came to be so concerned – it all comes down to witnessing it and association to ones environment. The previous book (Opportunities beyond carbon) makes a point that we lack community awareness/involvement, which could be employed as a powerful tool for driving local concern in local environmental issues.
    As part of my studies at uni, I always remembered a case study from Queensland, where there was a fairly large initiative to help re-establish the Richmond Birdwing Butterfly. It was an excellent example of getting people aware, involved and in building local pride in an environmental problem close at hand. I always saw that this kind of work would be imperative for the starting century of the new millennia and hoped to eventually involve myself some way in the education process.
    The Great Pacific Garbage is a disgusting mess and because it is so far away from most people, it is one of those problems that is quickly forgotten (that we caused something so significant that it can a title in the same ball park as The Great Barrier Reef is beyond all horror…)

    • Thanks for the recommendation, Tim – I will put it on my “must read” list. Severn Cullis-Suzuki, by the way, is the daughter of Canadian scientist and environmentalist David Suzuki who has worked tirelessly for years on broad issues of biodiversity and environmentalism, including climate change (he has had a show on CBC television for decades called “The Nature of Things” – here’s the link to the David Suzuki Foundation: ). Several months, I posted this video of a young Severn Suzuki addressing the UN in 1992, here’s the link fyi: ).


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