Environmental Awareness Sheds Light on Man-Made Horrors

Can your astute environmental awareness tell you the answer to this riddle? What is twice the size of Texas, filled with an abundance of colored objects, and growing exponentially? Give up? It is the North Pacific Gyre, also known as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” Due to rotating ocean currents, five major gyres exist worldwide, that act like vortexes. Captain Charles Moore, who founded the Algalita Marine Research Foundation (AMRF), discovered the Pacific Garbage Patch in 1997 after straying from a projected route during a Yacht race. He recalls being “…in the middle of the ocean, and there was nowhere I could go to avoid the plastic.”

Over time, the gyre has captured mankind’s growing plastic inventions resulting in a floating nightmare. Yet it’s what lies underneath this top layer of pollution that is of growing concern. The decomposition of plastic results in dioxins. Di-What? Dioxins, often linked to cancer and reproductive health, are bad news. So it’s not just the fish that are affected by our plastic consumption, it’s you! So I’m sure you’ve thought, why don’t they just take a huge crane and dig out all that plastic? Great minds think alike when it comes to environmental awareness. Several groups are working to remove the top layer of plastic in the Pacific. But it’s the stuff we can’t see that remains the invisible threat. Dioxin is one of the most persistent chemicals on Earth. Since we have been producing 100% synthetic plastic since 1907, we have a lot of work to do. Now what of these gyres?

The good Captain is off again on a joint venture with Pangea Explorations and Livable Legacy to assess the other four gyres of the world. They will be studying the infiltration of plastic in the marine life and the Ocean at various depths. This will help us better understand the impact our plastic-addiction is having on the ‘lungs’ of the Earth, our Oceans.

Efforts to start cleaning up shoreline habitat and monitor rivers are adding to the growing understanding of our Marine community. Yet simple actions, like eliminating plastic bags from your lifestyle are easy ways to reduce your impact. In leading cities like San Francisco, plastic bags have been banned and replaced by compostable bags. How about we ditch the bags altogether and just bring our own? Women’s purses have reached an all-time size Large, so why not fill them with your goodies?

Despite the dark message this sends to our consumptive society, there is good news. By eliminating plastic bags, take-out utensils, and the like, you can start having a positive impact on not only the gyres of the world, but also our landfills and waterways. Although we may not be able to save the world by severely reducing our plastic diet, we can become more accountable for our consumptive habits. Our reduction partnered with restoration work along shorelines and rivers as well as garbage removal at the gyres can be a triple threat (perhaps more like a triage approach). Either way, it’s in our hands, so let’s cut the plastic.

Given the current tragedy unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, reducing our oil dependency and petroleum-based products is one way we can help reduce the likelihood of future disasters. Read Kendra's article on specific actions you can take to help reduce your impact.

Photo Credit: Algalita Marine Research Foundation.