Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch: It's Real and It's Bad

I heard just a little bit last year about the enormous island of garbage in the Pacific Ocean and I furrowed the brow for a second, but it took a random appearance of the Patch in a dream last week to prompt me learn more about it.

The following is part 1 of a video series documenting a research voyage led by Charles Moore, leader of the Agalita Marine Research Foundation. Charles Moore discovered the garbage patch in 1997, and has since devoted his life and family fortune toward research of and education about the Pacific Garbage Patch. The images are astounding.

I suspect there are lots of people like me: we care, we reuse/reduce/recycle yet aren't "environmentalists" hardcore. We're aware that plastic is bad for our planet, but thought that buying fewer plastic bottles and recycling was enough to absolve us of personal responsibility. I think not.

I'll be changing more of my consumer habits and deliberate actions as a result of learning about this mess. I'm not sure exactly how, but I do know I don't have to turn into a one-note environmentalist in order to have impact.

Thomas Morton, a member of documentary video crew provides an insightful and revealing commentary on his transformation as a result of the voyage:

All the journalism I’d read about the patch had carefully danced around physical descriptions of the trash, leading myself and the rest of the shooting crew to fanciful visions of a solid, Texas-size barge of discarded Coke bottles and sporting goods. The idea that people had managed to fuck up a part of the world that nobody even visits, much less inhabits, and on such a monumental scale struck me as interesting and, to be honest, slightly awesome-sounding, but at the end of the day the impact of the mess on the rest of the world failed to register. I mean, sure, sea birds choking to death on deflated balloons and sea turtles whose shells have been completely deformed by soda can rings (click here for a picture of this if you want to ruin your day)—all this definitely sucks, but so do a lot of things, you know?

Needless to say this whole journey ended up overturning my expectations about the Garbage Patch, as well as just about every misconception I’ve ever held about the sea, environmentalism, consumption, knots, pollution, humanity, and myself.
(Thomas Morton)

Learn more: Wikipedia, video series

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