Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Waste Not Want Not

Today, ALTERNET: A "plastic soup" of waste floating in the Pacific Ocean is growing at an alarming rate and now covers an area twice the size of the continental United States, scientists have said. The vast expanse of debris -- in effect the world's largest rubbish dump -- is held in place by swirling underwater currents. This drifting "soup" stretches from about 500 nautical miles off the Californian coast, across the northern Pacific, past Hawaii and almost as far as Japan. Mr. Moore, a former sailor, came across the sea of waste by chance in 1997, while taking a short cut home from a Los Angeles to Hawaii yacht race. He had steered his craft into the "North Pacific gyre" -- a vortex where the ocean circulates slowly because of little wind and extreme high pressure systems. Usually sailors avoid it.

He was astonished to find himself surrounded by rubbish, day after day, thousands of miles from land. "Every time I came on deck, there was trash floating by," he said in an interview. "How could we have fouled such a huge area? How could this go on for a week?"

------- Wait a minute, "surrounded by" and "floating by" are not the same thing. Of course "civilized" man is trashing the planet - but let's be concrete in our imagery.

From 2005 PBS: Gyres are areas where oceanographic convergences and eddies cause debris fragments to accumulate naturally. What the researchers discovered was both shocking and outrageous, a floating mass of plastic junk stretching across an area of ocean the size of Texas. Rivers of soda and water bottles, spray can tops, candy wrappers, cigarette lighters, shopping bags, polypropylene fishing nets, buoys and unidentifiable, miscellaneous fragments collected in a huge rotating mass of plastic pollution.

------- That is shocking growth - from the size of Texas to twice the size of the continental US in just a couple of years or so. Unfortunately, I've not found any aerial images of this huge floating plastic blob that should soon take over the planet.

During the Contra war in Nicaragua, from necessity, we recycled everything. Cigarette packages could be turned in for centavos; if you bought Windsor brand and turned the package inside out you might find the Alas brand or vice versa (Alas the cheapest and the name very appropriate). When buying cooking oil, Pine-Sol, detergent, body lotion or powder, and sometimes liquor - you took your own bottle for a refill. You paid a refundable deposit on anything made of glass. You brought things home in your own bolsa.

Although the Pacific floating garbage mass has not been verified, and I'm not buying it's as horrendous as it's claimed to be at this point, man should make better use of his garbage, and make less of it.

One of the first impressions of the States for anyone who experiences austerity is how wasteful Americans live, and the biggest obstacle I've noticed to Americans recycling and re-using anything, and weaning off unnecessary plastic, is it might give the impression they're "poor." God how middle American hates the idea of looking "poor." And changing a lifestyle might cost a few minutes a day from their busy lives - it's time consuming trying to look "rich" when all you have to work with is plastic.

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