A Tour of the Pacific’s Garbage Island

Posted: April 14th, 2008 by: h2

Please check out this recent VBS.tv series on the Pacific Ocean’s ‘garbage island’ if you do not yet have a sense of just how massively human beings are screwing up the Earth’s ecosystem.

For years we’ve been reading about a patch of garbage the size of Texas floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, ingeniously dubbed the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Basically, any trash that gets dumped in the water rides the currents to this one spot and joins an ever-increasing flotilla of crap. For all the breathless accounts of the mess and its impact on the area’s sealife, however, no one seemed to have a picture of the buildup.

In order to sate our own curiosity, VBS joined the crew of a research vessel studying the trash and sailed out into one of the most remote spots of open water in the world, the North Pacific Gyre, in search of this mythical garbage island. What we discovered once we got there was an ecological disaster beyond any of our expectations and possibly the single worst thing human beings have done to the planet and ourselves. Hope you’re into cancer and sex-reversal!

You can skip the first few videos, since they aren’t actually about the garbage pile stuck in the middle of the ocean, but the footage is pretty disturbing when you stop to think of just what our interactions with the Earth’s ecosystem is actually doing to it.

I’ve run into a fairly common view, that holds that the Earth is so big, and people so small, that nothing we can do will destroy it. This view is also part of what makes some people fail to grasp the reality of global warming. That’s basically simple ignorance, and is not a position that is hopeless, unlike much of the other nonsense that drives people.

The thing I found so disturbing about this is that the vast bulk of this plastic flotsam is just pointless garbage, bottles etc created so we could avoid some perceived inconvenience at some point, stopping in at a gas station on the way to somewhere, bringing a bottle to the beach with us.

Of course, it also has a macro level, huge garbage scows being towed out to sea by tug boats, then being dumped into the ocean, under the mistaken belief that the oceans are just ‘too big’ to ever be damaged.

As rapidly declining fish stocks globally, and rapidly increasing ocean dead zones, are fast showing, the oceans are not at all too big to be destroyed by humanity.

I believe that in general, you can fairly safely assume that all these problems are significantly worse than they are usually reported, for several reasons. Primary is that the scientists doing the research are scared of being seen as doom sayers, and are also afraid of losing funding etc. So they tend to be very conservative in their estimates.

As we’re seeing however, such conservatism is probably going to need to end fairly soon.

One Response to “A Tour of the Pacific’s Garbage Island”

  1. Tartie says:

    Remember how as kids (You must have heard this one, too) that even one little bit of garbage has an impact ? Mostly as recycling was becoming more widespread ?

    Proof right there that all those one little pieces added up. This ties in so well with the oil prices article re. conservation. That might be a subtopic these could be linked together. Just an idea. Otherwise, good so far.

    I haven’t made it through the whole video yet, IW is being assy, probably flash too, but will try in the morning. Incredible shots though.