A study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) found that at least 88 percent of the Earth’s ocean surface is polluted with plastic debris. (1) The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Cadiz, Spain as well as the University of Western Australia. These findings obviously raise very large concerns surrounding marine life, climate, food chains and much more.
Plastic materials were introduced in the 1950’s, and ever since, the total global production of plastic has increased exponentially and will continue to do so over the coming decades unless we change our ways and figure out something new.
The study is based off of 3,070 total ocean samples that were collected all around the globe, and the total amount of plastic in the open-ocean surface is estimated to be between approximately 7,000 and 35,000 tons. Although this amount is huge, scientists were surprised as it is much lower than the amount they expected.
Even more astonishing is the fact that millions of tons of plastic should be floating around in the world’s oceans. The 88 percent headline in the title only accounts for 1 percent of the total plastic that we have in the ocean.
“We can’t account for 99 percent of the plastic that we have in the ocean.” – Carlos Duarte, Professor of Biology at the University of Western Australia, participating researcher in the study.
So where is all of the plastic that’s unaccounted for? A large percentage of it has been (and continues to be) eaten by marine mammals of all size, including fish. The study explains that when plastic is floating around in the open ocean, waves and radiation from the sun can fragment it into smaller and smaller particles until it becomes so small that it looks like fish food.
“Yes, animals are eating it, that much is indisputable.” – Peter Davison, Oceanographer at the Farallon Institute for Advanced Ecosystem Research
I published an article earlier this year about whales showing up dead on multiple beaches around the world with stomachs full of plastic. You can read that full article HERE.
Other explanations for the disappearance (according to the study) are shore deposition, nano-fragmentation and bio-fouling.
According to the study, the highest amount of plastic is found in the North Pacific Ocean. This is all due to human beings, and the high population on the eastern coast of Asia, the most densely populated coast in the world. The study also mentioned five major concentrations of ocean plastic junk. One is located west of the United States (the Pacific Ocean), another between the United States and Africa (Atlantic Ocean), thirdly, just west of the southern tail of South American (the Pacific Ocean) and finally, east and west of southern Africa (the Atlantic and Indian Oceans).
“We are putting, certainly by any estimate, a large amount of a synthetic material into a natural environment. We’re fundamentally changing the composition of the ocean.” – Kara Lavender Law, from the Sea Education Association.
Below is a video I’ve used in another article I published last year that relates to this topic. The North Pacific Gyre is North East of Hawaii where the ocean currents form a giant whirl pool of debris found around the Pacific. It’s one of the largest ecosystems on Earth that comprises of millions of square kilometers.
Today, it’s better known as “The Great Garbage Patch,” an area the size of Queensland, Australia where some estimate there to be approximately one million tonnes of plastic spread throughout the ocean.
Here is a quote from the photographer (of video below) Chris Jordan:
“I had been studying for quite a while the phenomenon called the Pacific garbage patch. I was looking for a way to visualize it, it was really surreal to land on Midway, seeing that my worst hopes of what I would find there are true. These are all albatross chicks, hatched out of their eggs and the very first meal they got was deadly to them. What happens is, when the eggs hatch one of the parents goes out and flies looking for food. They search over this vast area of the pacific and what they come back with is a belly full of toxic plastics, and they feed that to their babies. They die of starvation, malnutrition and choking. Simply allow yourself to feel whatever it is you feel about this, without jumping to the way to solve it. Because I think we really need to feel these things, even if the feelings are uncomfortable, because those are the feelings that will turn into the fuel and drive passionate action.”
What Can We Do?
I definitely believe that the collective desire to change these things will put the human race on the correct path to do so. If the intent is in the majority of our hearts, it will manifest into reality. That being said, we need to talk about solutions, action and implementation. We need to educate ourselves about the choices we make, question why we do the things we do, the way we do them, and start realizing that it doesn’t have to be this way.
First and foremost, the amount of waste each one of us produces when it comes to plastic and other articles of trash can be controlled to some extent by US. Try to think a little deeper about what you are buying and whether you need it. Maybe there are products that you can buy with less waste. Use reusable bags or find other uses for plastic bags you already have to keep them out of land fills and oceans. As consumers we vote with our dollars. When you can, make more eco-friendly choices.
There are young creative minds all over the world working towards bettering our world. Not long ago, 19-year-old Boyan Slat revealed his plans to the world regarding his Ocean Cleanup Array that could remove 7,250,000 tons of plastic waste from the world’s oceans. You can read more about that HERE.
Another solution could be making products with non-toxic hemp. Hemp has over 50,000 uses, you can find out more information about that HERE.
Navy ships could develop a method for locating and dragging nets for clean up, various solutions exist that could be used and implemented. I wish I had the answers, and could provide more solutions and information on how we could do this. I know that if the world’s ‘leaders’ came together and really wanted to pool their resources to clean up this planet, it could easily be done. Instead, they often pool their resources to destroy it for our materialistic wants.
Solutions to many of the world’s problems exist in various forms.
The human race has become very detached from nature. We still don’t realize that our potential to create a world where everybody’s needs are provided for, where we live in balance with nature and all living things on the planet is infinite. We could easily utilize technology and human genius to live in a world where everybody can thrive, where we could take the human race out of its adolescence into adulthood.
It can be done, and there is indeed light at the end of the tunnel. Our planet is currently experiencing a massive worldview transformation, we live in exciting times, so keep your head up, and be the change you wish to see in the world. It starts with you!
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