We are starting to see that there are very serious consequences for filling up our oceans with massive amounts of plastic that never biodegrades. In fact, this is one of the greatest environmental disasters of all time and yet you rarely hear it talked about.
Virtually every molecule of plastic ever created still exists somewhere, and we all use things made out of plastic every single day. But have you ever stopped to think about what happens to all of that plastic? Well, the truth is that a lot of it ends up in our oceans. In fact, humanity produces approximately 200 billion pounds of plastic every year, and about 10 percent of that total ends up in our oceans.
In other words, we are slowly but steadily filling up our oceans with our garbage. In the North Pacific Ocean, there is a vast area where so much plastic has collected that it has become known as “the Great Pacific Garbage Patch” and as “the Pacific Trash Vortex”. This “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” stretches from Hawaii to Japan, and it has been estimated to be larger than the entire continental United States. It contains more than 100 million tons of plastic, and every single year it gets even larger.
When people hear the term “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”, they expect to find millions of plastic bottles floating around out there. But that is not what we are dealing with. You see, when plastic gets into the ocean it never biodegrades, but it does photodegrade. So what we end up with is a “plastic soup” of billions upon billions of microscopic pieces of plastic. Some are approximately the size of your pinkie fingernail, but most of the pieces are much smaller.
For much more on the basics of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, check out the short YouTube video posted below…
Even though all sorts of different kinds of garbage get into our oceans, plastic is of particular concern.
Yes, it breaks down into smaller components, but it never goes away. So the plastic bottle that you toss overboard today will still be there in some form a hundred years from now. And this creates some major league problems…
The main problem with plastic — besides there being so much of it — is that it doesn’t biodegrade. No natural process can break it down. (Experts point out that the durability that makes plastic so useful to humans also makes it quite harmful to nature.) Instead, plastic photodegrades. A plastic cigarette lighter cast out to sea will fragment into smaller and smaller pieces of plastic without breaking into simpler compounds, which scientists estimate could take hundreds of years. The small bits of plastic produced by photodegradation are called mermaid tears or nurdles.
Perhaps the biggest danger that all of this plastic poses is to our food chain.
35 percent of the fish that we caught out there had an average of two pieces of plastic in their stomach.
But fish are only part of the story. Just check out the following excerpt from an excellent Wikipedia article…
Some of these long-lasting plastics end up in the stomachs of marine birds and animals, and their young, including sea turtles and the Black-footed Albatross. Midway Atoll receives substantial amounts of marine debris from the patch. Of the 1.5 million Laysan Albatrosses that inhabit Midway, nearly all are found to have plastic in their digestive system. Approximately one-third of their chicks die, and many of those deaths are due to being fed plastic from their parents. Twenty tons of plastic debris washes up on Midway every year with five tons of that debris being fed to Albatross chicks.
That is just tragic.
But what we are witnessing now is just the beginning. The plastic soup in our oceans is starting to block sunlight from reaching the algae and plankton that form the very base of the food chain.
And that could rapidly become an absolutely massive crisis.
If we start wiping out the algae and the plankton, that could cause a chain reaction up and down the marine food chain. The following is how National Geographic describes what we could be facing…
If algae and plankton communities are threatened, the entire food web may change. Animals such as fish and turtles that feed on algae and plankton will have less food. If those animals start to die, there will be less food for predator species such as tuna, sharks, and whales.
In turn, that could ultimately mean a lot less food out of the oceans for humanity.
And already, vast portions of the Pacific Ocean appear to be “dying”. In a previous article, I included a quote from a very experienced Australian adventurer in which he stated that he felt as though “the ocean itself was dead” as he journeyed from Japan to San Francisco recently…
The next leg of the long voyage was from Osaka to San Francisco and for most of that trip the desolation was tinged with nauseous horror and a degree of fear.
“After we left Japan, it felt as if the ocean itself was dead,” Macfadyen said.
“We hardly saw any living things. We saw one whale, sort of rolling helplessly on the surface with what looked like a big tumour on its head. It was pretty sickening.
“I’ve done a lot of miles on the ocean in my life and I’m used to seeing turtles, dolphins, sharks and big flurries of feeding birds. But this time, for 3000 nautical miles there was nothing alive to be seen.”
In place of the missing life was garbage in astounding volumes.
“Part of it was the aftermath of the tsunami that hit Japan a couple of years ago. The wave came in over the land, picked up an unbelievable load of stuff and carried it out to sea. And it’s still out there, everywhere you look.”
What in the world would cause vast areas of the Pacific Ocean to appear to be “dead”?
In addition to all of the plastic in the ocean, it is also certainly possible that the Fukushima nuclear disaster is playing a huge role in the enormous changes that we have been witnessing in the Pacific.
For much more on that, please see my previous article entitled “Japan Begins Purposely Dumping 100s Of Tons Of Radioactive Water From Fukushima Into The Pacific.”
In any event, it is undeniable that conditions in the Pacific Ocean are getting worse with each passing year.
And every single day more garbage, more plastic and more radioactive water from Fukushima gets added to the mix.
If future generations get the chance, they will probably look back on us as “the crazy plastic people”. Nearly everything that we buy comes wrapped or contained in this substance that we know won’t biodegrade. But we keep dumping hundreds of billions of pounds of it into our landfills and into our oceans without ever considering the consequences.
There is no way that we are ever going to be able to clean up the “plastic soup” that we have created in the Pacific Ocean. But it would be nice if we would stop making it worse every single day.
Sadly, very few people seem interested in doing anything about this very preventable crisis.
This article first appeared here at the American Dream. Michael Snyder is a writer, speaker and activist who writes and edits his own blogs The American Dream and Economic Collapse Blog. Follow him on Twitter here.