The Great Pacific Garbage Patch demands global action

Eduardo Alvarez/ Contributing Writer

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is one of the biggest environmental hazards in the world. It’s a buildup of over 80,000 metric tons of debris in the Pacific ocean; concentrated through circular wind and wave currents called gyres.

And it poses a terrible threat to the region’s diverse marine life.

It’s very big; twice the size of Texas and three times the size of France. Almost all of it is plastic, and about half comes from discarded fishing material. This isn’t surprising though, as the Pacific is home to many nations, many of whom are powerful and whose economies depend on fishing and maritime commerce.

What makes the problem so complicated is that much of the plastic particles are too small to notice. This makes it harder to sell a solution because if you fly over the area with a helicopter, you won’t actually see a garbage patch.

But the risks are still there: many fish have been made vulnerable to choking, and some hypotheses even indicate that more sea critters have been killed by the garbage patch than those that have been killed by climate change. This is a scary thought considering everyone talks about climate change and almost no one talks about this invisible executioner.

But we have to deal with it before it deals with us. Shores are being dirtied, the water is being contaminated, and our planet’s biodiversity is facing a frontal assault. The same fishing industries that created the problem will become impotent if there’s nothing to fish. We have to understand, once and for all, that humans’ health and the health of our oceans are one and the same.

Cleaning up the garbage patch will be very hard though because plastic is extremely difficult to recycle, rarely biodegradable and a pain to root out. So that perhaps our best course  — until we can find a more permanent solution — would be for countries to enact new laws tightening their grip on plastic production and distribution, especially in regards to the amount of plastic that can be brought onboard a ship.

These are all uncomfortable and inconvenient tasks. But being responsible often means doing the uncomfortable and inconvenient, seeing past our immediate desires and making sacrifices for others — fish and human alike.

One thing is certain: the Great Pacific Garbage Patch should not be an unknown subject to the country and world.

 

DISCLAIMER:

The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of Panther Press Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

 

Photo taken from Flickr.

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