Do you ever have the experience of thinking about something and then suddenly being confronted with someone else thinking the exact same thing? That happened to me this weekend. I was contemplating the BP oil spill and the similarity between it and the continual flow of plastic debris into our oceans. Both are petroleum based. The BP spill is acute. It is visible. It is tragic.... and hopefully the problem is now no longer growing in magnitude (fingers crossed and prayers said). The 5 Gyres of swirling plastic is a slow but growing issue. It's insidious. It's harder to see and sadly it only continues to grow with little public outrage and minimal governmental or corporate concern.
So after having this discussion with my husband, I happened to catch this weeks Living on Earth episode titled: The Other Oil Spill. The episode is about reporting what the Researchers from the Sea Education Association (SEA) found on their month-long expedition into the plastic trash of the North Atlantic. The new is bad. Very bad. To quote Giora Proskurowski, an oceanographer with the SEA:
"What we proposed to do was to go far east from Bermuda where we know that plastics exist in the ocean, and try to find the eastern boundary of this region of high concentration in the ocean. And, we were hoping to see diminishing plastic concentrations, but what we actually saw, and actually our very eastern-most surface tow, was where we found the highest concentrations of plastic that have ever been observed in any of the world's oceans."
They didn't just find higher concentrations, they found 26 million pieces of plastic per square kilometer which is 10x more than ever recorded before! Aye Caramba! As explained by Giora Proskurowski, " . . .we can be 2,500 miles from land and pull out 23,000 pieces of plastic and it is our habits of one-use consumer plastics that's doing this."
We must STOP solving a temporary convenience problem with a permanent, even larger and much more difficult problem. PLEASE. If you live in California, support AB 1998. It is due to be voted on in August. Regardless of where you live, use a fabric bag, try to avoid single-use plastic (think metal water bottle and drinking fountains), and if you have a favorite product that uses plastic call, email or write and ask them to change their packaging. We have to take action and responsibility for this epic and growing situation.
NOTE: The SEA voyage mentioned in this post was the first federally-funded research expedition on plastics in the North Atlantic. (A small but hopeful sign.)