As a lot of you know one of my pet issues is the effect of our collective style of living on the ocean, specifically the pacific gyre, also know as the great pacific garbage patch. The New York Times had a great article on it yesterday, and though I have written about it before its worth talking about again. What I did not know is that the Pacific Gyre is one of as many as 5 similar zones in the world, where the debris from our daily lives accumulates. Thousands of square miles of plastic floating about in the waves, slowly choking the life out of the sea. I was thinking about the gyre just this past weekend, as it was sunny and beautiful and our new house is only a short walk from Ocean Beach. The girls and I decided to walk down and have a picnic with Jamey’s dad, who was visiting from the Midwest. Sitting there looking out at the waves I decided to do an informal beach combing type survey. I walked up and down a short way from where we set up our camping chairs and towels, and this is what I came up with:
Not that it is anything shocking to find trash on the beach, in fact I guess it would be shocking NOT to find trash on a beach. And let me tell you, Ocean Beach is a relatively clean beach. There are trash cans, volunteers come down frequently, folks pack out their recyclables and other sundries, but still, a short 15 minute walk on a clean beach and I came up with 28 pieces of plastic wrappings, various sizes,a granola bar wrapper, 3 straws, 10 bottle caps, 18 small pieces of hard plastics, & a small plastic tube.
Its not that we’re all a bunch of pigs, it is more I think that the way we have set up our lives it is next to impossible not to come into contact with plastic. And plastic is the number one type of trash finding its way into our oceans. It doesn’t break down, it doesn’t go “away”, it floats and floats, and in its own small way wreaks tremendous devastation; whether it is sea turtles that mistake the plastic bags for jellyfish and starve, their bellies bursting with clear bags; or albatross chicks whose parents skim bits of plastic off the surface of the sea, mistaking them for fish, and feeding their chicks until the starve; or the smaller plankton eating fish, who start the food cycle, who eat and are eaten until all that plastic, all those chemicals with their unpronounceable ingredients of pheno-bi-ethanol-petro-whatever end up in…us.
I try and use less plastic, but it is so very hard. The manufacturers of the world have decried that “plastic is the future”, and even if I bring my own shopping bags, wrap up sandwiches in wax paper, use re-usable (Plastic) containers for the kids lunches, I really feel I am battling against the tides. Guess it’s time to change the tides.