BY ED BROWN
The third rock from the sun, a floating emerald and azure orb floating in orbit around a blazing star. Here is a place we call home and we have named it Earth. It is a wonderful place, bustling with life of various sizes, shapes, colours and types. It is a place of rolling hillsides, rocky mountains, fields of green grass and beautiful blue pools of water. If we examine these bodies of blue liquid, we would notice flora and fauna as diverse as we would see upon the land. At first glance, we would be inspired by the beauty, but upon closer inspection we would find a floating, pathetically synthetic island of debris. The great Pacific garbage patch is the phrase used in the media. A semi-romantic term about a choking pollutant that is slowly killing our oceans. The catastrophe was brought to our attention by Charles J. Moore, an oceanographer who has been instrumental in instilling awareness regarding the issue.
The Great Pacific garbage patch is just one of several debris fields floating in the oceans gyres. A gyre is a naturally forming vortex of wind and/or water. In oceanography it is any large system of rotating water. In the north Pacific, the gyre moves in a clockwise circular motion and is formed by four prevailing ocean currents: the North Pacific Current to the north, the California Current to the east, the North Equatorial Current to the south, and the Kuroshio Current to the west. These currents feed the gyre, usually various zooplankton, but the main migrant now is our rubbish. The worlds gyres help to regulate the temperatures of the of the global ocean and thus the world.
Being the most famous, the great pacific garbage patch is situated west of America, east of Japan and north of Polynesia. Yet these countries are not the sole contributors to the problem. Any coastal country with waters that feed into the pacific are in part responsible for the floating litter box. Its existence has been the death of many aquatic species of bird and fish. Numbers of zooplankton have decreased significantly to the dismay of oceanographers the world over. Birds and fish choke on floating plastic bags after mistaking the motions in the water for jelly-fish. Polymer pollutants also play a part in reducing numbers in plankton populations. Would you want to live in a land-fill?
This is not an issue to be ignored and thankfully some organisations have taken it upon themselves to help with the enormous clean-up. It transcends the notions of international borders and the responsibility or liability of nations. Awareness of the issue and the push for prevention of plastic pollution are the main tools used to educate people about the problem. Organisations such as 5 Gyres with Charles J Moore, Project Kaisei run by Mary T. Crowley from the Ocean Voyages Institute, and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), which is run by the United States Department of Commerce, are the fore-runners in the movement for restoring our oceans.
You can also do your part, by recycling your rubbish and staying informed regarding the issue. The aforementioned organisations have volunteering and membership drives as a part of their policies, where you can become more involved in the solution. So, one day we can return to the beauty that has inspired many for eons and hopefully many more to come.