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Spreading Awareness of “Just How Hard We’ve Bitch-Slapped the Planet”, Oceanic Edition

Posted by A birch tree on April 5, 2008

From the “The Planet is so Big, We Couldn’t Possibly Affect it!” file:

So apparently we’ve got tons and tons of microscopic plastic particles floating around in the oceans, sucking up toxic hydrophobic industrial waste chemicals (in addition to the toxic chemicals they’re already made of), and releasing them into the digestive tracts of marine invertibrates, as well as probably causing all sorts of other sundry chaos we haven’t even thought to look for yet, and won’t think to look for until ten years from now we find it and go “Oops, didn’t think of that!”.

And, even scarier:

The North Pacific gyre contains an ocean of plastic twice the size of Texas, from surface to bottom. Moreover, it’s only one of five oces gyres with similarly depressing plastic dumps, making 40% of the total volume of our oceans consumed by nothing more than waste plastic. Leaching toxic chemicals into the oceans, creating vast marine dead zones, working its way into the food chain, and generally fucking with the environment in monumental ways.


Jesus Christ on a bike! Next time I hear someone say anything even remotely like “The planet has these systems, see, that take care of itself and are all self-correcting and shit, so humans are so small and the earth is so big and complex that there’s nothing we could do to REALLY change, damage, or affect it. Have you seen the keys to my Hummer?” I may just have to haul off and kick them in the shins until they cry like a clubbed baby seal.

Some happy-happy-joy-joy quotes:

All sea creatures are threatened by floating plastic, from whales down to zooplankton. There’s a basic moral horror in seeing the pictures: a sea turtle with a plastic band strangling its shell into an hourglass shape; a humpback towing plastic nets that cut into its flesh and make it impossible for the animal to hunt. More than a million seabirds, 100,000 marine mammals, and countless fish die in the North Pacific each year, either from mistakenly eating this junk or from being ensnared in it and drowning.

Bad enough. But Moore soon learned that the big, tentacled balls of trash were only the most visible signs of the problem; others were far less obvious, and far more evil. Dragging a fine-meshed net known as a manta trawl, he discovered minuscule pieces of plastic, some barely visible to the eye, swirling like fish food throughout the water. He and his researchers parsed, measured, and sorted their samples and arrived at the following conclusion: By weight, this swath of sea contains six times as much plastic as it does plankton.

This statistic is grim—for marine animals, of course, but even more so for humans. The more invisible and ubiquitous the pollution, the more likely it will end up inside us. And there’s growing—and disturbing—proof that we’re ingesting plastic toxins constantly, and that even slight doses of these substances can severely disrupt gene activity. “Every one of us has this huge body burden,” Moore says. “You could take your serum to a lab now, and they’d find at least 100 industrial chemicals that weren’t around in 1950.” The fact that these toxins don’t cause violent and immediate reactions does not mean they’re benign: Scientists are just beginning to research the long-term ways in which the chemicals used to make plastic interact with our own biochemistry.

Most alarming, these chemicals may disrupt the endocrine system—the delicately balanced set of hormones and glands that affect virtually every organ and cell—by mimicking the female hormone estrogen. In marine environments, excess estrogen has led to Twilight Zone-esque discoveries of male fish and seagulls that have sprouted female sex organs.

In his opinion, the movie Cast Away was a joke—Tom Hanks could’ve built a village with the crap that would’ve washed ashore during a storm.


One Response to “Spreading Awareness of “Just How Hard We’ve Bitch-Slapped the Planet”, Oceanic Edition”

  1. stormy said

    The microscopic particles are indeed worrying, and I certainly was not aware of it.

    So much of the plastic used for packaging is entirely unnecessary and excessive.

    The picture above does not look like a sea turtle, but a land tortoise, or at least a semi-aquatic tortoise (claws, not flippers). I would speculate that the tortoise was held in captivity with that ring which was never removed. Just as horrible regardless. 😦 Poor tortoise.

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