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Plastic Beach

In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was a king who was cursed to roll a huge boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down, and to repeat this throughout eternity. A recent beach cleanup on Midway Atoll made us feel just like Sisyphus.

Watch the video here:

There are millions of tons of plastics in our oceans and these are constantly fragmenting into smaller and smaller pieces that are scattered throughout the water column and present, in different densitites, throughout all the world's oceans.

Contrary to what many people believe, there are no visible islands of trash anywhere — even if some areas, the gyres, accumulate higher densities of plastic pollution. In actuality, what is happening is much more complex and scary: Our oceans are becoming a planetary soup laced with plastic.

To make things worse, these tiny pieces of plastic are extremely powerful chemical accumulators for organic persistent pollutants present in ambient seawater, such as DDEs and PCBs. The whole food chain — invertebrates, fish, sea turtles — are eating plastic and/or other animals that have plastic in them. This means that we are eating plastic as well. Like the albatross on Midway, we carry the garbage patch inside of us.

Cleaning up this mess is not feasible, technically or economically. Even if all the boats in the world were put to the task somehow, the cleanup would not only remove plastic but also plankton, which is the basis of the marine food chain and responsible for capturing half the CO2 in our atmosphere and generating half the oxygen we need to breathe.

But even if the plankton issue were somehow addressed, the amount of plastic we would capture, at an immense cost, would be a drop in the bucket compared to the amount that flows into the ocean every day.

No matter how hard we push, in terms of technology or money, the boulder will be rolling back down the hill, throughout eternity, unless we stop putting more plastics into our environment.

The good news is that we can do this. We can do this now. We need to start a social movement that spreads virally and creates a critical mass of concerned citizens who pledge to move away from our disposable habits, and who raise their voices to reject and reverse a throwaway culture that might be profitable, but whose consequences are intolerable.

*Video by Jan Vozenilek, written and narrated by Manuel Maqueda, music by Christen Lien.

*Click here to see a satellite image of the exact location of this video (click on ‘view map’ and zoom all the way in).

This post originally appeared on the Midway Journey site.

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By NoelTrisha26 on Wed, March 31, 2010 at 5:51 pm

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