More Waste than Fish in the Ocean?
by ao1sc on November 26, 2016 - 5:13pm
One of the planet’s largest ecosystems is brewing in controversy: is manmade pollution impacting the oceans? Recent studies have shown that marine degradation is rapidly accelerating with thousands of tons of waste such as sewage, oil, chemicals, and mostly plastic, entering the oceans every day creating trash vortexes. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the largest of all and spans from Japan to the West Coast of the United States. Its exceptionally large size has caught the attention of wild life experts, researchers, and even individuals, increasing the number of sustainable management projects yearly.
In USA Today, journalist T.J. Raphael (2016) wrote of 16 year-old Boyan Slat who discovered more plastic than fish while diving in the ocean, which triggered him to start a cleanup project. After six years of devotion to this project, he developed a system that may eliminate all the waste in the Great Pacific Garbage patch. This system is comprised of a ten feet non-permeable screen, equally five feet above and below the water line, which exploits the movement of waves to accumulate the waste naturally while mitigating negative impact on marine life. Not too long after developing this system, Slat founded an organization called The Ocean Cleanup, with the objective of eliminating all waste in the ocean using developing advanced technologies. He and his staffs estimates that 98% of the oceans’ waste can be collected and then recycled.
No one can deny that oceanic biomes are integral to our planetary system, yet as seen by the existence of trash vortexes, many humans irresponsibly misuse them. This may be because many think of these biomes as flow resources and therefore, perpetual or renewable. However, as we have learned in class, flow resources can become stock resources and must manage with greater care. It is usual for people to think that regulatory instrument can play a huge role for managing the environment because it can prevent and control the pollution by law; but in reality, this is very challenging because no nation wants to invest in cleaning up wastes that are a common occurrence and not in their domain (National Geographic, 2014). Therefore, Slat has gained respect by carrying out his words and raising public awareness. It indicates that individuals and organizations, who are perceived as less powerful, are in fact powerful. That said, I think that Slat’s project is not the only solution to removing waste from the oceans because not all waste can be caught in a 10 feet screen. Approximately 70% of waste actually sinks leaving surface waste to be largely comprised of small pieces of plastic called microplastic (National Geographic, 2014). Hence, I believe, other management strategies are critically needed.
As already explained, it is clear that the public can make a difference, and therefore, mixture of substantive instruments such as informational Instruments and voluntary Instruments can be applicable for this situation. The public can increase awareness by using the discursive powers of the media and education, and they can also use material power by implementing a project, starting a campaign, or perhaps establishing NGOs. The practice of dumping waste in the oceans over centuries has created this huge landfill in the ocean and it is certain that cleaning it up will be a long-term project. We must act on the power of correct information to be effective stewards of this planet.
National Geographic. (2014). Great Pacific Garbage Patch. http://nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/great-pacific-garbage-patch/
T.J. Raphael. (2016). Meet the guy trying to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2016/08/18/meet-guy-trying-clean-up-great-pacific-garbage-patch/88938108/