This week marked the release of the Ocean Conservancy’s report for its 2009 global trash cleanup. They have led such a cleanup every year since 1986 in response to the increasing accumulation of garbage in our oceans. I’ve talked before about all the plastic in the ocean now, especially places like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch aka the North Pacific Gyre. And about computers and other electronic waste being burned just for a little copper wire. But it goes beyond even this when it comes to our oceans. The Ocean Conservancy group and its 500,000 volunteers worldwide, collected over 10 million pieces of trash form the earth’s waterways on September 19th 2009.
In addition to the perhaps more expected items found like all that plastic, construction materials, condoms, diapers, cigarette butts, and bottle caps, almost 20% of all they collected poses a direct threat to our health according to the report. Can you imagine one fifth of all that junk they pulled from our waters contained bacteria-laden medical waste, appliances including washing machines, cars and chemical drums as big as 55 gallons? Not a very nice reality to face. Not to mention putting a new slant on the idea of swimming well, anywhere, since the waterways they pulled stuff from included not just our oceans, but beaches, lakes, rivers, their banks, all waterways.
The 2009 report says that 60% of all the debris items found were disposable items. Sure supports the idea we live in a disposable world, or rather treat it as such. Whatever happened with repairing things, using or reusing something as long as we can, not always trading up for something newer and perceived to be better? Why do we always need more? For in so doing, we actually end up with less. Less clean air, less clean water, less natural beauty, less health, less quality of life. And less actual life as a result. But we do get more stuff in the bargain. Mind you, 60% of that wasn’t even kept since it was disposable…
The report also shows their version of “Six Degrees of Separation” (where’s Kevin Bacon when you need him?) that tells the story of a humble plastic bag journeying to the Gulf of Mexico and meeting an unlucky sea turtle.
It’s so easy to forget the worldwide consequences of our own seemingly minor day to day actions. But just like those butterfly wings on the other side of the world having faraway repercussions, so too what each of us do in our own little corners, one person at a time. Don’t ever think what you do doesn’t matter, that you’re just one person. All those ‘persons’ add up, and even the effects of one is better than none. Who knows who holds the final straw that will break that figurative camel’s back? Let’s not let it be any of us.