Before Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 went missing, sea trash was not a global headliner.
But as hundreds of objects sighted off the Australian coast as possible aircraft debris turn out to be discarded fishing equipment, cargo container parts, or plastic shopping bags, a new narrative is emerging in the hunt for the missing plane: There's more garbage out there than you think. Most of it is plastic. And marine life ingests it, with catastrophic consequences.
"This is the first time the whole world is watching, and so it's a good time for people to understand that our oceans are garbage dumps," says Kathleen Dohan, a scientist at Earth and Space Research in Seattle, Washington, who maps ocean surface currents. "This is a problem in every ocean basin."
Dohan plotted the movement of debris in a time-lapse video that shows where objects dropped into the ocean will end up in ten years. The objects migrate to regions known as garbage patches. The Pacific and Atlantic Oceans have two patches each, north and south. The Indian Ocean's garbage patch is centered roughly halfway between Africa and Australia. - National Geographic
What has become abundantly clear about our society and lifestyle of consumerism is that we have no clear solutions for all of the negative side effects of said lifestyle. We buy and buy and buy - but most of what we buy (or at least a part of most of what we buy) ends up in the trash. The policy of our society is out of sight, out of mind - causing us to have the warm, fuzzy feeling that everything is well and being taken care of, simply because the magical garbage truck comes to take all our troubles away.
Unfortunately the garbage trucks are not magical. They do not have any way of dealing with our rubbish in a sustainable and permanent way. Most of our trash ends up in landfills or in the oceans.
Obviously there are ways to decrease our negative impact on the environment, but they would require significant lifestyle changes on our part - for example: not buying useless crap and not making useless crap. The manufacturers of useless crap would lose their source of income and the buyers of useless crap would lose their feel-good shopping sprees - or whatever. We could also put more focus on designing materials that are not harmful to nature (biodegradable, not dangerous if ingested, etc) - I propose, for example, that we stop all military funding and research and redirect the funding towards creating sustainable and animal friendly living solutions. Yeah, sure, easier said than done.
The reality is that the largest obstacle we face in such a proposal is our own opinions and beliefs. War is by no means a requirement for life. A clean, non-toxic environment on the other hand, is. We are on a slow path to extinction - and not only for the animals and plants we share this planet with.
We place so much of our attention on things that do not improve or enhance our lives or the lives of others, imaging if we were to redirect our attention onto endeavors that make life more pleasant, not only for humanity but for all other beings as well. There is so much that we do that truly has no purpose (smelly neutralizing underwear, for example) - we have such capacity for creativity an innovation that is being wasted. I truly hope that we do not realize this only after the damage we have done is irreversible.