HowStuffWorks “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch”

HowStuffWorks “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch”

  • Everybody I’ve mentioned oceanic garbage patches to recently has indicated that they’d never heard of such a thing, and yet they’ve been growing rapidly since the 1950’s. Why are they such a well-kept secret?

  • It would be convenient to chalk it up to “out of sight, out of mind” and leave it at that. The garbage patches do not get a lot of maritime traffic (either inherently due to their location or because, umm, there’s nothing there but a sea of garbage…), so certainly they’re not likely to figure prominently in the public mind.
  • It may be less convenient to imagine that there is a nearly $400 billion plastics industry in the US alone, that the plastics industry is dependent on (and convoluted with) the oil industry, and that it is in these industries’ best interest to downplay the downside of immutable, indestructible, eternal plastic.
  • It’s even less convenient to call for biodegradability regulation. Environmentalists were arguing for that back in the early 1970’s (I know, I was one of them), but it wouldn’t fly because everybody knew that environmentalists were all a bunch of tree-hugging fearmongers. (That much hasn’t actually changed much in the last 35 years. We’re not fooled by all the green vibes now appearing on the Monsanto and Union Carbide homepages.)
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