Green Manolo » Some Good News for a Change? The Great Pacific Garbage Patch May Not Be So Great

Some Good News for a Change? The Great Pacific Garbage Patch May Not Be So Great

By Christa

You may have heard tell of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which floats lazily in the center of the North Pacific Gyre, and how it is roughly twice the size of Texas or even larger than the continental U.S. But like a lot of tales, the story of the Great Garbage Patch may turn out to be a tall one. At least according to one Oregon State University scientist. I certainly won’t debate that there is plenty of pollution in the Earth’s oceans, both close to the shore and far from human habitation, and that it’s bad for the environment and ought to be cleaned up. But I think it’s easier to inspire people to take on stewardship of the oceans when everyone is honest about just how much there is to clean up.

Angelicque White, Professor of Oceanography also has no interest in trying to convince anyone that Earth’s oceans are clean, but she did take part in a scientific expedition to examine the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and found that it may just be that genuine scientific concerns are being undermined by scare tactics.

“There is no doubt that the amount of plastic in the world’s oceans is troubling, but this kind of exaggeration undermines the credibility of scientists,” says Professor White. “We have data that allow us to make reasonable estimates; we don’t need the hyperbole. Given the observed concentration of plastic in the North Pacific, it is simply inaccurate to state that plastic outweighs plankton, or that we have observed an exponential increase in plastic. The amount of plastic out there isn’t trivial, but the patch … is a small fraction of the state of Texas, not twice the size.”

Assuming Professor White and the team’s findings are correct, I’m glad to hear that there’s not as much garbage floating out there as was initially predicted. That much plastic and human debris bobbing around in the Pacific (not to mention the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans, which also have their garbage patches) was really a scary thought. But I also agree with Professor White when she says that plastic and garbage do not belong in the ocean and that what’s needed now are initiatives to keep it from getting dumped in there in the first place since even a Great Garbage Patch that isn’t so great would still cost a ton of money to clean up.

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