Hearing that BP finally has gained some control of the geyser that has been pouring millions of gallons of oil and other toxic chemicals into the Gulf of Mexico for almost 3 full months is very good news. Whether this temporary cap will hold up under the pressure and not cause more leaking in the deep well or the ocean sub-floor is yet to be known. Still, this is progress in a disaster that has very little success for far too long.
Watching the devastation that the oil leak has caused to wildlife, aquatic life, and beaches as well as the fishermen, tourism and people who’s livelihood is dependent on the gulf has been heart-wrenching. Cleaning up the effects of the oil leak will without a doubt, take decades – if it’s ever even possible to fully clean it up – which I doubt.
The BP oil leak has been labelled the worst environmental disaster in US history. But the fact is, there is an ongoing environmental disaster that potentially has as great an impact on the world’s oceans, and it appears that no one has done much to gain control over it yet.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a floating island of plastic debris that has been collecting in the Pacific Ocean. It is estimated to be twice the size of Texas and stretches from the coast of California to Japan. It contains bits and pieces of plastic trash that has either been dumped or floated into the ocean from streams and rivers. The toxins poison sea life, birds, and mammals. Fish and birds get caught in the tangled plastic net and die.
Plastic (made from oil) does not break down naturally. It’s durability means that it is not biodegradable and will likely last for hundreds of years. Plastic contains chemicals such as artificial estrogen that leach into water, increasing risk of cancers and other diseases.
We can reduce our usage of plastics by using cloth bags, growing our own produce, or purchasing produce from local farmers markets, which reduces pollution and packaging. Recycling plastics, cardboard, and metals and shopping at consignment shops also helps reduce waste. Using organic lawn and garden products reduces the runoff of toxic chemicals into our waterways.
The world is one, large environmental system and we are all connected through that system. The thought that a floating island twice the size of Texas exists because of our waste is very disturbing. Imagine that island covered in a slimy layer of black oil, trapping sea birds, turtles, fish, and whales in a poisonous net, strangling the life out of them.
Let’s hope the cap on the oil geyser is a success. Let’s also hope that we can figure out a way to put a cap on the toxic leak of plastic and chemical runoff flowing into our oceans too.