Choking on Trash
I listened to the Super Bowl during a long road trip home from the Bay Area in California last weekend. Not the greatest way for an Arizona girl to take in the game, but it had to suffice. Sports talk radio stations tend to fill their down-time with public service announcements or local ads. For most of them, we would turn down the volume down and not listen.
But about halfway through the game, an ad came on during a time-out, and a woman started talking about the Great Pacific Trash Vortex near Hawaii. Even though I am a journalism student studying environmental issues, I almost switched stations. I wanted to hear the game, not a PSA for changing the world one piece of trash at a time!
Yet, I listened on to the commercial. It made me stop and think. The announcer said the pile of trash, located near Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean, has been measured to be the size of Texas. And as I realized that I had heard everything really is bigger in Texas, I panicked. Trash pollutes miles and miles of ocean, and I rarely bother to make sure I reduced my waste on a day-to-day basis.
As soon as I came home, I looked up what some call “The Great Pacific Trash Vortex” and others refer to as “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” Whatever you choose to call it, the piles of trash floating on top of that area of the Pacific Ocean stagnates and should disgust anyone. It kills animals and pollutes that section of nature in ways that people centuries ago couldn’t have imagined.
Most, if not all of us, know about the landfills across the United States. They contain years and years of society’s trash buildup. But, trash signifies society. Where there’s trash, there will be people or there were people at one point. It’s inevitable, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be aware of our actions.
Despite knowing about landfills, the amount of waste we dump into the ocean appalls even the toughest of hearts. Aside from the damage to wildlife, aesthetically speaking, the trash heap takes away from the breathtaking beauty we should see when out on the open waters of the Pacific Ocean.
Plastics, diapers, and random debris float along for years in this space where they become trapped in slow-moving waters.
What will happen when I visit the Bay Area again and the trash has reached the Pacific coast that I love?
After researching this problem more and more, I realized that this story broke a few years ago. Where have we been? I can never recall hearing about this before Sunday night. This story needs more than just feature story-like coverage.
And the bigger question than just, “Where have we been?” is, “What actions are we going to take?”
Just telling people to recycle or be aware of their waste contributions just isn’t cutting it. We know that.
Let’s not make the oceans become piles of rotting waste. Nature deserves better than that. Killing it shouldn’t be part of the typical human lifestyle.
Where do we go from here?