Ocean Pollution and a “dead Zone”
There is a “dead zone” the size of New Jersey in the Gulf of Mexico in which aquatic life cannot survive . There is a garbage patch the size of Texas in the Pacific Ocean. Dead zones and garbage patches are just some examples of the horrific effects that water pollution has on the life of all sorts. Every day, millions of sea critters, as well as humans, are victims to a harder life at the hand of pollution. With all the great that plastic does for humans, it has also proven itself catastrophic for all living organisms on Earth. The problem is that no single organization or country wants to lead the journey to stop the excessive amounts of pollution. All though no single country is to blame, the world needs a demanding global effort to stop the elements causing water pollution because of the extremely negative effects on animals and humans.
Many people have heard of garbage islands, and continue to form a misguided image in their heads. The concept of a garbage island is largely misguided. Garbage patches are in fact largely constructed of microscopic bits of plastics. Many people envision a large landfill in the middle of the ocean. This is true in the sense that the area has a large density of plastics, but many pieces are invisible or barely visible to the human eye. When the plastics we use end up in the ocean the sun keeps breaking them down into smaller and smaller pieces. They do not go away, however, but instead, they are the size of small fish and other creatures and are commonly mistaken for food.
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Garbage patches get created due to the poor disposal of trash and the natural currents of the ocean. According to National Geographic, The Great Pacific Garbage Patch formed between Hawaii and California, because of the large gyre in the area. The gyre prevents the garbage from spreading out. The garbage stays in the center of the gyre instead. In doing so, The Great Pacific Garbage Patch refers to the containment of garbage in the center of the gyre. The large accumulation of garbage in the patch is largely due to the fact that most of the trash accumulated is not biodegradable (“Great Pacific Garbage Patch”). The main reason plastic is such a deadly polluter is it is not biodegradable. All the plastic that has ever been produced is still on Earth somewhere.
Garbage Patches are a major political concern because they are not directly associated with any one country. The oceans are international waters and with that, no specific country feels the need to take responsibility (“Great Pacific Garbage Patch”). This might actually be the biggest pollution issue that needs to be addressed. Countries are turning a blind eye to an issue that is harming everything from microplankton to humans. According to National Geographic, there is really no easy clean up because of the size of the plastic particles in the ocean (“Great Pacific Garbage Patch”). If cleanup crews were to come through with nets, they would scoop up just as much aquatic life as plastic debris (“Great Pacific Garbage Patch”).
These Garbage islands don’t just harm the physical environment. Everyday plastic pollutants wash up on shores, sink to the ocean floor, and harm life. The plastics that make it into the aquatic environment are invasive and have seriously harmed the aquatic life population. According to save our shores, aquatic life is negatively affected by plastic pollution in three distinct ways. Aquatic Life mistakes small pieces of plastic for food. Plastic, unlike food, doesn’t digest. The plastic would sit in the animal’s stomach, eventually filling it up. During this time the animal would mistakenly think it was full and not eat what it needed to. This would then, kill the animal. Another negative side effect of plastic pollution is suffocation. Animals can consume plastic and get it stuck in the airways resulting in suffocation. This is especially common in the consumption of plastic bags. Animals can also get tangled in the plastic nets, and fishing wire left at sea. This can cause immobility and result in the animals starving (“Great Pacific Garbage Patch”). Another hazard the plastics cause is the toxin distribution. According to the article “Oceans of Trouble,” there is an enormous amount of mercy, phthalates, Bisphenol-A, and polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) in the oceans (Kowalski and “Pollution Prevention”). These toxins get released when certain plastics start breaking themselves down (Kowalski). As these toxins get released they get absorbed by plants and microorganisms throughout the ocean. As the plants and microorganisms absorb the toxins they become a contaminated food source. Fish will come and eat these plants and microorganisms and then they become a contaminated food source for larger predators because they ate the contaminated food source (Kowalski). Today there is a large concern because dolphins have higher amounts of PCB contamination than ever recorded (Kowalski).
Aquatic life isn’t the only life that is negatively influenced by plastic toxins. The chemicals and toxins that get released into the food stream of the ocean contaminate the food that humans eat. All seafood that man consumes has some sort of contamination from the toxins that get released by decomposing plastics. Phthalates and Bisphenol-A, examples of these toxins, are very detrimental to human health. These toxins are found in common items. According to save our shores Phthalates has the potential to cause “abnormal male sexual development, infertility, premature breast development, cancer, miscarriage, premature birth, and asthma.” While Bisphenol-A is an “estrogen disruptor” (“Pollution Prevention”). These both have the potential to seriously harm human health.
To break it down to the most simple of terms, pollution is “the introduction of harmful substances or products into the environment” (“pollution”). The lack of knowledge about ocean pollution is the biggest problem in finding the solution. Pollution is not a new thing. From the time humans have been civilized, they have polluted the earth. In 1902, Leo Hedrick invented the plastic used widely today (“Plastic”). It was from this point forward that pollution became an issue. Plastic became a major polluter of the oceans due to impractical disposal practices. When the average person throws a piece of trash away, he or she never thinks about the trash again. In an ideal world, every time a piece of plastic gets thrown away, it would make its way to a recycling facility. In an ideal world, the plastic would never see the depths of the oceans, or travel into rivers. A major issue that is halting the mass recycling of plastic is the cost of recycling. The plastic is too expensive to recycle, and then recycled plastic is too expensive to later sell. In comparison to freshly manufactured plastic, recycled plastic isn’t worth the cost. In fact, in the ocean, there are countless partially recycled fragments that got tossed when the recyclers figured out it is easier and cheaper to just make new plastic.
There has been numerous ideas and suggestions on how to stop and correct the pollution problems of the ocean. The main consensus from many people seems is the global population needs to stop the massive amounts of waste. If the plastic never made it to the ocean, there would not be the pollution problem. The “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” seems as it is the way to go. Many cities are trying to implement city-wide plastic bands to keep their plastic waste out of the oceans (“Keep Plastic out of the Pacific”). The oceans would benefit greatly if there were a global protocol on waste disposal and various cleanup protocols that resilient countries backed. Another suggestion is Nano-regulation (Thomas). This would be the regulation of what toxins and chemicals could be allowed in everyday plastics. This would influence what chemicals could later be absorbed by the aquatic life. However, this solution would only potentially stop the bad chemicals from making their way into the ocean. This wouldn’t stop the plastics from polluting. The Nano-regulation also wouldn’t be a solution to cleaning the harmful chemicals and plastics already polluting the ocean.
Another main polluter is the Dead Zones in the ocean. Dead Zones got their name because they are a zone that is unsuitable for aquatic life and nothing can grow there. Dead Zones form due to farming chemicals that leak into the water and travel to the ocean. These farming chemicals are the causes of massive allege growths. These allege growths take all the oxygen out of the water, making it impossible for the aquatic life to survive (Helprin).
Dead Zones are found all throughout the ocean, much like the garbage islands. They tend to usually run on a smaller scale. The largest dead zone is the size of New Jersey, and it sits in the northern corner of the Gulf of Mexico. Dead Zones form because of the runoff of farming chemicals, so they tend to form where the rivers meet the oceans. Oceans are not the only victim, for rivers, creeks, and lakes can all be vulnerable to pollution caused dead zones (Helprin).
A major difference between the Dead Zones and the Garbage Islands is the fact that Dead Zones are found near major land masses responsible for the pollution catastrophe. In the case of Dead Zones in lakes and rivers, the country the lake or river is in is at fault for pollution of the area. Whereas the garbage islands made of every country’s garbage pollution, the dead zones are strictly the fault of the land they are located near. Dead Zones are generally located near large farming countries. The United States has the largest Dead Zone, and it is in the Gulf of Mexico.
Dead Zones seem to be another silent problem. In cases of ocean pollution, many people don’t know about the extent the pollution in the oceans harms everything on earth. Human nature is to not be worried by something one cannot actually see. That’s why the oceans are so heavily polluted. A positive aspect with the Dead Zones, however, is they have the ability to clean themselves up. Mother Nature is wonderful at balancing the ecosystems out. Farmers and factories need to stop the runoff of fertilizers and other pollutants and then the Dead Zones can start healing themselves. As an alternative to adding fertilizers to farms, Jim Thomas has suggested that farmers mix in charcoal with their soil, giving them the needed nutrients to yield healthy crops yet not be polluting the waterways. This would fix the excess fertilizer problem but would create another. If farmers started to add charcoal to the environment, they would create a new demand for trees. More trees is a demand that humans have the ability to meet, unlike manually fixing dead zones.
It seems that wherever humans go there tends are problems of pollution. Pollution of the oceans is not a new problem. In fact, at this point pollution of the oceans will always be an issue of concern. Every day billions of humans add to the ocean pollution problem, but every day that goes by is another that the oceans get progressively worse without a solution. Unless a country or hundreds of countries start caring about the amount of trash that gets dumped into the ocean without a thought, the oceans will progressively get worse. If there comes a day that there is no longer aquatic life, and passable oceans, human life will cease to exist. The extent land-based organisms depend on the ocean and all she does goes largely unrealized. If the population waits until there is no life left in the oceans, it will be too late.