Sunday, August 10, 2008

OPAWTY? SOS-Save Our Seas

Three fish holding signs, Send Help!, Please, What he said.As I watch the TV news or read the paper or read science or news magazines, I constantly encounter stories that scream OVERPOPULATION. Often these are about damage to the environment, but there are many others about hunger, desperate poverty, deaths from preventable diseases, war, strife and other calamities.

The July issue of Discover Magazine contained two articles about the ocean that support my concerns.

In “Better Planet - Garbage Patch” (click here for the web version) author Thomas M. Kostigen describes a trip to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This is an area in the Pacific Ocean where circular ocean currents trap some of the floating refuse of humans.

“Around and around: bottles, plastic bags, fishnets, clothing, lighters, and myriad other man-made items, held until they disintegrate, make their way to distant seas, or merely bob among the waves before washing up on someone’s beach.”
Unfortunately, much of the material floating here does not disintegrate quickly. Many of these items took several years just to get to the garbage patch which is like a soup made of garbage floating on or near the surface. While the dimensions of this garbage patch are still being mapped, it is believed to be about one and a half times the size of the United States and may reach a depth of 100 feet or more. How much damage is being done by all this garbage is still being studied, but from what we already know, from the damage done to wildlife that often eat plastic thinking it is food to chemicals in the water from disintegrating plastic, the threat is believed to be very serious.

The second article is Ocean Reflux by Kathleen McAuliffe (click here for the web version). It has long been known that the oceans can sequester carbon dioxide as they naturally absorb excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. In fact, the oceans were seen as such a good place to store carbon dioxide, there have been suggestions that we pump liquid CO2 into the deepest parts of the ocean rather than let it disburse in the atmosphere and contribute to global warming.

Now new research has found that increasing levels of carbon dioxide in ocean water increases its acidity which may have profound effects such as destroying coral and many of the marine creatures at the bottom of the food chain. Among other problems this might cause, the loss of reefs and small ocean creatures could eventually threaten the planet’s fisheries.

I can’t begin to relay all the scientific details from these two articles, but you can read them yourself if you want more details.

Some scientist or researcher or politician will eventually tell you what we might do to mitigate or reverse these threats, but what you won’t hear them offer is a plan to reduce the number of people on the planet as a way to reduce the damage we are inflicting. Why is that?

Over Populated – Are We There Yet?

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