Tuesday, January 07, 2014
The Ocean Is Broken
The Ocean Is Broken
Reading this account I was saddened, chilled, outraged and ashamed.
The next leg of the long voyage was from Osaka to San Francisco and for most of that trip the desolation was tinged with nauseous horror and a degree of fear.
"After we left Japan, it felt as if the ocean itself was dead," Macfadyen said.
"We hardly saw any living things. We saw one whale, sort of rolling helplessly on the surface with what looked like a big tumour on its head. It was pretty sickening.
"I've done a lot of miles on the ocean in my life and I'm used to seeing turtles, dolphins, sharks and big flurries of feeding birds. But this time, for 3000 nautical miles there was nothing alive to be seen."
In place of the missing life was garbage in astounding volumes.
"Part of it was the aftermath of the tsunami that hit Japan a couple of years ago. The wave came in over the land, picked up an unbelievable load of stuff and carried it out to sea. And it's still out there, everywhere you look."
Ivan's brother, Glenn, who boarded at Hawaii for the run into the United States, marvelled at the "thousands on thousands" of yellow plastic buoys. The huge tangles of synthetic rope, fishing lines and nets. Pieces of polystyrene foam by the million. And slicks of oil and petrol, everywhere.
Countless hundreds of wooden power poles are out there, snapped off by the killer wave and still trailing their wires in the middle of the sea.
"In years gone by, when you were becalmed by lack of wind, you'd just start your engine and motor on," Ivan said.
Not this time.
"In a lot of places we couldn't start our motor for fear of entangling the propeller in the mass of pieces of rope and cable. That's an unheard of situation, out in the ocean.
"If we did decide to motor we couldn't do it at night, only in the daytime with a lookout on the bow, watching for rubbish.
"On the bow, in the waters above Hawaii, you could see right down into the depths. I could see that the debris isn't just on the surface, it's all the way down. And it's all sizes, from a soft-drink bottle to pieces the size of a big car or truck.
"We saw a factory chimney sticking out of the water, with some kind of boiler thing still attached below the surface. We saw a big container-type thing, just rolling over and over on the waves.
"We were weaving around these pieces of debris. It was like sailing through a garbage tip.
"Below decks you were constantly hearing things hitting against the hull, and you were constantly afraid of hitting something really big. As it was, the hull was scratched and dented all over the place from bits and pieces we never saw."
Plastic was ubiquitous. Bottles, bags and every kind of throwaway domestic item you can imagine, from broken chairs to dustpans, toys and utensils."
End of excerpt
I am thinking about this trying to pinpoint at what specific moment we humans just decided to give up on our planet. What exact moment we collectively decided that having stuff was more important than having a habitable world. Our oceans are our life and we are killing them. What does humanity now do knowing this? What happened to our collective soul? As this account recalls there is a huge amount of waste from the tsunami that hit Japan in 2011 that was also seen on this trip. Some would contend that was in the ocean due to a natural disaster. While true the fact that there is so much of it added to the oil slicks and other debris already there only compounds the problem. Effects from continued seepage of contaminated water from Fukushima into the Pacific Ocean are not helping either.
The question then is, what can we do about it? On a personal level we can cut down on what we consume. We can become more involved in our communities to monitor our waterways. We can call on our do nothing politicians to spend more time and effort regulating polluters rather than giving them tax breaks. We can do all of those things but it also comes down to once again honing a respect for the Earth and water that speaks to us on a moral level. I will say that I don't think the oceans are entirely broken yet- but I am not as hopeful about what I am seeing as I once was. However, there are organizations that are working to protect our oceans. We can also support their work and spread the word :
Clean Oceans Project
If anyone knows of any other organizations involved in this please send me a link and I will include it in this post.
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