The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The grass is starting to get tall and hide the junk in the road ditches. We’ve already scoured ours for trash and returnable cans and bottles. I think Earth Day is in April. I remember a big hubbub being made about it in 1970 when we were all freaked out about global cooling.

Mostly, people organized around cleaning up litter. Some people liked to protest the modern world… without a rational alternative such as selling (or burying) their car and buying a horse to get around. Earth Day gave us a chance to grieve the destruction of the oceans as well. My kids will remind me of how many times they’ve heard this story.

I was a child in Southern California and surfing was the thing. Big rainstorms occasionally broke the desert monotony. Sewage treatment plants overflowed and the ocean became like our road ditch, a place for waste.

There were some mighty fine brown waves out there. Dirk and I knew about as much about biology as Ketanji Brown Jackson. We paddled out. Finally, exhausted, we sat in the parking lot soaking wet as a cop pulled up. I forgot to mention the quarantine signs. Well, he wrote us both a ticket for disobeying the quarantine.

That night I woke up with a problem of my own. Waste was being eliminated from both ends and I alarmed my poor mom as I screamed with each cramp. We had moved to Newport recently as an attempt for Mom to get a change after the divorce. We hadn’t acquired a family doctor yet so she found one in the Yellow Pages. He came to our house! He gave me a shot that calmed me down.

At my court date I told the judge that my illness had been enough punishment. He sorta bought it, reducing my fine from $45 to $15.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a swirling layer of mostly plastic between California and Hawaii, get this, 620,000 square miles in area. Plastic bottles, fishing nets, and probably a few rubber duckies form a base for neopelagic life. It’s a purely chaotic version of the Kevin Costner movie, “Waterworld.”

My final year of high school finally brought love of school with Mr. Hurst and Biology class. We made collections; plants, insects, and sea life. The sea life, we found at low tide along rocky shorelines. The Garbage Patch supports a replica of our shorelines with sea anemones, crabs, hydroids, oysters, and mussels; 46 different species colonized on 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic. Before plastic, the open ocean was a lifeless wasteland, sorta.

In the 1970s we were convinced that we would be starving in the ’80s. In the early 2000s 97% of scientists warned we would be cooked by now. India is about to pass China as the most populous nation. I look at my lettuce and can’t imagine enough California farmland exists to continue to feed us. Maybe Biden, Putin, and Zelenski have a plan to reduce demand for food. We should capitalize on the Garbage Patch. There’s 620,000 square miles of untapped life out there.

Eighty percent of the Garbage Patch is discarded on land. So we can do our part by littering! Our litter is like soil is to land-based crops. Do your part to feed the world. Throw that bottle in the street on its way to the storm drain. We are saved.


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