The interconnection of the globe and all nations seems an obvious lesson now days, and we are daily reminded of it. For illustration: debris from the devastating Japanese tsunamis of March 2011 are now washing up along the U.S.’s West Coast. The ocean is structure like a great gyre (there are five of these gyres) which is a great circle of ocean streams that move counter to the earth’s rotation. That gyre is washing up an estimated 1.5 million tons of Japanese tsunami debris.
What sort of stuff? So far we’ve seen a soccer ball off the coast of Alaska, which was even returned to its owner, endless plastic and a whole dock form the Japanese fishing town of Misawa which showed up in the coast of Oregon.
Is this dangerous? Well the debris went sea bound before the radioactive meltdowns in Japan, so there’s no danger of radiation poisoning; and though it sounds grim, it comes as a relief that any remains of human victims of the tsunami will have long since decomposed and disappeared. The real danger lies in the fauna and flora that might have hitched a ride on the debris. Japanese critters out of their natural environment may upset the balance of ours. So far, researches have found large amounts of barnacles, starfish, urchins, anemones, mussels, snails, and algae on board the trashy exodus. Those substances had to be scraped off the refuse.
The debris in itself is a contained, one time shot. It serves as a reminder, however, of a larger and more persistent problem known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a cycling pool of plastic, nylons, vinyl, and other slowly decomposing materials that continues to grow, about 1,00o miles off the coast of California.
“The oceans provide our air, provide a lot of our food and regulate our climate,” said Greg Stone, senior vice president and chief scientist as Conservation International. “If you put dollars and cents on those services, then we will be force to from an economic argument to protect it. Right now we’re not aware of those values, but the oceans are actually the most valuable asset we have on this planet– people don’t get that.”
He means, of course, that most of the breathable oxygen on the planet is produced by algae in the ocean. The weather is also largely caused by the ocean as well.
“The biggest landfill it turns out is our oceans. We are just beginning to realize that,” said Lisa Kaas Boyle, an environmental lawyer and co-founder of the Plastic Pollution Coalition.
It is hoped that natural disasters like the Japanese Tsunami that cannot be predicted and controlled can remind us of problems we can predict and control, such as our pollution of the ocean.