Environment | June 03, 2008 |
Junk Raft Built to Battle Oceanic Waste
But the thing with global warming is that it is not immediately apparent. While it may make good small talk on a hot day, the fact is that the changes caused by global warming, as drastic as they are, occur all but imperceptibly. Even the increase in frequency and activity of tropical storm activity, once widely credited to heat trapped by global warming emissions, seems not to be a significant side effect. As a result, we’ve become so accustomed to battling this invisible enemy that we overlook one right before our eyes.
Readers of a certain age will remember the near-ubiquitous images of seabirds, fish, turtles, caught in plastic six pack rings, and learning to conscientiously snip can-carriers before discarding them. The idea became so ingrained in the public consciousness that it even inspired an episode of The Simpsons. The stunning, witty artwork of Christy Rupp involved scenes of environmental catastrophe crafted literally out of ocean-bourne trash. But somehow, as in our struggles to save the planet, we’ve forgotten the damage thrown-out plastic can do to the oceans we rely on.
But now, a novel project from the Algalita Marine Research Foundation looks to refocus the public eye on the problem of ocean pollution. Concerned with the ability of pelagic plastic pollution, which outweighs zooplankton in some parts of the ocean by nearly six to one, to obliterate oceanic food chains, three intrepid souls at Algalita conceived of sailing from Long Beach, CA to Hawaii—on a raft constructed entirely of 15,000 plastic bottles and an old airplane.
The crew of The Junk left California this week, and plans to collect samples of the “plastic soup” that fills parts of the North Pacific Gyre as they go, saving a few for legislators and educators upon the completion of their voyage. You can keep tabs on the voyage of The Junk on the project’s official blog, and submit your own questions for the voyagers. It’s a wild idea to draw attention to an ever-more pressing problem.
Photo courtesy of Algalita Marine Research Foundation