April 24, 2012

Green Up for Earth Week: No. 3

This Earth Day post is coming a little late because Sunday was a day of sloth and recovery (and because this post is quite extensive, as you'll soon see). And by that I mean it was spent catching up on sleep, stretching out sore muscles, cleaning the house, reading good books, listening to a sermon, starting a movie, eating Chinese food, and enjoying some much needed Sabbath rest. Mmmm, now that's a good Earth Day.

Saturday was the real Earth Day celebration. We embarked with five friends to the summit of Mount Washington. Oh, Mount Washington. Their tagline is, "Home of the World's Worst Weather." Sounds inviting, huh? Actually, it sounds a tad dramatic, but it's really scary - the highest recorded windspeed on Earth was at Mount Washington, clocked in at 231 mph. Let's just say I'm glad I wasn't around for that.

We had hopes of hiking the Tuckerman's Ravine trail to the summit, but were instructed otherwise when we reached the cabin at the base. So we turned around about a half mile and hiked Lion's Head instead. At Lion's Head less than 1 mile from the summit, we decided that the ominous clouds emerging over the peak weren't very welcoming, especially as the wind picked up. From there, we watched the crazies ski Tuck's and hiked back down to escape the rain.

Tuckerman's Ravine [source]
It was tough to be so close to the summit and decide to turn around, but it's better to be safe than sorry. Mount Washington isn't going anywhere. But it made for a loooong day and some sore bodies. From when we left the house in the morning until we returned? 18 hours, with a stop for dinner. Long, long day. But, we were out enjoying nature!

This final installment of my Earth Week mini-series is one that I'll have a tough time writing about. A few months ago, I learned about something that made my stomach churn.

[via Be Green]
[via Honolulu Magazine]
[via Quest Garden]
Ever heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? Yeah, I hadn't either. 
But it's considered to be the world's largest landfill.

How this doesn't get more media attention is astounding to me. In the North Pacific Ocean, tidal currents from the shores of Asia, Australia and North and South America have literally created a vortex or whirlpool, which draws in marine debris and trash from all sides, creating a massive island of garbage that is roughly* more than twice the size of Texas. But where is it actually located? Althought it stretches all the way to Japan, a major convergence zone is in the ocean between California and Hawaii.

[via Ocean Conservancy]

What?! Why isn't this talked about all the time? Sure, it's talked about by scientific researchers and marine biologists, but this needs to become more common knowledge to the general public. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is made possible by the North Pacific gyre (gyre: noun - spiral, vortex; circular pattern of ocean currents) which is the flow of currents off the coast of four continents. Even though it's not near every continent, it is the whole world's problem. All of the currents eventually flow together, so no, this is not America and Asia's fault.

And it's not about avoiding throwing trash into the ocean or doing more beach clean-ups (although that's obviously important!) - 80% of the trash found originated on land (L.A. Times 2006).

[via NOAA]
Not only is this a problem because it's the most vile thing one could ever conceive, it's absolutely devastating to the oceanic ecosystems. Because of the sludge of plastic and chemicals, bits of plastic now outnumber zooplankton 6 to 1. Zooplankton play a vital role in the food chain of sea life, and now larger animals are getting the zooplankton confused with plastic. And the animals that eat those animals will also be eating that same plastic, and they'll be getting caught in the larger debris. Since plastic isn't biodegradable, it won't ever really go away completely. It will just get smaller and smaller, which means more confusing for the animals and harder for us to capture and clean. (greenfudge.org) Take a look at this sample...

[via The Telegraph]
That's what our sea friends are living in, drinking, and eating.

The saddest thing I've read about it is that there's no real way to clean it up. The damage has basically been done, so now we just need to maintain it and clean up our act for the future. This trash travels thousands of miles to reach the vortex and the amount of plastic has increased 10 times every two to three years for the past decade. (greenfudge.org)

[via garbagepatchinfo]
[via cookiesound]
a turtle caught in a plastic ring when he was young [via conservation report]
Feeling depressed and helpless like me?

Here are some things we can actually do to help:
(Tweet this post or link it to your blog or Facebook)
- quit it with the plastic bags and plastic bottles, already.
- participate in waterway clean-up projects.
- pick up litter.
- reduce packaging wherever possible.
- avoid plastic wherever possible, as it's the major problem.

And here are some great websites and articles for additional research:

I'd love to know - had you heard of The Great Pacific Garbage Patch before? Any good resources to recommend? Don't leave this Earth Day feeling discouraged. Leave feeling empowered, because God has given us this land to steward and everyone plays a part!

*The patch can't actually be measure since it's fluid and constantly moving, but enormous amounts of garbage do accumulate in this location.

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