So I'm thinking a lot about this ecoliteracy and thinking about our evolved state in the world and what we need to do. My friend Patrick sent this article, "Plastic Ocean: Our Oceans Are Turning Into Plastic. Are We?" to me a little while back and it is one of the most frightening things I have read in a while. I want to share it with you.
It began with a line of plastic bags ghosting the surface, followed by an ugly tangle of junk: nets and ropes and bottles, motor-oil jugs and cracked bath toys, a mangled tarp. Tires. A traffic cone. Moore could not believe his eyes. Out here in this desolate place, the water was a stew of plastic crap. It was as though someone had taken the pristine seascape of his youth and swapped it for a landfill.How did all the plastic end up here? How did this trash tsunami begin? What did it mean? If the questions seemed overwhelming, Moore would soon learn that the answers were even more so, and that his discovery had dire implications for human—and planetary—health. As Alguita glided through the area that scientists now refer to as the “Eastern Garbage Patch,” Moore realized that the trail of plastic went on for hundreds of miles. Depressed and stunned, he sailed for a week through bobbing, toxic debris trapped in a purgatory of circling currents. To his horror, he had stumbled across the 21st-century Leviathan. It had no head, no tail. Just an endless body.
Leviathan. I'll say.
Humanity occupies an unprecedented niche in the living world. Our ability to adapt to new environments dwarfs all other “higher” taxa animals on planet earth. Though the humpback and bowhead whales sing elegant arias to one another over dozens of miles in a language of which we can only grasp the rudiments, they have no ability to make tools to change their environments. Last year researchers discovered that female chimpanzees in Africa were making and using spears to hunt; additionally, the females were teaching each other how to make the spears, thus creating a spear meme in their local culture. As fascinating as the unknown grammar and syntax of whale languages and “lower” order primate tool-making are, the human ability to speak, write, and read and use that language instinct to manipulate and adapt to its environment stand as both our greatest asset and our greatest weakness.
And here we see how it has become our greatest weakness. The ability to create plastic has naturally coupled itself with the human middle-world desire for convenience and the result? A massive swath of plastic twice the size of Texas. If I were religious, I'd start praying now. But that's not the point.
This is the kind of thing that requires action at every level - bottom-up and top-down. Our enormous evolved brains have gifted us with the most incredible abilities, including the collective delusion that garbage disappears. Out of sight. Out of mind. Here we are in middle world. Will we soon be walking on and swimming in our own trash?