Monday, November 16, 2009

Yes, That's A BIC Lighter

Last week everyone I talked to was all a'twitter about the woman who was attacked by the chimpanzee and how she appeared on Oprah and lifted her veil. and they were all shocked: I've never seen anything like it and Poor woman and Oh, my God and on and on.

I didn't see it because, well, it was Oprah. But I did see this picture and it disgusted me more than anything I've seen in a very long time.

Yes, that is a BIC lighter. Inside the belly of that albatross chick.

I read this story on Towleroad and saw the images taken by photographer Chris Jordan who says, "These photographs of albatross chicks were made in September 2009 on Midway Atoll, a tiny stretch of sand and coral near the middle of the North Pacific. The nesting babies are fed bellies-full of plastic by their parents, who soar out over the vast polluted ocean collecting what looks to them like food to bring back to their young. On this diet of human trash, every year tens of thousands of albatross chicks die on Midway from starvation, toxicity, and choking. To document this phenomenon as faithfully as possible, not a single piece of plastic in any of these photographs was moved, placed, manipulated, arranged, or altered in any way. These images depict the actual stomach contents of baby birds in one of the world's most remote marine sanctuaries, more than 2000 miles from the nearest continent."

This is a slide show of his photos.

If you watch these images of birds with stomachs filled by bits of plastic and not feel anything, you're a better man than I. I was so disgusted by these deaths and how these birds were "fed" plastic and where they got it from that I sent the link to my Dad, in Smallerville, Oregon. A former Chemistry teacher, he now volunteers at an aquarium on the Oregon and writes articles for the aquarium newsletter.

This is what he had to say about the gyre:

Lets start this off with a question: What is located at approximately LAT 320 18' North and LONG 152039' West and is larger than the size of Texas?
When I was teaching Chemistry, my philosophy was for the students to see, hear, write, and learn, using as many of their senses as possible. This was the reason I used note taking and multimedia presentations in the classroom. So a picture being a worth a thousand words:

There are always reasons for my articles. A recent visitor and I had an excellent exchange of ideas on the ocean and the trash that liters our beaches. The recent Autumn 2007 issue of Ocean Conservancy contained a feature article, What Comes Around. We recently had SOVL....Be a SOLVer.....Help stop Oregon litter and vandalism. That was enough to ignite the spark.
The LATILONG coordinates in the question is the approximate location of the Northern Pacific Subtropical Gyre--also called the less scientific names: The Plastic Sea, Garbage Patch, and The Trash Vortex. Northeast of the Hawaiian Island chain, this gyre is the clockwise circular motion of water formed by wind driven ocean currents: the North Pacific Current (North), the California Current (East), the North Equatorial Current (South), and the Kuroshio Current (West). A simple example is pulling the stopper in a bathtub and watching the swirling water going down the drain, but the Pacific Ocean has no drain.
There are five central gyres, two in the Pacific Ocean, two in the Atlantic Ocean, and one in the Indian Ocean. Gyres are affected by wind direction, storms, tides, temperature, salinity, Coriolis effect, and liquid density. These factors then affect the depth, width, and the circulation speed in the gyre. The Northern Pacific Subtropical Gyre is a slow moving spiral of water. Debris entering the currents that bound the gyre, are forced into its low energy central area. A Greenpeace research animation shows that debris entering the water from the Western Pacific coast of the United States and the Eastern Pacific coast of Japan will be entrapped in the Northern Pacific Gyre in six years. Approximately 100 million tonnes (metric ton) of plastic are produced each year and approximately 10% ends up in the sea. Sea borne debris, about 20% of this, comes from ships and platforms and the remaining 80% from land. This gyre has been estimated as being larger than the state of Texas. All the plastic type polymers every produced since Leo Baekeland produced the first resins of Bakelite in 1907 and the "Plastic Age" began, are still here.
Plastics are not biodegradable but most breakdown into smaller fragments over time.
From the Greenpeace article again: "A single 2 liter drink: bottle will breakdown over time to put one fragment on every mile of beach in the entire world". The larger fragments, bottle caps, lighters, balloons, and fishing nets often entangle or are consumed by sea birds and other animals, such as the sea turtle, strangled by a plastic band.
Plastic fragments also provide a vehicle for numerous organisms to "ride-the-waves" and live on. These organisms can then invade a new habitat and become an invasive species. These fragments may also provide a "sponge" to attract and concentrate pollutants found in the ocean, especially POPs (persistent Organic Pollutants). Animals eating this chemical soup are also ingesting these highly toxic pollutants an then transporting them throughout the food chain ..
We have all heard the saying, "Out of sight, out of mind". Some plastic debris does sink to the sea bottom, about 70%. Dutch scientists have estimated that there are approximately 110 pieces of litter for every square kilometer of the seabed in the North Sea. The animals that inhabit the sea floor are now confronted with the intrusion of plastic debris on their domain.
We have all seen the disclaimers on TV about the side effects of the meds being presented. My disclaimer is: Do not read the information on the web sites listed below before or just after eating or before going to bed as it will probably cause mental anxiety about what we have done and are doing to this planet.

More info HERE.

So, what did we learn from this? Maybe to recycle everything, how about that? Maybe to think before you toss that lighter or pen into the trash. Maybe just to think about what happens to all the trash you throw out each year; where it goes, what it does, what it kills. It really takes no time to recycle, it hurts no one, and yet it might save the life of a bird on a tiny atoll somewhere you've never been nor heard about. And, if you don't want to recycle, then understand that it is YOU killing the birds, and the fish and the animals on this planet. Take responsibilty.

We all went up in arms about the woman who was mauled by the chimpanzee, but she could scream for help. These tiny birds cannot ask for help.

They can only die.



Larry Ohio said...

Great post Bob. How does 10% of the plastics produced end up in the sea? Who's dumping it there?

frogponder said...

I can answer that. As a kid I used to travel, up and down, the coast of British Columbia on a freighter. Was the only way we could get to our tiny town. The sea gulls used to fly behind the freighter because three times a day, after every meal, the trash was tossed off the back. Food scraps and containers and boxes and bags. Multiply that by all the freighters, cargo ships, cruise liners over the years around the world.

Kyle said...

Bob I'm glad you tackled this topic on your blog. It is an important one to me. The animals don't have any voice; we are their voice and we have to be their advocates.

Mike, Studio city said...

And there is this. Here in Los Angeles every time it rains all the crap tossed in the street or on the ground flows into the gutter, the cutter emties into the creeks, they empty into the river, it flows to the sea and thats a lot of junk. Plastic sucks.

Wonder Man said...

this is sad to think about, glad to have read this

Joanne said...

Bob thank you for posting this - I am crazy silly about disposing of all my garbage especially my plastic and this just reinforces why.