The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

This year is the 50th anniversary of Lawrence of Arabia, an epic film that has been considered by many critics as one of the greatest ever made. It was the highest grossing motion picture of 1962 and received seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture (Sam Spiegel), Best Director (David Lean), and Best Cinematography (Frederick Young). Earning over $37 million, it grossed twice as much as the next top film.

Using the latest digital imaging technology, the color grading and re-mastering was completed for the very first time to celebrate.

The sets are lavish and awesome and the natural beauty of the desert is brought to life with plenty of long, loving shots into the unknowable distance. The visual strength of the haunting desert landscape is put to good use by Lean, who takes the time to show us that even in the midst of modernization, man is no match for the harsh mistress that is the endless sand. The movie’s visually a jaw-dropper.

Some movies are simply part of the vernacular of cinema. They are vibrant, wonderful, and universal in their emotional appeal. They cannot be questioned in their quality, their sterling vision, or their importance to cinema. Such films do not come around very often, but their effect is timeless on the human spirit, and it is really something special to sit down, putting away the modern accouterments and distractions, and just watch one.

Lawrence of Arabia is one such movie.

However, maybe there is something more to the revival of this epic film?

This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, the book responsible for the onset of the environmental movement.  What many people don’t realize is that in 2012 we are exposed to more toxic chemicals than ever before, in spite of legislation enacted to control it.

If you follow an Arabian-dressed horseman through the location the former set of 1962’s Lawrence of Arabia, we get a swift yet surreal and chilling look at the results of environmental decay in just one small area of the world (over a period of five decades).  For better and for worse, no ecosystem or segment of human activity has escaped the shrink-wrapped grasp of the myriad of consumer and industrial uses of oil that can be summed up in one word: plastic.

Its cheapness and versatility make it nearly ubiquitous in our culture, not to mention our environment—witness the huge “garbage patches” of floating plastic junk in the world’s five oceanic gyres.  And, for the past 60 years, plastics production and use has dramatically increased and yet the vast majority of plastic generated is not recovered at the end of its useful life.

The problem with that is that conventional plastics are petroleum based, meaning they are manufactured using non-renewable oil.  Conventional plastics contain harmful chemicals such as BPA (Bisphenol A), which is suspected of causing neurological and behavioral problems in fetuses and young children and has also been linked to brain, breast, prostate, reproductive and immune system cancer.

Many of the one-time use water bottles that we see everywhere are made from a plastic called Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET or PETE). Studies have shown that over time or when encountering minimal heat, PET leaches the toxin DEHP into the bottle’s contents. DEHP has been linked to obesity, diabetes, learning disabilities such as ADD and ADHD, cognitive and brain development problems, sexual development problems, and even cancer.  BPA has also been shown to advance puberty in teenagers, cause heart disease, diabetes, erectile dysfunction, and even recurrent miscarriages. Not to mention these conventional plastic bottles NEVER biodegrade in our landfills, posing an extreme environmental issue for our planet.

Plastic fragments of all sizes have appalling effects on all organisms, but perhaps a greater threat to humans is encountered on a microscopic level.

And, no matter what you think, we are all contaminated.

A newborn should have a chance in life to eat healthy, uncontaminated food, but they are not given this choice anymore. There is need for complete overhaul of production processes so that the precautionary principle prevails.

Plastic is a convenient shorthand diagnosis of a nation suffering from an unhealthy dependency on 19.54 million barrels per day of liquefied plant and animal matter from the Mesozoic era. That works out to almost three gallons every day for every man, woman, and child in the country.

Plastics also offer society lots of helpful properties, and they are also eco-efficient in many ways – including when a product comes to the end of its useful life. This is when end-of-life management becomes necessary.

The 2009 film “Plastic Planet” from Director Werner Boote describes the production and the use of plastic in everyday life and makes some serious accusations concerning this extremely widely used material, and the industry that produces it.

However, to be fair, the film only delivers a highly one-sided account of some very complex matters and, instead of engaging in a balanced rational debate, seeks to raise fear where it is not justified.

To solve the global challenge of plastic pollution, it is essential to increase focus on reducing the source of plastic pollution by addressing not only plastics disposal infrastructure, but plastics production and consumption. As stated by the Global Environmental Facility Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel (GEF/STAP) “Putting it simply, if we can reduce the quantity of plastic waste we produce while at the same time improving waste management options, we maximize our potential to tackle the problems associated with accumulation of waste products in the environment.”

All plastics can either be recycled as material and/or chemical feedstock for further use; or the embedded energy can be recovered. The high calorific value of plastics is actually similar to that of fuel oil. Therefore, plastics waste can either be recycled into new products or it can partly substitute for fuel conserving primary resources.

Plastic is just too valuable to waste.

There is no single way to comprehensively reduce plastic pollution.  The impacts of plastic pollution and the unsustainable production and consumption patterns that are the underlying causes of this problem must be addressed in the transition to a green economy and sustainable future.

America is often said—by President Barack Obama, former president George W. Bush, Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune, and many others—to be addicted to oil aka (plastic).

But, it’s time for America to break its unhealthy dependence on conventional, oil-based plastic bottles.

However, breaking an addiction is a wrenching process. And quitting oil certainly could be ugly.  But a future without oil doesn’t have to mean going cold turkey or fighting for fill-ups in a Mad Max world. Alternatives already exist for most uses of oil, and adopting them will improve our lives in many ways beyond slowing climate change.

The world doesn’t need another plastic DVD case, CD case or any other plastic case. The millions manufactured, sold and dumped daily is a horror story.

If today is a typical day on planet Earth, we will lose 116 square miles of rainforest, or about an acre a second. We will lose another 72 square miles to encroaching deserts, as a result of human mismanagement and overpopulation.

We will lose 40 to 100 species, and no one knows whether the number is 40 or 100. Today the human population will increase by 250,000. Tonight the Earth will be a little hotter, it’s waters more acidic, and the fabric of life more threadbare. Today oil is becoming more scarse and our carbon footprint is far too high. Hemp is a better quality and sometimes more affordable substitute for petrochemical plastics.

Each ton of mixed plastic waste could be turned into nearly 200 gallons of diesel.

Previous waste management methods such as landfill disposal, incineration, and recycling have failed to provide opportunities for the complete reuse of plastic waste.

“Why use up the forests which were centuries in the making and the mines which required ages to lay down, if we can get the equivalent of forest and mineral products in the annual growth of the hemp fields?” – Henry Ford

Americans recycle just 7 percent of 48 billion tons of plastics annually.

It is unacceptable that unwanted plastic is found discarded in marine and river environments and more effort is needed by all concerned to improve waste management on shore and on vessels at sea.  Education is needed to change littering behavior and to this end, industry is very active in promoting end of life waste management on land.

But, globally, we produce and discard far more plastic than is recycled or reused.  This waste litters the landscape, and much of it ends up in our oceans where it kills marine life, poses navigational hazards, and impacts local and global economies and human health.

By using better waste management practices, individuals, companies, and governments can all make a big impact.  Plastic pollution points us toward the solution already in front of us – using the plastic that we already have.

Live and Learn. We All Do.

Thanks for reading. Please pass this on to someone who means something to you.

About julia29

Hi. My name is Julia El-Haj. I am a Hall of Fame Athlete, an MBA, Professional Certified Marketer, Certified Youth Fitness Trainer, a Specialist in Sports Nutrition and a licensed Real Estate agent. I gave up my "seat at the table" to be home with my 3 children because that's where I was needed most. I blog about everything with Wellness in mind.
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1 Response to The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

  1. LoasyRohona says:

    It is difficult to uncover knowledgeable many people on this topic, but you sound like you know what you are talking about! Thanks

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