Society – we are born into it and know no other system other than the one we are taught. This first impression of the world we receive as children becomes the indelible imprint left on our subconscious that stays with us for life unless otherwise deconstructed. We hit the ground running, so to speak, and the global state of affairs we observe in our youth becomes our de facto reference point by which we gauge all that follows. If we are born into a culture that is inundated with warfare, for example, this is logged in our memories and we accept it as “normal.” Everything is a matter of relativity, you see, whereby the insane is registered by us as sane simply because it is all we have ever known.
Much is the case for many of the ecological problems of today. Our youth are subject to a “normalcy” involving deforestation, overfishing of the oceans, genetically engineered life contaminating the natural genome of the planet, factory farming of livestock, a depleted ozone layer and continuing depletion of the upper atmosphere, over extraction of finite precious resources and little being done about our critical dependence on oil, heinous atrocities such as geo-engineering, et cetera.
Great Pacific Garbage Patch
One such ecological problem that was previously written off as hopeless has been the subject of viral discussion recently, brought to light by a 19 year old prodigy of the Netherlands.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is pretty self-explanatory. Somewhere far beyond human activity lies a place in the center of the Pacific Ocean where a gyre, or ocean current vortex, collects human pollution and concentrates it in a patch twice the size of Texas and still growing. This is only one of five such garbage-filled gyres that are of titanic proportion, highlighting a global, systemic, human and planetary issue.
The Problem Is Worse Than You May Think
Images are probably being illustrated by the reader’s imagination, usually something akin to a floating garbage island replete with plastic bottles and large debris that could easily be cleaned up by boats trawling with nets. However, the case is much worse. The garbage and plastics are broken down into very fine particles, causing a soupy mix that is eaten by sea life and birds. This would be hazardous enough, but there is a catch. Runoff of chemical fertilizers into the oceans causes a chemical reaction with these plastics, causing them to become up to 10 times as toxic.
Because the particles are infinitesimally small, the Garbage Patches have always been thought to be impossible to clean up. The world’s leading expert on the GPGP said in an interview with Vice that if we stop polluting the oceans today, and not a single piece of trash was allowed to be littered, the oceans would take around 700 years to spit all of the trash back out onto the world’s beaches. And even then, we would still have a huge clean up to do.
The Ocean Clean Up
Now, back to the aforementioned 19 year old prodigy that single-handedly devised a solution to this issue that he claims is proven to fix the dilemma in less than a decade.
Boyan Slat, founder of The Ocean Clean Up, was inspired to address this problem while snorkeling in the ocean and seeing more plastic bags than fish. He proposes a passive floating funnel system that concentrates the waste into solar-powered collection receptacles which allows harvesting of the “waste” material so that it may be reused as fuel or new plastic products. As of now, this is the only possible solution on the table, because ideas like trawling with nets not only harms sea life, but it also misses the majority of the smaller particles.
Boyan Slat raised $80,000 to hire a varied team of scientists from all relevant fields to compile a feasibility study. They also constructed a smaller prototype of their device which surpassed all expectations. After this, he performed a TEDx Talk (link below) to launch his Clean Up the Oceans project. He is very close to reaching the $2 million necessary to implement the first one of his designs.
Boyan Slat’s TEDx Talk (click here to watch)
Spread this story and if you feel compelled to donate, you may be part of the bigger solution. If we can fix our own mistakes and those of previous generations, perhaps future generations will come to know a new normal. They will hear the heart-warming stories of victory and will inherit optimism and hope. This will see the world as changeable and will seek to change it.
Learn more at www.theoceancleanup.com