Sunday, July 8, 2012
When we gazed upon those first photographs of earth transmitted back from space, we wondered why the planet was ever named “Earth.” Given the land-to-ocean ratio we think it far better to call the place “Sea.”
70% of our planet’s surface is covered with ocean with depths that scale far deeper than the height of Mt. Everest. It is a vast frontier. Ocean currents are the blood pulse of the planet. The winds are as breath driving the weather. Nutrient rich upwellings and estuaries produce the equivalent of all our agricultural zones. Yet, sadly, each year, three times as much trash ends up in the world's oceans as the weight of fish caught. In the United States, an estimated 29 million tons of plastic is thrown away annually and since only a small percentage is recycled, much goes to the landfill and much goes to the oceans.
In 1992 the Save Our Shores course reader The Problem with Marine Debris reported that there were 46,000 pieces of visible plastic floating in every square mile of the ocean. Since then there has not been an accurate count. However, NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, estimates that there has been approximately a 5% increase per year. This shocking fact along with our inability to visualize the magnitude of that quantity compelled us to count and exhibit a representative sample.