Industrial Pollution & Environmental Degradation

Industrial pollution & environmental degradation are widely, and rightly, considered one of the largest problems facing our late-capitalist society. The continued effects of industrial pollution & environmental degradation make our factories less efficient (believe it or not), poison our groundwater, poison our air, use up natural resources and generally make the world filthier, deadlier, and less pleasant to be a part of.

And nowhere is this more evident than in the mysterious “Sea of Trash”, one of the saddest legacies of industrial pollution & environmental degradation currently on display anywhere in the world.

The Sea of Trash is exactly what it sounds like. Plastic refuse and improperly-disposed-of trash is often dumped offshore, even in comparatively environmentally-conscious states like California and Oregon. In the minds of the illegal dumpers, this plastic refuse just drifts away somewhere out of sight and therefore out of mind, eventually probably becoming waterlogged and sinking into the Pacific, someone else’s problem. In reality, plastic trash almost never degrades naturally, nor does it simply sink into the water, out of sight. It continues to float on the surface of the ocean until it’s picked up on the neck of an animal, contributing to extinction and the pollution of animal habitats, or until it reaches its final goal, the dark legacy of industrial pollution & environmental degradation: the Sea of Trash.

Refuse tends to come to the Sea of Trash because of its position in the North Pacific Gyre. The Coriolis Effect causes ocean currents to swirl, forming massive vortexes in the sea. These vortexes slowly draw water into them from all bordering regions. The water will slowly leave the area through evaporation and the standard weather cycle. Anything carried along in that water, however, will remain trapped in the vortex forever: the prisoner of industrial pollution & environmental degradation.

The Sea of Trash is the largest complex of trapped industrial refuse in the world, with an estimated surface area anywhere from 700 thousand to one million square kilometers, nothing but floating plastic refuse virtually the size of Texas. It didn’t get that way overnight, of course. According to official estimates, trash takes roughly a year to reach the Sea of Trash from the east coast of Asia and five years to reach the Sea from the west coast of the United States. Reach the Sea it does, however, leaving the world just a bit more ravaged by industrial pollution & environmental degradation than it was before.

So what can be done about the Sea of Trash? The only thing we can do, it seems, is to try not to make the Sea any larger than it already is. Beyond that, all we can do is float amidst the plastic bottles and milk jugs, and hope that we haven’t already pushed the planet too far.