May 28, 2010

The Big Deep Garbage Heap

Like most people, I love the sea. Though I often fear what lies beneath”€“more so now than ever, what with all the pollution, oil spills, and cruise ships. 

Now that summer is here I find myself daydreaming about bathing in a cool blue sea more and more. But my fantasies of late quickly turn to dread when I think of cooling off in an ocean tainted as it is by rampant pollution.  The defilement of our beloved oceans is infuriating and has become impossible to ignore. Sometimes I wonder if I am the only idiot who realizes it. One hears little murmurs here and there but no drastic improvements are reported. Swimming and the prospect of swimming is becoming less and less appealing. Even fishing, or eating fish, can produce pangs of guilt that spoil the pleasure I derive from the ocean.

Despite the evidence of pollution, that has been around ever since I can remember, I have been going on long swims since I was a child. My brother and I have a little mantra we chant when our fear of the big deep overtakes us. We have to, swimming is practically in our blood, we are Greek after all, and summers have always been spent on the water.

Despite its depth and enormity, there is something about the sea I find deeply calming. I always have. For some it is the mountains, for others it is the desert. Being near an ocean makes me truly happy. I could sit for hours and watch the water without a hint of boredom. I often do. All my worries seem to float away.

There are still places in Greece that are pristine, especially when the currents are right, though one can almost always find a floating plastic bag or an old soda can along the beach or the ocean floor in seemingly unspoiled areas. I wonder why no one picks them up. I always do, though I imagine another bit of garbage soon replaces what I am able to collect. Same goes for the rest of the Mediterranean, which is only getting worse. Cruise ships, mega yachts, jet skis, and dirty or infested waters rife with trash, sewage, oil, runoff, and infestations of jelly fish seem to be on the rise.

“In one way or another every industry is contingent upon shipping, and so unless businesses by some miracle become interested in sustainability rather than profit, minimizing the effects of pollution are unlikely.”

The plastic mass in the Pacific, the effects of over-fishing, and the monstrous disregard for the ocean one encounters across almost every over-built coast is a sign of what’s to come. The outlook is grim, and anyone who denies this is bananas. A young English aristo, one David Rothschild, seems equally troubled by the issue. He has gone so far as to navigate across the Pacific on a catamaran made of plastic bottles to bring attention to the growing mass of waste. Lets hope his journey makes a difference. If all else fails, perhaps he should use his money and influence to get other billionaires to do the right thing and buy sailboats for their jaunts in St. Tropez instead of mega yachts.

The ongoing BP leak in the Gulf of Mexico is blood-curdling. Apparently the best engineers in the business are working on capping the leak. But I wonder if it isn”€™t Mickey Mouse down there. Neither the government or BP have found a solution. One can only assume they are part of the problem. There is no indication to think otherwise. The slick has hit the coast. The toll on the environment and the people along the coast who depend on those waters is going to be huge. There hasn”€™t been much of a scandal. One wonders why.

As always, it’s really all about money. The cost to the environment is second because so many depend on rivers and oceans for business and survival. In one way or another every industry is contingent upon shipping, and so unless businesses by some miracle become interested in sustainability rather than profit, minimizing the effects of pollution are unlikely. 

It saddens me to think of what our aquatic resources will look like in twenty or thirty years time. More and more chemicals are getting dumped into the sea. Strange customs like the annual baby seal slaughter in Canada continue. Thousands of pounds of unconsumed marine life are killed and dumped back in the sea. Oil spills and the like will continue. Few people want or know how to give up or moderate the pleasures they enjoy from the ocean. Human populations are increasing at an alarming rate. Soon there will be nothing left unspoiled. What is a girl to do?

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