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  • 1. Water is one of the most vital links to human life and existence. This slidecast will attempt to answer some hard hitting questions about what people are willing to do with polluted water that resides far out of sight in an Ocean of undrinkable sea water. What does it take for humanity to act on environmental problems?<br />The purpose of this journey is to prove that in the case of environmental issues humans are not concerned until we realize the effect on human life. This will be proven through the case of the plastic pollution in the Pacific Ocean. Not all garbage ends up at the dump on land. Rivers, sewers and beaches do not catch everything that the rain washes away. It is important to realize that currently the Earth's largest landfill is not even on land. This is a story, a story of epic proportion, a contemporary story which has just come into our relatively recent knowledge. For the last six decades or so plastic waste has been washed out to sea without anyone really knowing where it was. Until recently humans went on with their everyday life with out so much as questioning where the waste was going. This slidecast will shed light on humanity’s lack of concern for environmental issues, until we realize its effects on us. <br />This story begins with the throwaway culture: People relying on plastic and throwing it away<br />Following World War Two factories turned from focusing on defense manufacturing to leisure and lifestyle goods for the people. California was a particular hot spot for new products that represented the new fast paced lifestyle of the California family. Plastic was a cheap, durable, expendable product that made its’ way into all aspects of life. From children’s toys like hula hoops and Barbies to household appliances and plastic shopping bags; the culture shifted from the prewar conservationism to a new found luxury of consumerism. Plastics were popping up everywhere without any acknowledgement for where these dispensable items would end up. <br />People not caring:<br />The Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch is far out of sight and out of mind. No one went out searching for the unclaimed garbage because it simply seemed to have no effect on humanity. As early as the 1950’s people speculated a patch of garbage collecting somewhere in the world’s oceans but no affects were felt so nothing was done. The water so far from home was not crucial for human existence because no one needed salt water. The world is covered in salt water and the pollution miles away from any humanity did not get any attention.<br />Discovery:<br />In 1997 everything changed, our story now leads us to the accidental discovery of the Garbage Patch by Captain Charles Moore. The discovery of the huge plastic dump was a result of a yacht race. Moore was in the race over 1000 miles from shore when he began to sail through the thick plastic waste. The discovery kicked Moore into action as he began to quantify what exactly he had found so far from any civilization. Moore’s first reaction was to try and measure the amount of plastic waste. “Trashed -Across the Pacific Ocean, Plastics, Plastics, Everywhere”  from a Natural History article was written by Moore to describe his first discovery. In it Moore describes his first instinct to quantify the large amount of debris through estimation. He quickly calculated that the debris was half a pound in every hundred square meters of surface water. Then he multiplied the circular area defined by their thousand-mile course through the gyre. He figured that the weight of the debris was about three million tons and based off this original rough quantification he knew he had to test his theories further.<br />Discovery itself plays a crucial role in acting on an environmental issue. The problem however faced by Moore was that people did somewhat listen to the stories he told but not really become concerned or act because they could not actually see the patch themselves or really feel any effects on their own lives. This proves that discovery is not enough to make people act or push environmental problems into any stage of policy. Moore quickly realized upon the discovery that the patch of garbage was not located in anyone’s backyard but in a remote location far from any human concern. The problem that remained also was ownership of the waste, which was located in international waters. Who was responsible? Who’s duty was it to care? And why should anyone care?<br />Why is it a problem?<br />It is now a good point to give a brief overview of why plastic is particularly a bad pollutant to find in the Pacific waters. Besides the fact that there was so much plastic found another issue was the fact that plastic does not biodegrade. There is no natural process on earth that can ever break plastic down. To humans plastic’s durability has been a reason to attract us to the product, however to nature it can be seen as one of the most choking creation by man. Rather then biodegrade plastic photodegrades, meaning that plastic fragments into smaller and smaller pieces without ever breaking into simpler compounds. The plastic it breaks down and releases large amounts of toxic substances into the water. What ever could have originally been stored in the plastic like DDT, PCBs, other oils and pollutants, is also released into the water as the plastic breaks down. Anyone for some wild Pacific Salmon? Even on a molecular level the plastic still exists, which meant in the first stages of discovery the appearance of a plastic dump across the ocean was even worse then the naked eye could see or measure. Greenpeace has stated that “One soda bottle can break down in enough small particles to leave one on every beach in the world”<br />Effects on Animals:<br />The first obvious step in quantifying the plastic pollution was to see its’ effects on the creatures that did live within the patch. The two main animals affected were obviously fish and sea-life and seabirds. The tiny plastic particles entered their bodies just by being in the water. The particles along with bigger plastic waste ended up poisoning many sea-birds and marine life or creating deadly blockages in their throats and stomachs. Green peace estimates that a million sea birds a year die form ingesting plastics. As a rule not many people knew about the garbage patch upon its’ first years of discovery because it took many years of research to quantify what exactly was occurring and what the effects of the mass plastic pollution was. It is notable to realize that it has just been in very recent years that the public has even become actually aware of the garbage patch and the research being done around it. <br />How much plastic is out there?<br />The United Nations Environment Program estimated in 2006 that every square mile of ocean hosts 46,000 pieces of floating plastic [source: UN Environment Program]. In certain areas, the amount of plastic outweighs the amount of plankton by a ratio of six to one. Of the more than 200 billion pounds of plastic the world produces each year, about 10 percent ends up in the ocean [source: Greenpeace].<br />If so much plastic has found its way into the ocean wouldn’t you think that we as humans of the earth would have known about this problem sooner or acted upon it? <br />The acceptance and realization of plastic pollution on a molecular level seemed to be a huge factor in getting more attention paid to the issue. The confirmation through quantifying the plastic particles led to the reality that the plastic pollution was not just a far away issue that was stagnating in some far away waters. Particles of pollution flowed across the oceans onto land. The discovery of the wide spread effects of the pollution was one of the worst discoveries but best chance for the problem to reach human acknowledgement. Knowledge that dead marine life was washing to shore with plastic waste is a highly unfavorable effect on human life. The garbage patches present numerous hazards to marine life which means the hazard also effects fishing and tourism (especially on beaches with washed up animals) <br />Plastic pollution in the Pacific Ocean is a poster child for a worldwide problem: plastic that begins in human hands yet ends up in the ocean, often inside animals' stomachs or around their necks and then gets attention for how it affects humanity in the end. The problem has just recently made a splash in media because scientists such as those hired by the EPA are linking this far away problem closer to home. The main problem is that plastic has entered the food chain and humans have began to take notice of this because we rest at the top of the chain. The plastic never goes away but is getting into our food chain and onto our beaches and in the end the reason that people are now becoming aware of the problem is because it has been linked backed to our well-being. <br />A contemporary statement aimed to educated people about the Garbage Patch can be seen in Jacob Silverman’s statement, “Besides killing wildlife, plastic and other debris damage boat and submarine equipment, litter beaches, discourage swimming and harm commercial and local fisheries. The problem of plastic and other accumulated trash affects beaches and oceans all over the world, including at both poles.” It is clear to see that human effects seem to outweigh the environmental effects and therefore as of human consequences we start to pay attention. The plastic pollution problem of the Pacific Ocean acts as an effective example of what gets attention. People are more inclined to act when their own livelihood and well-being is involved and wide attention only seems to be given after we can find a link between humanity and the issue on hand. <br />In the end today we have heard in the news and seen in the papers human reactions and actions beginning to try and take control over the plastic pollution. It is clear to see that humans only really began to concern themselves with the issue and finding solutions once we have linked it back to our own survival. When the plastic was first discovered and measured as being far away in large pieces of trash we did not listen. When plastic got into animals we began to ask ourselves what this would mean for us. Finally when quantification led us to discover that plastics was breaking down into a molecular level we listened to how it could harm us. If anything we should learn from history and listen much longer before we act only on concern for ourselves. <br />