Birthday week continues here at Sunrise Santa Cruz as today we are featuring the sunrise from last Wednesday, the day 55 years ago that I left the warm comfort of the amniotic spa to enter the world of “The Honeymooners,” “The Phil Silvers (Sergeant Bilko) Show” and baby formula. It is a transition that I am just starting to get comfortable with as I know longer wonder happened to my umbilical cord.
This sunrise sonata started out on a chilly morning at Lighthouse Point. I then ventured up the steps to West Cliff Drive and Steamer Lane before getting in my car and heading up to Four Mile Beach. The fifth shot is of my favorite railroad tracks before I made it down to the beach. There was lots of gull action-even more birds than Democratic and Republican candidates for president.
Read a fascinatingly disturbing article written by Justin Berton in the San Francisco Chronicle a couple a months back that I thought I’d bring to the table. There’s a Great Plastic Garbage Patch, a body of plastic and marine debris that floats an estimated 1,000 miles west of San Francisco. It is a shape-shifting mass far too large, delicate and remote ever to be cleaned up or turned into a tourist attraction, according to a researcher who recently returned from the area.
Charles Moore, a marine researcher from the Algalita Marine Research Foundation in Long Beach has been studying and publicizing the patch for the past ten years. He says the debris, which he estimates weighs 3 million tons and covers an area twice the size of Texas is made up of mostly of fine plastic chips and is impossible to skim out of the ocean. Now doesn’t that paint of fine picture of what we’re doing to the liquid portion of our planet. And all this time, I thought the future was in plastic.
“Any attempt to remove that much plastic from the ocean-it boggles the mind,” says Moore. “There’s just too much, and the ocean is just too big.” The trash collects in one area, know as the North Pacific Gyre, due to a clockwise trade wind that circulates along the Pacific rim. This is not to be confused with the Pacific net. It accumulates the same way bubbles gather at the center of a hot tub. A two-liter plastic bottle of Coke, Pepsi or Squirt that begins it’s voyage from a storm drain in San Francisco will get pulled into the gyre and take weeks to reach its place among the other debris in the Garbage Patch.
While the bottle floats along, instead of biodegrading, it will photodegrade as the sun’s UV rays will turn the bottle brittle, much like they would crack the vinyl on a car roof. They will break down the bottle into small pieces and in some cases, into particles as fine as dust. And as the group Kansas has told us, “All we are is dust in the wind.”
The Garbage Patch is not a solid island. It resembles a soupy (Sales) mass, interspersed with large pieces of junk such as fishing nets, waterlogged tires and Liza Minelli CD’s. It’s also undetectable by overhead satellite photos because it’s 80 percent plastic and therefore translucent. The plastic moves just beneath the surface, from one inch to depths of 300 feet.
According to Moore, the “floating landfill is simply to far from land to conduct any meaningful cleanup operation. It’s about 1,000 miles west of California, 1,000 miles north of the Hawaiian Islands and 4,000 miles west of Hoboken, New Jersey, a week’s journey by boat from the nearest port.
As the production and the use of plastic continues to grow, so will the garbage patch. The only way to reduce marine debris is to cut of off at its source-on land. The dramatic growth in plastics over the past two decades is what distresses activists like Moore. The annual production of plastic resin in the U.S. has roughly doubled in the past 20 years. A spokesman for the plastic industry says they are aware of its connection to marine debris and is working with federal and state agencies to put more recycling bins on California beaches in an attempt to stop plastic bottles and bags from making their way to sea. Now if we could just get those morons to stop using our beaches as giant ashtrays by dropping their cigarette butts in the sand.
Charles Moore sums the situation up by saying “The ocean is downhill from everything. It’s just like a toilet that never flushes. You can’t take these particles out of the ocean. You can just stop putting them in.” I think it all comes down to the words of the environmentally conscious Steve Martin who once said, “Always carry a litter bag in your car. And if it ever gets filled up you can always throw it out the window.”
That’s our show for today. Remember, we’re blasting out every day this week so we’re on orange alert. And a final note. Since this is the last week before Sunrise Santa Cruz goes on a two week hiatus to reenergize, rejuvenate and watch every movie I missed in the last 12 months, I would love to hear from everyone out there. Kind of an end of the year check in. Is the blog working for you, are there enough colors and why is Isiah Thomas still the coach of the Knicks? Or you can just send me the best joke you’ve heard this year. You don’t have to put it as a comment on the blog-just email me back. Alright, enough Menachim Begin, I’ll catch you tomorrow, same time, same space. Mahalo.