Stop the rock-stacking

A writer calls for an end to cairns.

Note: the opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of High Country News, its board or staff. If you’d like to share an opinion piece of your own, please write Betsy Marston atbetsym@hcn.org.

Stones: We’ve built pyramids and castles with them and painstakingly cleared them out of farm fields, using them to build low walls for fencing. We marvel at the rocks in the Grand Canyon, Arches and Grand Teton national parks. Yet a perplexing practice has been gaining ground in our wild spaces: People have begun stacking rocks on top of one another, balancing them carefully and doing this for unknown reasons, though probably as some kind of personal or “spiritual” statement.

These piles aren’t true cairns, the official term for deliberately stacked rocks. From middle Gaelic, the word means “mound of stones built as a memorial or landmark.” There are plenty of those in Celtic territories, that’s for sure, as well as in other cultures; indigenous peoples in the United States often used cairns to cover and bury their dead. Those of us who like to hike through wilderness areas are glad to see the occasional cairn, as long as it’s indicating the right way to go at critical junctions in the backcountry.

Stone piles have their uses, but the many rock stacks that I’m seeing on our public lands are increasingly problematic. First, if they’re set in a random place, they can lead an unsuspecting hiker into trouble, away from the trail and into a potentially dangerous place. Second, we go to wilderness to remove ourselves from the human saturation of our lives, not to see mementoes from other people’s lives.

We hike, we mountain bike, we run, we backpack, we boat in wilderness areas to retreat from civilization. We need undeveloped places to find quiet in our lives. A stack of rocks left by someone who preceded us on the trail does nothing more than remind us that other people were there before us. It is an unnecessary marker of humanity, like leaving graffiti –– no different than finding a tissue bleached and decaying against the earth that a previous traveler didn’t pack out, or a forgotten water bottle.  Pointless cairns are simply pointless reminders of the human ego.

I’m not sure exactly when the practice of stacking stones began in the West. But the so-called Harmonic Convergence in 1987, a globally synchronized meditation event, brought a tighter focus on New Age practices to Sedona, Arizona, just south of my home. Vortexes, those places where spiritual and metaphysical energy are reputed to be found, began to figure prominently on national forest and other public lands surrounding Sedona. Hikers near these vortexes couldn’t miss seeing so many new lines of rocks or stacks of stones.

Since then, the cairns, referred to as “prayer stone stacks” by some, have been multiplying on our public lands.  Where there were just a dozen or so stone stacks at a much-visited state park on Sedona’s Oak Creek 10 years ago, now there are hundreds.  What’s more, the cairn craze has mushroomed, invading wilderness areas everywhere in the West.

Why should we care about a practice that can be dismantled with a simple foot-push, that uses natural materials that can be returned quickly to the earth, and that some say nature will remove eventually anyway?

Because it’s not a harmless practice: Moving rocks increases erosion by exposing the soil underneath, allowing it to wash away and thin soil cover for native plants.  Every time a rock is disturbed, an animal loses a potential home, since many insects and mammals burrow under rocks for protection and reproduction.

The multiplying rock stacks.
Robyn Martin

But mainly, pointless cairns change the value of the wilderness experience by degrading an already beautiful landscape. Building cairns where none are needed for route finding is antithetical to Leave-No-Trace ethics.  Move a stone, and you’ve changed the environment from something that it wasn’t to something manmade. Cairn building might also be illegal, since erecting structures or moving natural materials on public lands often comes with fines and/or jail time. Of course, I doubt the Forest Service will hunt down someone who decided that his or her self-expression required erecting a balanced stone sculpture on a sandstone ridge.  Yet it is an unwelcome reminder of humanity, something we strive to avoid as we enjoy our wild spaces.

Let’s end this invasive practice.  Fight the urge to stack rocks and make your mark.  Consider deconstructing them when you find them, unless they’re marking a critical trail junction. If you must worship in the wild, repress that urge to rearrange the rocks and just say a silent prayer to yourself.  Or bring along a journal or sketchpad to recall what you felt in the wild.

Let’s check our egos at the trailheads and boat launches, and leave the earth’s natural beauty alone. Her geology, as it stands, is already perfect.

Robyn Martin is a contributor to Writers on the Range, the column service of High Country News. She is a senior lecturer in the honors program at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.

Massive boom will corral Pacific Ocean’s plastic trash

Massive boom will corral Pacific Ocean’s plastic trashPhoto: AP Photo.

https://www.whec.com/news/-massive-boom-will-corral-pacific-oceanrsquos-plastic-trash-/5063246/

September 08, 2018 03:03 PM

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Engineers will deploy a trash collection device to corral plastic litter floating between California and Hawaii in an attempt to clean up the world’s largest garbage patch in the heart of the Pacific Ocean.

The 2,000-foot (600-meter) long floating boom will be towed Saturday from San Francisco to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — an island of trash twice the size of Texas.

The system was created by The Ocean Cleanup, an organization founded by Boyan Slat, a 24-year-old innovator from the Netherlands who first became passionate about cleaning the oceans when he went scuba diving at age 16 in the Mediterranean Sea and saw more plastic bags than fish.

“The plastic is really persistent and it doesn’t go away by itself and the time to act is now,” Slat said, adding that researchers with his organization found plastic going back to the 1960s and 1970s bobbing in the patch.

The buoyant, a U-shaped barrier made of plastic and with a tapered 10-foot (3-meter) deep screen, is intended to act like a coastline, trapping some of the 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic that scientists estimate are swirling in that gyre but allowing marine life to safely swim beneath it.

Fitted with solar power lights, cameras, sensors and satellite antennas, the cleanup system will communicate its position at all times, allowing a support vessel to fish out the collected plastic every few months and transport it to dry land where it will be recycled, said Slat.

Shipping containers filled with the fishing nets, plastic bottles, laundry baskets and other plastic refuse scooped up by the system being deployed Saturday are expected to be back on land within a year, he said.

The Ocean Cleanup, which has raised $35 million in donations to fund the project, including from Salesforce.com chief executive Marc Benioff and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, will deploy 60 free-floating barriers in the Pacific Ocean by 2020.

“One of our goals is to remove 50 percent of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in five years,” Slat said.

The free-floating barriers are made to withstand harsh weather conditions and constant wear and tear. They will stay in the water for two decades and in that time collect 90 percent of the trash in the patch, he added.

George Leonard, chief scientist of the Ocean Conservancy, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group, said he’s skeptical Slat can achieve that goal because even if plastic trash can be taken out of the ocean, a lot more is pouring in each year.

“The plastic is really persistent and it doesn’t go away by itself and the time to act is now,” Slat said, adding that researchers with his organization found plastic going back to the 1960s and 1970s bobbing in the patch.

The buoyant, a U-shaped barrier made of plastic and with a tapered 10-foot (3-meter) deep screen, is intended to act like a coastline, trapping some of the 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic that scientists estimate are swirling in that gyre but allowing marine life to safely swim beneath it.

Fitted with solar power lights, cameras, sensors and satellite antennas, the cleanup system will communicate its position at all times, allowing a support vessel to fish out the collected plastic every few months and transport it to dry land where it will be recycled, said Slat.

Shipping containers filled with the fishing nets, plastic bottles, laundry baskets and other plastic refuse scooped up by the system being deployed Saturday are expected to be back on land within a year, he said.

The Ocean Cleanup, which has raised $35 million in donations to fund the project, including from Salesforce.com chief executive Marc Benioff and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, will deploy 60 free-floating barriers in the Pacific Ocean by 2020.

“One of our goals is to remove 50 percent of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in five years,” Slat said.

The free-floating barriers are made to withstand harsh weather conditions and constant wear and tear. They will stay in the water for two decades and in that time collect 90 percent of the trash in the patch, he added.

George Leonard, chief scientist of the Ocean Conservancy, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group, said he’s skeptical Slat can achieve that goal because even if plastic trash can be taken out of the ocean, a lot more is pouring in each year.

Touching letter from the smartest gorrila Koko before passing away: “Man stupid”

http://feedytv.com/touching-letter-smartest-gorrila-koko-passing-away.html

Posted on 09-08-2018.

The smartest gorrila Koko in the world alerted human kind before the death.

Born in San Francisco Zoo in 1971, Koko began learning American Sign Language at the age of one, and, according to her trainers, was able to learn vocabulary at the same rate as a child with learning difficulties.

According to the Gorilla Foundation, Koko knows over 1,100 different signs, although many of these have been adapted in order to compensate for her inability to form the same complex hand shapes and movements as humans.

Koko has been filmed delivering a message to the humans of the world, encouraging them to become more conscious of their responsibility to protect the planet.

The message Koko wanted to send to human beings.

And she claimed that people should do something for nature right now or too late

Watch video:

 

Earth Overshoot Day Shows We’re Devouring The Planet’s Resources Much Too Fast

We need 1.7 planets to fulfill our appetite for stuff. And it’s getting worse.

Global Footprint Network, an international nonprofit that calculates how we are managing ― or failing to manage ― the world’s resources, says that in the first seven months of 2018 we devoured a year’s worth of resources, such as water and fibers like cotton, to produce everything from the food on our plates to the clothes we’re wearing and the gas in our cars.

This year sees the earliest Earth Overshoot Day since the 1970s, when humanity’s resource consumption first started to exceed what the planet could renew in a year.

GLOBAL FOOTPRINT NETWORK NATIONAL FOOTPRINT ACCOUNTS 2018

“At the moment, we’re able to live in this ecological debt by using up the Earth’s future resources to operate our economies in the present ― in other words, we’re running a Ponzi scheme with our planet,” Mathis Wackernagel, CEO of Global Footprint Network, told HuffPost. “It might work for now, but as we dig ourselves deeper into debt it will eventually all fall apart.”

Wackernagel said he is certain that humanity will move out of overshoot. “The question,” he said, “is whether we do so by design or by disaster.”

Rampant deforestation, acute freshwater shortagescollapsing fisheries and dramatic biodiversity loss show some of the ways that our overuse of resources is already being felt.

There’s a human cost to all of this, said Michael O’Heaney, executive director of environmental campaign group The Story of Stuff.

“When we don’t live in harmony with the Earth’s ability to sustain itself, people get hurt ― you see ecosystem collapse in places primarily impacting poor people, people in the global south,” O’Heaney said.

Research indicates that while the effects of climate change will be felt everywhere, the poorest nations will be hit hardest.

Yet it’s some of the wealthiest countries that are creating the most ecological debt. If the world’s population lived like the U.S. currently does we would need five planets to sustain consumption levels, according to Global Footprint Network’s data. In contrast, if the world lived like India we would require only 0.7 of a planet to maintain annual resource demands.

Globally, we’re using up nature 1.7 times faster than our planet’s ecosystems can regenerate. In other words, our planet relies on 1.7 planets worth of resources.

GLOBAL FOOTPRINT NETWORK NATIONAL FOOTPRINT ACCOUNTS 2018

“This is not an individual consumer problem,” said O’Heaney. “There’s a systemic problem here ― we have a system that chews up resources, creates products using those resources, spits them out and then makes them so that they’re not durable, makes them so that people throw them away. Take the example of bottled water. We all did fine without water in plastic bottles 25 years ago.”

As corporations have convinced us that we need things like bottled water, governments have been doing an increasingly bad job of protecting our natural resources, O’Heaney said.

Ultimately, he said, the solution lies in transitioning away from the “dinosaur economy” that relies on rampant consumption of resources and is powered by fossil fuels, and instead pushing for economies that use sustainable materials and run on renewables.

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HuffPost’s “This New World” series is funded by Partners for a New Economy and the Kendeda Fund. All content is editorially independent, with no influence or input from the foundations. If you have an idea or tip for the editorial series, send an email to thisnewworld@huffpost.com. 

Earth Overshoot Day: Humans are using Earth’s resources faster than ever, group warns

“There are consequences of busting the ecological budget of our one and only planet,” the CEO of the Global Footprint Network network said.
by James Rainey / 
Image: Ratcliffe on Soar power station

Coal-fired powered, Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station in Nottinghamshire, England. (Photo by: Loop Images/UIG via Getty Images)Loop Images / UIG via Getty Images

A hummingbird flew into New York’s Times Square Friday, and has been hovering and flitting high over the heads of tourists and workers ever since.

Never mind that the bird arrived via jumbo screen — the arresting image was intended to turn attention to humanity’s tenuous place in nature. The onscreen message: “Earth Overshoot Day is August 1…Because We Have Only One Earth…#MoveTheDate.”

Created by the Global Footprint Network environmental nonprofit, Earth Overshoot Day estimates the point in the year when humanity has consumed more natural resources and created more waste than Earth can replace or safely absorb in a year. The Aug. 1 date projected this year is earlier than any time in the dozen years the calculation has been made and a warning, especially, of the heightened challenge from the accumulation of greenhouse gases.

“Fires are raging in the Western United States. On the other side of the world, residents in Cape Town have had to slash water consumption in half since 2015,” said Mathis Wackernagel, CEO of the Oakland, California-based Global Footprint Network. “There are consequences of busting the ecological budget of our one and only planet.”

Earth Overshoot

JUL.20.201800:16

The electronic billboard campaign in Times Square — with additional images of a blooming hibiscus from renowned slow-motion nature filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg — will be followed by a YouTube and Facebook livestream July 31 and Aug. 1. The live video feed will feature environmental leaders from around the world, including representatives from the United Nations, the World Wildlife Fund, Earth Day Network and others.

The Earth Overshoot concept is designed to bring urgency to climate issues that can seem distant in time and place. It aims to keep citizens and decision-makers in touch with spiraling carbon dioxide levels, particularly Americans who don’t live in coastal flood zones or in the path of more frequent and sizable hurricanes.

HOW EARTH OVERSHOOT DAY IS CALCULATED

When the first overshoot calculation was announced in 2006, it found that Earth used a year’s worth of resources by Oct. 9. The Global Footprint Network determines the date by drawing data from the United Nations, the International Energy Agency and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, among others. These estimates of productive land and sea area, grazing land, cropland and fishing grounds are expressed in so-called global hectares. This measurement (roughly 2.5 acres) is meant to be a standard unit, projecting average productivity, that can be tallied to represent the Earth’s total “biocapacity.”

The researchers then examine the demand side: mankind’s need for crops, livestock and fish, timber and space for urban development, along with a calculation of the forests’ capacity to absorb carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. The difference between this “ecological footprint” and the Earth’s biocapacity represents the overshoot.

The Aug. 1 date declared this year means that, for the final five months of the year, mankind is overdrawing natural resources. Framed another way, it would take 1.7 Earths to supply the resources needed to feed, clothe and sustain Earth’s 7.6 billion people for a year.

Earth Overshoot

JUL.20.201800:16

Global Footprint Network also calculates the biocapacity and ecological footprint at the national level, offering a look at how much each country is living beyond its home-grown resources. It shows, for example, that the United States has a biocapacity of 3.6 hectares per person but that the average consumption is 8.4 hectares per person, meaning that Americans are running a 4.8 hectare per-capita deficit. Stretched across a population of 317 million, that country uses all of its native resources by March 15, the formulation suggests. To continue consuming at current levels indefinitely, the U.S. would need the resources of five Earths.

That’s in sharp contrast to nations that have little industry and relatively few cars and trucks and often substantial forests, pumping oxygen back into the biosphere. So Suriname in the northern end of South America, has a biocapacity of 97 hetacres per person, but each of its 496,000 inhabitants only uses 2.7 hectares, on average, annually. So the tiny nation produces a large 94.6 hectares of “reserve.” Because the construct is only theoretical, though, Suriname can’t escape the excess carbon dioxide most other countries pump into the atmosphere. And it exports surpluses of wood and commodities that other countries can’t produce on their own.

Andrew Simms, a progressive British political economist who helped conceive the idea, said it is important to show how cultures live beyond their own resources. “The wealthiest countries, in particular, depend on a much larger land base than they have themselves to enjoy the material lifestyles they are accustomed to,” Simms said. Wackernagel said his group uses the statistics conservatively and that, if anything, the overshoot date underestimates humanity’s impact on the planet.

A GLOBAL RESPONSE

The calculation is not without critics. A World Wildlife Fund official in Britain wrote a column in 2010 calling the footprint “clever” and “succinct.” But he added that the diverse array of data it compiled — from greenhouse gas emissions, to rainforest destruction, to corn yields — was hard to reconcile and made the calculation “a useful guide stick rather than anything absolute.”

Rush Limbaugh offered a less generous critique after the announcement of the overshoot date in 2015. “If we have exhausted our yearly allotment of natural resources,” Limbaugh asked, “then why are we still breathing?”

Wackernagel responds that just because resources like water and oxygen remain available, it doesn’t mean they aren’t being depleted to threatening levels. “We can live off of depletion for a time,” he said, “but not forever.”

“We can live off of depletion for a time but not forever.”

Regardless of the calculation’s degree of precision, it has met the Global Footprint Network’s goal of driving conversation about natural resources. Coverage has grown steadily, with organizers saying the story received 1.3 billion web hits in 2017, across more than 1,900 websites. In a few countries, including Japan and the United Arab Emirates, governments have discussed reshaping public policy around the limits suggested by the overshoot calculations.

The awareness gap seemed on display Friday at the south end of Times Square, not far from where the giant images of the hummingbird and hibiscus appear a couple times an hour. A dozen Americans said they had never heard of the Earth Overshoot concept, though several said they had deep concerns about damage that humanity was inflicting on the Earth.

George Allen, 61, declared it “not a good thing” that President Donald Trump has rolled back measures to slow down global warming. ” His wife, Regina added: “It’s important to us that we do all that we can do to make sure that we protect the Earth so that our grandchildren can live on this Earth and live well. But not just them, but their children, and their children’s children.” As proof of their commitment, the couple, from Louisville, Kentucky, said they were deeply committed to recycling.

When a young German family was asked about Earth Overshoot, even the 8- and 11-year-old daughters did not hesitate to recognize the term. Back in their hometown of Bielefeld, the Hoeners said the topic of environmental costs can come up among among neighbors, in school and, often, on the news. The state of North-Rhine Westphalia, the most populous in Germany, has made the ecological footprint central to its reckoning of environmental costs and benefits.

Nadine Hoener, visiting New York with her daughters and husband, said the ecological footprint concept comes up “all the time,” adding: “In Germany, people are quite aware of that problem.”

This seems unlikely to happen in the U.S. anytime soon. Wackernagel, a Swiss-born PhD, trained in community and regional planning, is quoted routinely in European publications. He has the lead essay in the 2016 annual environmental report for North-Rhine Westphalia.

But he has grown accustomed to an American identity closely attached to the idea of unlimited horizons. Wackernagel recalls President Ronald Reagan’s second inaugural address, in 1985: “There are no limits to growth and human progress when men and women are free to follow their dreams.”

But the world’s population has ballooned by nearly 3 billion since then, driving the need for more creative solutions. And the overshoot date can play a role in communicating both urgency, and opportunity, Wackernagel believes.

“By seeing the world more clearly, we have a leg up in understanding the forces and trends,” he said, “and hence, we can steer innovation — a deep American value — towards where it gives us the highest chances to succeed.”

Why thousands of barred owls are being shot by U.S. conservationists? Is it fair to kill one species to save another? 

CBC Radio · June 22

<https://i.cbc.ca/1.4717739.1529698614!/cpImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/16x9_780/barred-owl.jpg>

Barred owls are being culled in the Pacific Northwest to save the critically endangered spotted owl. (Toby Talbot, File/AP)

Humans shouldn’t be interfering with nature by killing one species to save another, according to a lawyer who is working to oppose a cull of barred owls.

The owls are being shot by conservationists in the Pacific Northwest in an effort to save their feathered cousin, the critically endangered spotted owl.

“We shouldn’t be choosing sides,” said Michael Harris, the director of the wildlife law program at Friends of Animals. His group opposes the cull and is preparing a second lawsuit to try to stop it.

“We really believe that they need to be given that opportunity to see if they can coexist in their new environment,” he told The Current’s guest host Piya Chattopadhyay.

“We just don’t know what the ultimate outcome would be if these two species were given a chance to figure it out.”

Barred owls are relatively new to the west coast, having spread across the continent via the towns and cities that have grown in the last century. They’re bigger and more aggressive than the spotted owl, and have been pushing them out of their nesting grounds, which is what has prompted conservationists to cull their numbers.

<https://i.cbc.ca/1.1825483.1529696957!/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/original_780/spotted-owl.jpg>

The spotted owl, seen here in California’s Tahoe National Forest, is one of the most endangered birds in Canada. (Debra Reid/AP)

About halfway through a six-year experimental cull, roughly 2,000 of the birds have been shot in Oregon, Washington and California.

Harris argued that the barred owl is just doing what it’s supposed to do: finding ways to survive and prosper.

By intervening, he told Chattopadhyay, we’re not giving the barred owl “a fair shake.”

Not ‘natural evolution’

Animal ethicist William Lynn said by destroying the owls’ habitats, humans contributed to the problem in the first place.

“This is not natural evolution,” he told Chattopadhyay.

“This is entirely the product of human actions. It’s a human-caused extinction in the making.”

Lynn was hired by the U.S. government to examine the ethics of killing the birds. While “we can’t kill our way back to biodiversity,” he ultimately came to support the cull. Government conservationists have explored non-lethal ways to manage barred owl numbers, but they just don’t work, he said.

Barred owls are doing great across North America. Spotted owls are critically endangered.- William Lynn. animal ethicist

He argued that when you weigh the value of a barred owl’s life against the chance that the endangered spotted owl species will become extinct, the barred owl loses.

“Barred owls are doing great across North America. Spotted owls are critically endangered,” he said.

The culling is an experiment, he added, and is not expected to continue indefinitely.

“This experiment is to remove some barred owls to see whether spotted owls can form a refugia, a sort of a defensible territory in which they can live and flourish in the wild.

“If they can’t — and this experiment ends — that doesn’t mean that killing barred owls is going to go on.”

https://www.cbc.ca/radio/thecurrent/the-current-for-june-22-2018-1.4716183/why-thousands-of-barred-owls-are-being-shot-by-u-s-conservationists-1.4716188

BREAKING: Trump administration pushes forward on Arctic Refuge drilling

From Defendersorg

Today the Trump administration announced the start of a process to sell out the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for destructive oil and gas development.

This announcement is especially outrageous since it comes just one day before the 8th anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, an industrial disaster that left thousands of animals – from dolphins to birds to sea turtles – covered in oil, and huge swaths of water and beaches covered in chemicals and sludge.

Jim, when will they stop subjecting our precious wildlife and wild lands to such dangerous, irresponsible industrialization?

The Trump administration’s reckless dash to expedite drilling and desecrate the Arctic Refuge is unacceptable.

THIS BEAUTIFUL, HAUNTING FILM HIGHLIGHTS THE HORRORS OF PLASTIC POLLUTION

Dreamlike visuals give way to animals trapped in plastic film in campaign by FF New York

By Alexandra Jardine. Published on Apr 12, 2018

http://creativity-online.com/work/sea-shepherd-the-plastic-ocean/54311

Editor’s Pick

Environmental nonprofit Sea Shepherd covers the outlines of sea animals in plastic film in a haunting short film and social campaign highlighting the topical issue of plastic pollution in the oceans.

Sea Shepherd worked with FF New York (formerly Fred & Farid) on the film, which is aimed at capturing the attentions of millennials on social media. It starts out as a mesmerizing, almost trippy colorful piece set to a dreamy music track, the kind of thing you might relax to in yoga — before gradually you realize that what you’re watching is animals such as a dolphin, turtle and shark trapped in plastic.

The spot aims to draw attention to the one million ocean animals that die each year due to plastic debris. It comes at a time when mainstream brands are starting to pay attention to banning single use plastic: for example, this week supermarket Waitrose in the U.K. banned its giveaway disposable coffee cups.

Pacific plastic dump larger than feared

AMSTERDAM: The vast dump of plastic waste swirling in the Pacific ocean is now bigger than France, Germany and Spain combined, far larger than previously feared, and is growing rapidly, a study warned.

Researchers based in the Netherlands used a fleet of boats and aircraft to scan the immense accumulation of bottles, containers, fishing nets and microparticles known as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” (GPGP) and found an astonishing build-up of plastic waste.

“We found about 80,000 tonnes of buoyant plastic currently in the GPGP,” Laurent Lebreton, lead author of the study published in the journal Scientific Reports, told AFP.

That’s around the weight of 500 jumbo jets, and up to sixteen times greater than the plastic mass uncovered there in previous studies.

But what really shocked the team was the number of plastic pieces that have built up on the marine gyre between Hawaii and California in recent years.

They found that the dump now contains around 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic, posing a dual threat to marine life.

Microplastics, tiny fragments of plastic smaller than 50mm in size that make up the vast majority of items in the GPGP, can enter the food chain when swallowed by fish.

The pollutants they contain become more concentrated as they work their way up through the food web, all the way to top level predators such as sharks, seals and polar bears.

“The other environmental impact comes from the larger debris, especially the fishing nets,” said Lebreton.

These net fragments kill marine life by trapping fish and animals such as turtles in a process known as ‘ghost fishing’.

The research team from the Ocean Cleanup Foundation, a Dutch start-up aiming to scoop up half the debris in the GPGP within five years, were surprised in particular in the build-up of larger plastic items, which accounted for more than 90 percent of the GPGP’s mass.

This might offer a glimmer of hope, as larger plastics are far easier to find and fish out than microplastics.

Single-use, throwaway society

Global plastics production hit 322 million tonnes in 2015, according to the International Organisation for Standardisation.

The Ocean Cleanup project, which carried out the study, says eight million tonnes of plastics enter the oceans every year, much of which has accumulated in five giant garbage patches around the planet.

To increase their ability to identify plastic pieces, researchers used 30 vessels and two aircraft including a C-130 Hercules fitted with advanced sensors that produced 3D scans of the GPGP.

They found that it now stretches 1.6 million square kilometres and, they warn, it’s growing.

“The inflow of plastic to the patch continues to exceed the outflow,” Lebreton said.

What’s more, the scale of the largest plastic dump on the planet literally only scratches the surface of the problem.

“Levels of plastic pollution in deep water layers and seafloor below the GPGP remain unknown,” the study warned.

The Foundation’s team of 75 researchers and engineers plan to construct dozens of floating barriers to drift on the winds and currents and hoover up half the plastic in the patch within five years.

But Lebreton is keen to stress that the global damage wrought by plastic waste can only be mitigated by coordinated action.

“People look at the quantity of fishing gear (in the patch), and point a finger at the fishing industry, but then again they’re eating the fish too. It’s not so much this or that sector or region, it’s the way we consume and live, single-use plastics, throwaway society,” he said.

“We need to take some serious action on that front. We’ll solve this problem on a global scale.”

The Ocean Cleanup was founded by 18-year-old Dutchman Boyan Slat in 2013.

Stop the Noise

http://www.bvconservation.org/

Stephen Capra

We are living through one of the most difficult periods in conservation history, in a country led by a madman, supported by people that see life through authoritarian rule. The rhetoric and constant stream of nausea created by this leader and his Republican accomplices and excusers isdesigned to keep one off balance, fatigued and scared.

Ignorance and fear are driving a wedge across our nation and people seem more willing than ever to throw away the environment in pursuit of living wages. This has been the turning point for the conservative movement and the crystallization of their efforts to destroy unions, social safety nets and common sense regulation of industry. We are developing a nation of workers, who will work anyway, on any terms, to survive. Nothing has had more direct impact on conservation and protection of species than the destruction of the middle-class that began in earnest during the Reagan years.

We need a society once again that is based in justice and fairness, we need corporations that are forced by rule of law to pay real wages and benefits to all that work for them and we must understand that a stock market built on mergers and acquisitions and returns to shareholders is not good for the environment, because it is killing our middle-class.

Last week I ran into our junior Senator Martin Heinrich, Martin has always been and remains a strong supporter of the environmental causes such as wilderness and monument protections and has been a friend for more than 18 years. When I ran into him I made a proposal, which he said he would give real thought to.

I told him that under the Obama Administration, Republicans continued to introduce legislation no matter if it could pass because they believed in putting down markers and growing their base with legislation that they supported.

In that vein, I suggested that he introduce a package of legislation that was designed to enhance our middle-class and to support a real vision for environmental protection. No half steps, a real vision, something to inspire those who believe in protections for environment and security and jobs for workers across the country, because we cannot continue to see them as separate causes.

The environmental community often brings in different voices when they need support for wilderness or other conservation measures, but the link now is vital and must be reciprocal.

We must support minimum wages and job training and we must demand a real social safety net that is expanded, not chopped. In the conservation realm, we must introduce legislation that is inspiring and designed to capture our nation’s imagination.

Here are a few suggestions, humbly put forth:

  • An end to offshore drilling in the Arctic, our East and West coasts.
  • The immediate protection of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
  • 50% increase in investment in alternative energy by 2020.
  • More tax cuts for electric cars and solar.
  • Funding that will completely end the backlog of maintenance for our National Parks in three years.
  • Expansion of our National Park System to include a major Tall Grass Prairie Park of no less than 500,000 acres and three new sites for National Park expansion, not just upgrading an area.
  • Legislation that demands the use of science in classroom textbooks nationwide.
  • Protections to remain and expanded for the threated Monuments on land and in the ocean and a directive to create 10 new Monuments by 2021.
  • Serious funding and legislation for Climate Change and a return to the Paris accords as a leader.
  • No dispersing of the Interior Department across the nation.
  • The directive and funding to increase wilderness in America by 35% by 2024.
  • The end of predator species killing and killing in their dens, period.
  • Expansion of wolf recovery to all Western states.
  • Increase in fees to ranchers for using public lands.
  • Monies for a new restoration and training program designed for rural and ranching communities to restore public lands, waters, andriparian areas. These monies would come from new taxes on the oil and gas industry.
  • 50 million in funding to purchase grazing rights across the West, with more to come by increasing grazing fees.
  • The immediate end to Wildlife Services, with that funding going directly to wildlife programs that support predator species.
  • The expansion and upgrading of the Endangered Species Act.
  • Direct reductions of oil and gas leases by 50 percent by 2020 on public lands.
  • Creating an increase of funding to the EPA by 45% by 2020.
  • Real legislation to control and regulate pesticides in America and increased funding for organic farming, including increased tax incentives.

To do this and to improve the plight of all Americans Congress must move to end the tax cut imposed by Republicans this past December and more taxes must be placed directly on the top 1%.

Increase spending for birth control her at home and internationally.

Stop all the giveaways to corporate America and force them to return monies to American shores.

More taxes must be placed directly on the fossil-fuel industry and that of Power companies that continue to use coal in their power generation.

We must put a direct tax on the use of plastics, plastic bags and the companies that create them, largely funded by the oil and gas industry.

The passage of a real HealthCare legislation (likely single payer), that will reduce the costs of healthcare for all Americans, while ensuring quality care for all. That will save money and create real equality.

Reducing the endless spending on the military, while investing in dialogue, diplomacy and respecting all nations. That common sense element will give us the money to protect our environment, here and abroad.

Finally, we must remove the control of Congress from complete Republican control.

More than anything we must understand the urgency of saving our environment and the strong need to end all the noise and distraction that is the toxic nature of this President and Congress.

We may not get it all, but my hope is that Senator Heinrich and the Democrats in Congress are prepared to be BOLD. It begins with a real vision and the strength to carry it forward.

If we do not act soon, it will simply be too late for this planet. We have no choice, we must be BOLD.