Research–DaphneBlake

It is clear in our society today that ecologically, the world needs saving. But, to save the environment, we must first save ourselves from the chained mentality that tells us humans don’t contribute to ocean pollution. Pollution is a concept that seems easy to grapple with at first glance, an environmental issue that involves plastic or other waste in places it shouldn’t be. But the system of pollution and how it actually works has so many different components that people never even think of. It involves more than just the individual person throwing recyclable material such as plastics and metals into areas where they don’t belong. The idea of pollution branches out to many different prongs and levels to create the elements of the word as a whole. Ocean pollution is a specific, more in depth aspect of pollution that got overlooked in previous generations and still doesn’t receive the correct amount of attention in society today. It’s more than just people throwing their trash into the ocean. The questions that have to be evaluated are “how does that trash end up there in the first place?” or “does every piece of human trash or waste count as pollution?” These questions and others all work as the components to answer the question of what defines ocean pollution.

In retrospect, it’s clear that ocean pollution is a severe problem because of how directly it impacts sea life which in turn affects everything from personal loss of popular desired dishes to the world’s economy. One important aspect of ocean pollution and how it contributes to the reduction of sea life is the process of how macroplastics are broken down into microplastics. In response to many ocean pollution concerns, many people have brought how large plastic are easy for sea creatures to identify and avoid but that argument is flawed and is not accounting for issues such as the adaption to environment and  microplastics. According to “the national geographic”, animals such as sea turtles, sharks, and swordfish eat small sea animals such as jellyfish and crustacean. In its environment, it is true that these animals are able to detect their prey easily, but with the interference of human waste, it becomes increasingly difficult. If there is a floating trash bag in the ocean, to a hungry sea turtle, this could come across as jellyfish.

Also, microplastics are the real leading cause to the intake of plastic from sea life. It is true that it is easier for an animal to detect a large piece of plastic such as a two-liter empty soda bottle, but what about after a few months when that soda bottle deteriorates and becomes unnoticeable to fish and other sea animals. “OceanService.noaa.gov” states; “Plastic debris can come in all shapes and sizes, but those that are less than five millimeters in length (or about the size of a sesame seed) are called “microplastics.” These are the most harmful to sea life because they are the hardest to see and fish don’t even realize they’re consuming them. So the people who think their large plastic trash is not a distraction to sea life are sadly mistaken because all plastic and other decomposing materials are all harmful to sea animals.

The factors that cause  ocean pollution vary, but each one contributes to the issue significantly in different ways. The most common one is when people just randomly throw plastic other recyclable material on beaches, riverbanks, or anywhere near large bodies of water. But then it spreads to large corporations dumping toxic chemicals into oceans. This is something that’s done regularly without any oversight or checks. Ocean pollution should be reported about on a higher level because so many people contribute to it without even realizing it. For instance, not recycling plastics, papers, and metals contributes to ocean pollution because regular things in the trash either gets dumped in junkyards on land or floating islands of trash in the ocean. By using material that gets broken down into microplastics is making an impact because we all know where it’s going to end up, but this may not be a problem solved at the general public level since it’s a flawed system embedded in our way of living. “Conserve Energy Future” lists all the causes of ocean pollution. They include: sewage, which enters the ocean directly, toxic chemicals from Industries, Land Runoff, Large Scale Oil Spills, Ocean Mining, and Littering. All of these factors contain human interference, but the human participation for the advocacy of the depolluting of oceans is very minimal.

Many people believe that it’s not their fault regarding ocean pollution, or any pollution, because they’re not intentionally throwing trash and plastic on the floor and unintentionally, or if they are, it’s not with the intent to harm the environment or sea life. But as aforementioned, even using plastic is contributing because it’s a material that never breaks down completely and most of its remains end up in the ocean or in junk yards. Also, not advocating against ocean pollution is a form of contributing to it as well because if there aren’t people trying to make a difference and show actual concern for the environment, no changes are going to be accomplished. Another reason for not recycling is always the cost. The cost and time refurbishing used material is too expensive and there is little to no profit in it for clear plastic material. But the cost for a building a new planet is definitely more expensive and time consuming than recycling. So ocean pollution is a combination of a variety of factors. It initiates at the individual level, but other factors such as oil spills and toxic chemical dumps from large companies make a lot of damage in a little bit of time. Ocean pollution can be defined as anything placed in the ocean environment that is considered harmful, but unpacked, it means so much and is encompassed with many aspects and levels that aren’t always taken into consideration when evaluating ocean pollution, and all other pollution, and its causes.

But us throwing our trash on the ground and silently watching it get transported to the ocean affects more than just the poor helpless sea animals, the U.S economy is also at stake. The first image that enters the mind at the thought of the phrase “ocean pollution” probably isn’t a destroyed economy, but that’s exactly what the result will be. Everyday, millions of people litter the ground with plastic, paper, and metals that get transferred into the ocean or into massive areas of land. This process is what ultimately will lead to a destroyed economy. Initially, the first negative effect of ocean pollution will be the decreased population of sea animals due to the fact of microplastics being broken down from larger plastic materials. Microplastics are a bigger cause of the reduction of sea life because it’s harder to detect by sea animals. It may be easy for fish and other sea creatures to detect a two liter bottle or a large plastic bag, however, the material of plastic doesn’t ever fully break down back into the earth, it just reduces into smaller and smaller sizes. These are called “microplastics.” These microplastics become difficult to see, especially for hungry fish searching for something to eat. These fish that intake the pollution in the ocean get eaten by bigger fish and when these sea animals wash up on land, they have things like bottle caps and straws inside them that never fully got digested into their systems.

The average person might just shrug and wonder how the negative impacts on sea life has anything to do with them, let along lead to a destroyed economy, but the two are directly correlated. For one, seafood is a huge market. According to Worldwildlife, “Approximately three billion people in the world rely on both wild-caught and farmed seafood as their primary source of protein. As the largest traded food commodity in the world, seafood provides sustenance to billions of people worldwide.” There aren’t going to be anymore people consuming seafood if all the sea animals are either dead from ocean pollution or have hundreds of bits of plastic inside them. Ocean pollution serves as a direct hit to the seafood market which in turn hurts the economy due to the fact that all those people who were once redistributing their money into society will decrease because the seafood market will not exist anymore. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration states the extreme benefits that the fishing industry give to the economy. Not only did it generate over two-hundred billion dollars in sales, but it also creates 1.6 billion jobs. Without the fishing industry, not only will this be detrimental in economic matters, but the total unemployment line will increase. Both money and jobs will be lost. And these factors are at stake from the steady rise in ocean pollution.

The seafood market is an example of a direct correlation to how detrimental ocean pollution can be on the economy, but there are other examples that aren’t as blatant. The beach market is also a huge contributor to the economy. The beach is one of the most desired locations for vacations. The endless stretch of sand, the beautiful vast and relaxing waves, and the feeling of excitement and satisfaction as the two come together before one’s very own eyes. These year long dreams will be slowly diminished if ocean pollution stays at a steady increase. The National Geographic reports that “Every year, tens of thousands of people worldwide volunteer for the Sisyphean chore of picking up trash from beaches. The largest effort is conducted every September by the Ocean Conservancy, which in 30 years of cleanups has collected 300 million pounds and more than 350 types of items.” They go on to quote Nicholas Mallos, the leader of these cleanups who says,I have been on beaches in Hong Kong, Saint Helena in the South Atlantic, and Indonesia where you can watch plastics and debris in the barrel of each wave crash onto the beach. Literally, the trash starts getting replaced as soon as you pick it up.” According to the U.S Census Bureau’s Statistical Abstract of the United States 2012, Table 1240, 58.67 million people went to the beach in 2010. These numbers are going to drastically drop after the beaches become so filled with plastic that no one wants to visit them anymore. Again, the question may arise of how this affects the economy, well, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration points out how Tourism and recreation account for 72 percent of the ocean economy’s total employment and 31 percent of its GDP. These numbers prove how ocean pollution causes various harsh results for our world economically.

The beach and the seafood market both contribute greatly to the economy, but what about the costs of ocean pollution that the world may not have to pay right now, but in the future. Based on the current state of our planet, the future of mankind is at state, all due to ocean pollution. Planetaid.org presents the information that the ocean “provides over 70 percent  of the oxygen we breathe and over 97 percent of the world’s water supply.” But everyday the ocean is the unfortunate recipient of man made pollution. The world is essentially destroying itself. Because of the road us humans are going down now, there are going to be a plethora of environmental costs the world is going to try to fix when it becomes close to too late. There are a lot of things humans hold as significant to life. People say tangible objects such as technology and clothes are essential to living, but when we don’t have a planet to live on, we’re really in deep water. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates how much it will cost to clean the oceans. They state that “At a cost of $5,000-20,000 per day, it would cost between $122 million and $489 million for the year. That’s a lot of money—and that’s only for boat time. It doesn’t include equipment or labor costs.” But that’s just the cost of it today, who knows the estimated costs in the future if people continue to pollute the ocean. Ocean pollution is a direct causal problem to a destroyed economy, from seafood to beaches to later on repairs. This is a serious detriment to the world’s finances, recreation, and most importantly, to our lives.The constant barrier that remains in the way between ocean pollution and its solution is the cost factor. The fact that the world is so consistently worried about how much it will cost to keep oceans clean is the main reason why it’s not a work in progress at the moment. It’s similar to when one puts off an essay because of how much time it will take as the deadline approaches. The problem never goes away, in fact it becomes more prominent and continues to manifest as the time spent procrastinating it is extended. The problem with ocean pollution is never going to disperse on its own, human intervention is needed and costly drastic measures need to be taken to ensure the problem doesn’t reach a point where even money can’t solve it. My hypothesis of creating edible straws is a step in the right direction of reducing the amount of plastic that enters into the ocean. The drawbacks include the cost and time it would take to make them, but the fact that there needs to be a breakthrough in solving ocean pollution denounces those claims.

The relationship between the world in the environment is one of negligence and ignorance. We as a community disregard the necessity of a healthy and well nurtured area for us to inhabit. The American philosopher and ecologist Aldo Leopold once said, “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it for love and respect.” The initial steps in living up to Leopold’s words is giving up the ideology that fixing the problem is too much money. That isn’t a solution and it only works in setting the earth deeper and deeper into a polluted black hole. To begin, taking small steps is a way to try to help the situation. Littering has a huge impact on ocean pollution. According to the National Ocean Service, “Eighty percent of pollution to the marine environment comes from the land.” This trash on land travels to the ocean in rainstorms which ultimately creates ocean pollution. Not littering, especially at beaches, will be a massive help and it literally costs nothing but maybe a longer walk to throw something away or recycle. So, the idea that cleaning the oceans is a massively expensive task is not true at all, taking small steps is one way to make an impact, however small, to stop the pollution in oceans.

Small individual tasks such as not littering, picking up trash, and recycling are ways to pave the way for a solution, other methods the world can take to ensure safer and cleaner oceans is by governments around the world using other material besides plastic to create necessary items. Items such as straws and water bottles are made with plastic because it’s cheaper to make and producers know people are only going to use these things once. Making objects like bags and silverware only in metal and creating a culture of reusing things is a step the government can take to prevent the huge amounts of plastic that flood the oceans each year. Based on research reported by CNBC news, it only cost half a cent to produce each straw, but it cost 2½ cents to make paper straws which are safer for the environment. Why hasn’t the world switched over yet? Because “it’s too expensive.” A young nine-year-old boy engaged in an environmental project where he calculated how many plastic straws Americans use a day. His estimates were around 500 million a day. Some people have even declared that number is “too low”, (Money magazine, 2018). What number has to be “too high for the world to open their eyes and acknowledge the problem we face today with the large amounts of plastic in the ocean?  

Bangladesh already stepped on the path of reducing ocean pollution in 2007 by banning plastic bags. New Zealand has followed suite and banned them as well. The “New Scientist” newsletter reports that the Prime Minister of New Zealand states, “New Zealand currently uses over 750 million single-use plastic bags per year, which is equivalent to about 150 per person. “A mountain of bags, many of which end up polluting our precious coastal and marine environments and cause serious harm to all kinds of marine life.”While this switch from plastic to more recyclable material is costly, counties such as New Zealand and Bangladesh recognize the immediate need to reduce the amount of plastic in the ocean. Small individual steps and bigger governmental intervention can help out the situation in numerous ways regardless of the cost. The cost of not having a sustainable planet to live on is even higher than any efforts to solve the problem can ever be.

While there may be a society of people, especially major production companies that benefit from making cheap single-use items, may be against reducing ocean pollution and/or the steps that have to be taken to reach that point, the world can’t ignore the problem that much longer. Not only is ocean pollution wrong, it literally effects the whole world. The economic downfalls are clearly evident, no sea life, the fish and seafood market plummets. According to the “United Nations Environment Programme,”“Over 1 million seabirds and 100,000 sea mammals are killed by pollution every year.” Right now, the United Nations Environment Programme estimate that the “price tag on the environmental damage done by the millions of tons of plastic floating around the world’s oceans: $13 billion a year.” If the environmental cost is thirteen billion dollars right now, the future costs will be nothing but higher. If we keep complaining about the issue and not acting on the current problems at hand, we’ll just be bystanders to the self-destruction of our earth. The change starts within, we can start small and work our way up. Efforts as small as not littering, beach cleanups, and governmental interventions similar to Bangladesh and New Zealand are all ways the world can get involved, the cost shouldn’t be the determining factor for our decision to save our earth.

References

National Geographic

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2019/01/many-ocean-creatures-surprisingly-eat-jellyfish/

Ocean Service

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/microplastics.html

Conserve. Energy. Future

Worldwildlife

https://www.worldwildlife.org/industries/sustainable-seafood

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

https://www.noaa.gov/media-release/us-fishing-generated-more-than-200b-in-sales-in-2015-two-stocks-rebuilt-in-2016

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/oceaneconomy.html

https://dev1.orr.noaa.gov/about/media/how-much-would-it-cost-clean-pacific-garbage-patches.html

National Geographic

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2018/10/greenpeace-beach-cleanup-report-highlights-ocean-plastic-problem/

Planet Aid

https://www.planetaid.org/blog/how-ocean-pollution-affects-humans

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/pollution.html

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/07/09/paper-straws-are-better-for-the-environment-but-they-will-cost-you.html

http://money.com/money/5343736/how-many-plastic-straws-used-every-day/

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2176417-new-zealand-becomes-the-latest-country-to-ban-plastic-bags/

https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-pollution

http://www.takepart.com/article/2014/06/30/ocean-plastic-pollution-costs-13-billion-year-and-your-face-scrub-part-problem/

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