I spent a few days on Point Reyes and the Inverness Peninsula in California this summer. We hiked over 20 miles up and over this large piece of granite that is sliding out to sea along the San Andreas Fault. We enjoyed walking and swimming in the Pacific – brief dips in the cold water – and were also refreshed by the cool winds and mists. It is a beautiful coastline.
At one of the trailheads, I was surprised to read a warning about potentially hazardous debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami. In my new book I have written about the trash accumulations in the oceanic gyres but had not seen prior examples of trash traveling 8000 miles from Japan all the way to North America. My interest was piqued.
When we got to the beach the very first thing I encountered was a black spherical object that resembled a mine, but upon inspection appeared to be a buoy. It was not like any buoy I had ever seen along our coasts. Upon inspection, we found it labeled with Japanese script.
This experience made me stop and think – trying to visualize the vastness of the Pacific, the currents, and the ubiquitous presence of human activity. The debris from all of the continents ends up following the currents, collecting with the other wastes from shipping in the great oceanic gyres. The one in the North Pacific is the largest and best documented one.
The plastics found floating in these areas far from shore last a long time, awaiting consumption by marine life. We are trashing the planet. There may not be much we can do to stop seismic events and the resulting tsunamis but we can certainly cut down on the wastes that we generate and improve on our disposal practices. Maybe by working together we can come up with a way to waste less. It is clearly a global problem with lots of local action needed by all of us. Reduce, reuse, and recycle! Lets work toward a zero waste society.
Send us a story of where you went this summer, the challenges faced by the planet, and suggestions on ways we can all help to preserve these natural wonders.