We’re trashed

June 28, 2008

I couldn’t sleep recently and switched on the television. Up popped a PBS story about life on an Navy aircraft carrier, which at 2 a.m. I figured would bore me to slumber. I didn’t pay much attention until a sailor explained how much trash is dumped overboard from this floating city every day.

Last year I’d read about two Texas-size floating islands of plastic bags and other trash. Flanking the Hawaiian islands, these vortexes (pictured is the one east of Japan) are twelve feet deep in some spots. Not vivid enough to embed in your mind? Think about swimming through them.

Two nights ago in bed, I read last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine article about the severity of ocean-borne trash, mostly plastic that isn’t biodegradable. Read “Sea of Trash.” Look at the pictures of a once pristine section of Alaska coast blanketed with the discards from faraway places. Ponder this from writer Donovan Hohn:

For ages humanity saw in the ocean a sublime grandeur suggestive of eternity. No longer. Surveying the debris on remote beaches like Gore Point, we see that the ocean is more finite than we’d thought. Now it is the sublime grandeur of our civilization but also of our waste that inspires awe.

When I turned off the light, I couldn’t sleep again but avoided the TV. After a while, images of Florida beaches I inhabited as a kid flashed past. Not pristine but clean. After awhile, I drifted off into a sea of white.