Swirling Vortex of Doom Becoming Worse – by Emmett

Yes, that’s right, there is a swirling vortex out there and it is definitely of doom. Currently making a massive galaxy-like rotation in the North Pacific is a vortex of trash somwhere between 700,000 km2 and 15 million km2, most of it plastic. Because of the intense confluence of ocean currents in the North Pacific, trash from all over the world is sucked into this central location. Determining the exact size of the Swirling Vortex of Doom has been difficult (thus the massive difference between the two estimations) as it appears that Japan and America each have their own respective trash shadow-continent. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that the two masses of plastic garbage are combining to form a galactic spiral of waste that will stretch from Asia to North America.

The Japan Times recently covered Japanese efforts to study the severe environmental impacts having that much plastic in the ocean. Specifically, the biggest issue is not the presence of plastic mass in the ocean but the conditions that result from over 100 million tons of plastic suffering photodegridation. It becomes a hazardous chemical soup. Plastic also continues to be plastic no matter how much it degrades; it just gets smaller and smaller. Last year, the New York Times did a great piece on the issue of trash in the North Pacific, and NPR have also reported on the garbage “patch.” “Patch” only diminishes the size of the vortex and the myriad unavoidable environmental issues that stem from it, yet one cannot think of more accurate words without being hyperbolic for something so immense escapes language. It’s like trying to comprehend how many stars are in the universe.

Right now it seems unlikely that any one nation will take responsibility for the garbage. The truth is that the continent-sized drift of rubbish belongs to the world; it is the underworld to our late-twentieth century world-wide rise to consumerism. With mountains of imported high-tech garbage piling up in Ghana, and entire cities, cultures, and ways of life being carved out of a smoldering mega-city land fill in Lagos, Nigera, our collective human waste is colonizing the developing world, choking the sea, and will eventually impede our ability to produce. In the end, all we will have is our own garbage.

Possibly the only option now is to prevent jettisoning more garbage into the sea, but that will require a unified world culture, much less policy, of reusing, recycling, and an end to disposable products.  However, this all assumes that we continue to produce and consume at a rate comparable to our fat years through the 80s, 90s and today. As I said in “No Better Time to Be Alive,” if there is a crisis imminent, it will result in the world shrinking, and that means production will shrink, as will waste. So that’s good…right?At the moment, however, the Swirling Vortex portends the doom of life in the sea (much of which we eat), and of our ability to raise the kind of resources and capital to tackle perhaps the largest environmental disaster ever. Our time may have passed.


Filed under Japan, News, The Apocalypse

5 responses to “Swirling Vortex of Doom Becoming Worse – by Emmett

  1. emkaygibby

    first of all: ew GROSS. never heard of this before.

    second: what a perplexing situation. cutting production means people losing jobs and dying and then the health of the physical world wont matter. seems like a reorganization of production is needed rather than a cutting. there has to be a people/earth friendly solution or nobodies sitch improves.

    thanks for the heads up on the impending doom!! ack!

  2. bonFIRE

    Great article, perfect title. I like your idea about how the language we choose to describe something shapes the memes that surround the issue. One thing we can do is stop buying / accepting plastic whenever possible. Just like the ocean is made of many single drops, the abominable trash vortex is made of many single plastic bags and water bottles and mardi gras beads and whatnot. It will require systemic change to curb the problems of our consumer culture, but it will also require personal changes. No more buying water, coke, all that silly stuff! Quick!

  3. Sandydreadz

    Hey Emmett, great article, we really miss you here. I’m glad I finally had a chance to check out your blog. I guess a really radical idea would be to have the manufacturing of all plastic products halt and have the companies collect from this “resource” of trash to make more from recycle, reuse, instead of continually adding anew. It wouldn’t cut jobs, just reassign new duties. Fat chance, I know, but a noble notion none the less. Keep on trekkin’ on you guys. Peace.

  4. Sharon

    So, now we have a plastic island the size of Texas that is slowly breaking down to the molecular level while at the same time grows even bigger?!?! I’ve read where we’re now supposed to ban together and clean it ‘up’. But there is wide disagreement as to where ‘UP’ actually is. Once the world has gotten a grip on its plastic addiction and has stabilized Texas Island…and once we ban together and dreg it out of the oceans…where does it get put UP exactly? I’ve read some suggestions: #1- UP into outer space. #2- bury it all UP under the ice at one of the poles. So, these are the ideas of some people at large but what does the government say? (I live in the USA). Well, according to the news channels I watch the elected officials said they will give us 30 percent lower pollution by autos by the year 2016…(we get to keep our gas engines of course and are promised that we will still be able to go very, very fast like we very much like to do). So if they think that’s a great victory for the environment well, who knows when they will even consider putting any serious thought to the ‘UP’ question. Because of the above said I need a thoughtful answer to the following: What is the basis for the belief that we will ban together to not only get rid of Texas Island but right all the other things we’re doing that are killing the planet? What history shows it has ever happened before so we can believe it could happen again? The only banning together I could come up with was when the people of the earth banned together to get rid of Adolph Hitler. But still, Adolph was out there proudly announcing that his aim was to take over the world. That gave everyone across the earth a very scary picture to latch on to. But what about us today? I don’t think we’re as acutely aware as they were then, not as able to collectively react to ‘this’ global threat. For instance, didn’t we all just sit and watch the aftermath of hurricane Katrina while pleading people begged for mercy before our very eyes and no one in charge had the good sense to drop a couple ton of food and water on that stadium? (Along with National Guard troupes of course!). Remember that was one incident in one small section of one country! I’m thinking that this is a situation like Katrina where we won’t get the point of how dire things are before it’s too late, but this time it is world wide. Has anyone had the people at their door that read this, “God will bring to ruin those ruining the earth.”? As off the wall as that thought sounded to me a few years back, well, I’ve now started to wonder about it. To me the thought of an enraged god having enough is a lot scarier then never being able to drive my Volvo again! I’ll keep checking different sites for different plans on how we can actually pull this off and if I find one I’ll let you know…do the same for me!

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