Remember the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? Even though it's twice the size of Texas and weighs 3.5 million tons, chances are you haven't given it a lot of thought. Something so huge and -- let's face it -- far away almost necessarily has an abstract quality to most people. Out of sight, out of mind.
Yet it's our CD shrink wrap, discarded water bottles and other bits of kipple (I'm reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? now) that are caught in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, endlessly circulating in an enormous stretch of ocean between northern California and Hawaii. Marine scientists are only beginning to understand the effects of all that non-biodegradable plastic on sensitive -- and already severely over taxed -- living things. Just a guess here, but I doubt those are going to be pleasant effects, especially considering that in some spots plastic bits outnumber plankton (you know, the base of the food chain in those parts) 6 to 1.
Of course, we also need to use less plastic to stop the thing from growing (according to P.K. Dick that's going to be a tall order, since kipple is a combination of entropy and capitalism, and kipple begets more kipple).
But what of the android, I mean human, relationship to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? A young, enterprising journalist wants to work out exactly that, but she needs your help. Lindsey Hoshaw has made a compelling pitch on the crowd-funded website Spot.Us. She intends to set sail for the patch with Captain Charles Moore, who is credited with discovering the monstrosity in the first place. He's making a tenth anniversary voyage to collect fish samples, particularly from those we commonly eat, and gauge their levels of toxins, since we may be poisoning our own food supply. Hoshaw is the only journalist invited on the epic voyage, which is expected to take about a month.
Trouble is, it will cost her about $10,000 in safety equipment, medical supplies, insurance, fuel and vessel maintenance, food and a satellite phone for updating her blog. Although the New York Times has expressed deep interest in running her findings, the struggling paper does not have the funds to cover her expenses. (Depending on the final financial situation, it's likely much of her work will be made available to all via Creative Commons as well.) So Spot.Us is hoping to raise the money she needs so she can get out there and get reporting on it.
Hoshaw is qualified for the task, since she recently completed a graduate degree in journalism from Stanford University and has covered environmental issues for iStanford, the Arizona Daily Wildcat and Buenos Aires' The Argentimes. She is experienced in making podcasts, audio slideshows and videos about environmental issues.
I've just donated $25, and I'm broke as a joke. So please pitch in too.
By the way, I wonder if Hoshaw will run into the Plastiki out there on the garbage patch? de Rothschild and crew should be setting sail pretty soon in their recycled plastic
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