The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

When I was younger my family used to spend the summers in Santa Barbara, California. My parents signed me up for surf camp, during which I became mesmerized by the beauty of the ocean, and how it brought so much joy to the surfing community of the area.

During my time at the camp, I learned about ocean pollution and specifically plastic pollution. The counselors took the time to explain to us that there exists an enormous amount of litter floating around the North Pacific Ocean and that is now forming an “island” of debris approximately the size of Texas, if not bigger. This is called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

oceanus-map(Image source: https://projectoceanus.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/oceanus-map.png)

The camp taught us the small moves that we could perform to slow the growth of the garbage patch. They liked to use the terms “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” Concrete applications of this motto included bringing our own shopping bag to the supermarket in order to avoid using the plastic ones given out there, and purchasing a reusable water bottle to avoid wasting hundreds of empty plastic bottles that would then end up in the Pacific Ocean.

(Jack Johnson, active member of the surf community, educating children about environmental protection in song.)

There exists an association which started in Santa Barbara called Heal The Ocean. It describes its philosophy as “The ocean can no longer be used as a dump. Heal The Ocean is committed to ending ocean pollution.” I admire this organization as it is very successful in engaging the community. They have hosted events such as beach clean up days, educational fairs to teach children about respecting the ocean, and are involved politically as well.

(Here is the link to the Heal The Ocean website if you would like to learn more: http://healtheocean.org/)

Learning about this at a young age, within the setting of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch made the cause resonate with me. Teaching people about an environmental issue is so much more effective when it relates to a landscape that they hold dear to their heart. Additionally, giving people simple tasks that they can accomplish to help the environment is key to a successful change in mindset.