The Ocean Is Broken

Pacific-garbage-patch-map 2010 noaamdpAustralia’s Newcastle Herald describes the sorry tale of Ivan Macfadyen’s adventures in the polluted Pacific Ocean. Here’s a particularly depressing excerpt:

“After we left Japan, it felt as if the ocean itself was dead,” Macfadyen said.

“We hardly saw any living things. We saw one whale, sort of rolling helplessly on the surface with what looked like a big tumour on its head. It was pretty sickening.

“I’ve done a lot of miles on the ocean in my life and I’m used to seeing turtles, dolphins, sharks and big flurries of feeding birds. But this time, for 3000 nautical miles there was nothing alive to be seen.”

In place of the missing life was garbage in astounding volumes.

“Part of it was the aftermath of the tsunami that hit Japan a couple of years ago. The wave came in over the land, picked up an unbelievable load of stuff and carried it out to sea. And it’s still out there, everywhere you look.”

Ivan’s brother, Glenn, who boarded at Hawaii for the run into the United States, marvelled at the “thousands on thousands” of yellow plastic buoys. The huge tangles of synthetic rope, fishing lines and nets. Pieces of polystyrene foam by the million. And slicks of oil and petrol, everywhere.

Countless hundreds of wooden power poles are out there, snapped off by the killer wave and still trailing their wires in the middle of the sea.

“In years gone by, when you were becalmed by lack of wind, you’d just start your engine and motor on,” Ivan said.

Not this time.

“In a lot of places we couldn’t start our motor for fear of entangling the propeller in the mass of pieces of rope and cable. That’s an unheard of situation, out in the ocean.

“If we did decide to motor we couldn’t do it at night, only in the daytime with a lookout on the bow, watching for rubbish.

“On the bow, in the waters above Hawaii, you could see right down into the depths. I could see that the debris isn’t just on the surface, it’s all the way down. And it’s all sizes, from a soft-drink bottle to pieces the size of a big car or truck.

“We saw a factory chimney sticking out of the water, with some kind of boiler thing still attached below the surface. We saw a big container-type thing, just rolling over and over on the waves…

[continues at the Newcastle Herald]


Majestic is gadfly emeritus.

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55 Comments on "The Ocean Is Broken"

  1. tibby trillz | Oct 21, 2013 at 7:36 pm |

    the freemarket solves all problems

    • Hilarious

    • bobbiethejean | Oct 22, 2013 at 12:28 pm |

      The free market would put arsenic in your drink and benzene in your food and subsidize elaborate smear/hush-hush campaigns on anyone who tried to point this out and there would be no one there to stop them.

      • tibby trillz | Oct 22, 2013 at 3:47 pm |

        i was being sarcastic. or facetious. cant tell.

        • bobbiethejean | Oct 22, 2013 at 4:04 pm |

          DOH! Sorry. I couldn’t tell. 😛 Unfortunately, I see serious comments like this all the time. Not joking. The word “all” should have tipped me off. Now I feel like a derp. 😛

      • ishmael2009 | Oct 22, 2013 at 4:37 pm |

        I’m sure they would – but Socialist governments would do the same by fiat and arrest and imprison or execute anyone who dissented. The environmental devastation in the former Soviet Union and eastern bloc countries far outstrips anything we have seen in the west.

        Of course i’m aware that this doesn’t exculpate capitalism from environmental responsibility. My point is: if not capitalism, if not socialism, then what is the answer? What is everyone’s best interests, including future generations?

        • bobbiethejean | Oct 22, 2013 at 8:02 pm |

          The former SU was communist, I believe, not socialist…. right?

          In any case, and I know this is going to terrify this shit out of everyone but really, shades of fascism. Sometimes you just have to grab control and run with it. Or ya know, we could properly fund science, education, and technology with an emphasis on environmental awareness and sustainable living thus empowering future generations to solve environmental problems like oceanic acidification, global climate change, and pollution.

          But that won’t happen. We’d rather stare at football and Kim Kardashian’s ass. And really, what this boils down to is that people don’t want to have to change their ways or sacrifice perceived freedoms.

          • ishmael2009 | Oct 22, 2013 at 8:18 pm |

            Yes, communist. I was a little heavy on the implication there (that what capitalism does by appealing to people’s base instincts, non-capitalist governments do by executive order).

            But you are right – it does scare the shit out of me. Not because I wouldn’t want to make the sacrifices required. I’m perfectly happy to do so if it’s in the interests of the common good. I’ve got no problem with that. It does worry me that you may well be right, and that handing over democratic control might be required to resolve this. Let’s face it, power corrupts, and the history of entrusting elites with decisions supposedly in the common good is not a happy one (sterilizing the poor and indigent, anyone?).

            My 2 cents, since no one asked for it is Hansen is right and we need to accept the need for nuclear power until such time as renewables can make up the difference (he doesn’t see that time being any time soon either). Not a route many here would like i suspect. But that’s a choice we’d have to give up if we ceded control.

  2. Anarchy Pony | Oct 21, 2013 at 8:13 pm |

    Nope, humans can’t affect the earth. It’s not possible, they’re too small. The capitalists told me so, while simultaneously promising that we will be able to control the weather and fertilize the desert because of free market.

    • kowalityjesus | Oct 21, 2013 at 9:21 pm |

      What makes the free market the whipping boy? Corporate imperialism is the culprit. Media transparency (i.e. outrage where outrage is due) as well as seperation of profit and state would go a long way. Waste is our silent enemy.

      • atlanticus | Oct 21, 2013 at 9:31 pm |

        You don’t often hear conservatives talking (in public) about their love for corporate imperialism…it’s their peculiar brand of double-think which conflates the two…

        • kowalityjesus | Oct 22, 2013 at 12:03 pm |

          Its hard to kick the habit of wealth accumulation, I imagine. Especially when fat banks deny loans if your company stops growing.

      • Bluebird_of_Fastidiousness | Oct 21, 2013 at 11:20 pm |

        If you iterate the decision to take advantage of others enough times, it begins to look like economics. Throw in huge disparities of power and in time you get a fascist system of control through violence. It’s all simply a matter of scale.

        • kowalityjesus | Oct 22, 2013 at 12:31 pm |

          Saying ‘the free market’ is to blame for ‘pollution’ is almost like saying ‘rocket technology’ is to blame for ‘missiles killing civilians.’ There is a high number of indirect connections between each of those two concepts.

          ‘Pollution’ and ‘civilian deaths’ are what happens when wealth/technology acquisition and personal responsibility towards ethics are disconnected. But the gain in standard of living (think satellites) from the two prior inputs vastly overshadows the problems they create.

          Yeah I know it is a pretty shitty analogy, but I think it is faithful to the proportions of gain vs loss. Anybody who knows me realizes that I am playing devil’s advocate because I am such a giant fucking environmentalist, but I think you guys are off base when you complain about the free market being the source of our problems. That’s like blaming math for your problems, or freedom, or both.

          • rocket technology is to blame for killing innocents. the creators of such technology were surely aware, although probably in denial, what effects their tech. might have. we should at least be more conscious of what effects are actions might have.

  3. Eat freedom and die, motherfuckers! See you all in Hell!

    • Lookinfor Buford | Oct 22, 2013 at 12:00 pm |

      Andrew, please.. It’s cool to see such passion. It’s cool that you care.. but I keep getting the vibe from you that you believe the answer to all these problems is our beloved government. Pardon me, but are you out of your Vulcan mind? Do you not see clearly that ‘money wins’ with governments as much as with corporations? The difference is, governments have the ability to directly control us as individuals through the law, where corps do not. While you might conclude this is what is necessary to solve the problem, you should realize that they can stop you/us from doing good, as much as from doing bad. And it should be evident to everyone that monied corps have much control over those govts, and this will grow as govt power grows. When we have ultra-regulation, the elite will have won, and you and I will be powerless to make a difference.

      • Yes, I am out of my Vulcan mind. I thought that was clear.

        “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

        I do believe the only answer to our environmental existential threats is government ultra-regulation of corporations and individuals. If, as you say, corps control govt, and, as you say, govt controls us, then, as opposed to what you say, corps do control us, indirectly. The problem is not government, the problem is unresponsive and unrepresentative government. I’m fine with scientifically aware and humanistically concerned elites telling us what not to do to an extent. If that gives them the power to stop me from doing good, then I view the risk of my democide as a necessary evil. If you give government the power to protect private property, you give it the power to take private property away. Etc. etc.

        Am I ranting? So be it.

        • ishmael2009 | Oct 22, 2013 at 4:33 pm |

          much as i approve of the novelty of quoting fictional characters like Sherlock Holmes in an argument, i have to disagree with your argument here:

          “I’m fine with scientifically aware and humanistically concerned elites telling us what not to do to an extent”

          Wow. I’m all for a democratic solution, and people coming together to decide what’s in their best interests, but decisions handed down by elites have a poor track record. Whereas democratically sanctioned decisions are usually seen in retrospect to be the right (or the least bad) ones for all concerned. As C S Lewis (not a fictional character, sadly) once observed, the tyranny of the well-meaning elite may well be the most intrusive, horrific tyranny imaginable.

          • I wasn’t really making an argument, I was merely saying I’d approve of something you and most of the people here at disinfo would object to.

        • Lookinfor Buford | Oct 23, 2013 at 2:23 pm |

          I hate to say it bro, but you are just deluded to think your proposal can exist in reality.

          “The problem is not government, the problem is unresponsive and unrepresentative government”
          How are we going to fix this? Let’s start with that. When you have the answer to that, I could maybe listen to the rest.
          Also that’s a great quote. I use it all the time to goad my kids into finding shit they lost.

          • Virtually Yours | Oct 23, 2013 at 3:25 pm |

            “How are we going to fix this? Let’s start with that.” Alright, I’ll take a shot: let’s introduce the ancient concept of Sortition, in which ALL public officials are selected by lottery. As for historical precedent, Aristotle had the following to say: “It is accepted as democratic when public offices are allocated by lot, and as oligarchic when they are filled by election.”

            By instituting Sortition, we would *finally* have a system of government that is truly “by the people and for the people.” So how do we get to that point? There are two other key factors that would most likely be necessary in order for such a system to be successfully implemented: eliminating the Electoral College so that every vote counts, and then implementing Compulsory Voting so that you have to vote.

            What do we call a government that is comprised of officials who have been thusly selected? We call it a Demarchy, and it’s time has come…

          • Lookinfor Buford | Oct 23, 2013 at 3:40 pm |

            Sure great Dude. Sortition, I’m all for it. I’m on board. No bullshit. Now, *how* are we going make this happen, again?
            Compulsory, I could be down with that. Again, how?
            Removing Electoral college. Nope, recipe for fascism.

          • Virtually Yours | Oct 23, 2013 at 3:54 pm |

            Present it as an alternative political party, but instead of voting for a candidate, you would be voting for the idea itself. There are enough disillusioned people on both the right and the left, and this could potentially appeal to both sides because it is a system which encourages non-biased participation. Or you could combine it with the following…

            Are you familiar with Living Room Conversations? It is an organization that was founded by two individuals from polar ends of the political spectrum (Tea Party and MoveOn) who came together to discuss issues that they actually agree on. Imagine that 🙂

            I don’t see why you couldn’t take that model and expand it into a legitimate third party for everyone who is fed up with the status quo. Again, it doesn’t mean that everyone has to agree on every single detail, just that they are willing to come to the table and discuss the things for which they have a shared concern.

            By voting for this party, you would be voting for these shared goals, and you could then select people by lottery in order to fill the leadership positions. The only job of those selected would be to oversee the successful implementation of said goals. If they are unable to do so, they can ask for help or resign, and could then be replaced by another round of lottery drafts.

            Also, we already have fascism (see my above quote from Mussolini). So I am genuinely curious: how do you think that eliminating the Electoral College would make things worse? As far as I can tell, every vote should count if people truly want to feel like their voice matters when it comes to having these kinds of conversations and then making these sorts of decisions.

          • Lookinfor Buford | Oct 24, 2013 at 11:04 am |

            So, the main reason we have a Republic and the EC exists, is so the states get balanced weight, so the more populous states can’t just overrun the smaller ones with their ideals. Without the EC you’d have elections decided by certain groups (states) which equates to large scale fascism. Like for instance, if Cali and New York agree on certain things, they could dominate elections with their population. Maybe to drive it home, I could point out, Texas (gasp), would be very powerful in that kind of system.
            Your 3party rhetoric is great. I’ve journeyed with that hope since my first election 21 years ago, but that ol’ mainstream is a bitch to kick. My first presidential election happened to be the one where Ross Perot ran as an independent (92). He was the best candidate imo for many reasons, and I voted my conscience. I learned a hard lesson. Of course my 2nd choice (lesser of 2 evils) was Bush Sr. As we learned, we Perot voters gave the election to Clinton. Now, as far as Dems go, Clinton wasn’t *too* bad, but I still learned that I wasted my vote. Hopefully a third party will emerge, but the above scenario will play out for a very long time. Very hard to overcome.

          • Virtually Yours | Oct 25, 2013 at 11:44 am |

            “Hopefully a third party will emerge” Look at the influence which the so-called Tea Party has had…while I disagree with what they stand for, they have gotten several people elected and have caused no end of havoc. It doesn’t sound like a good thing on the surface but the fact remains: they are proactive and organized. If Occupy (or a similarly-minded group) were to get its collective act together, I can’t imagine that it wouldn’t also have some sort of significant impact.

            But something like LRC takes it a step further because they aren’t pandering to either side…they are saying: “Hey, we are all frustrated, so why not come together (even if only for a temporary moment in time) and let’s focus our collective attention on the following…”

            And by adding Sortition to the mix, you remove any doubt or fear concerning bias. It would be unprecedented by modern political standards, and it would create a conversation in and of itself, as people try to grok how such a system would actually work.

          • Who said it will ever exist in reality? I only said something like it would be necessary to save the human race. Not only do I doubt that human race can be saved, I don’t believe any form of society–not capitalism, not socialism, not communism, not fascism, not democracy, not a republic, not libertariansim, not anarchism–can exist for an extended period without becoming corrupted. No form is immune from the human will to dominate those who are weaker. Any society that does not change, will die.

        • Virtually Yours | Oct 23, 2013 at 3:18 pm |

          “If, as you say, corps control govt, and, as you say, govt controls us, then, as opposed to what you say, corps do control us, indirectly.” Exactly! Even Mussolini agrees: “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.” We have allowed the Corportocracy to trash this planet and our lives in the process…all for profit and power.

          “I’m fine with scientifically aware and humanistically concerned elites telling us what not to do to an extent” Ah, and that would be a Technocracy, which would be fine by me 🙂 M. King Hubbert helped found the Technocracy Movement back in the day, and it’s a damn shame that the initial interest in the movement wore off so quickly. The Venus Project has rekindled a lot of these ideas, and one can only hope that it will catch on and hold this time around…

    • bobbiethejean | Oct 22, 2013 at 12:26 pm |

      My right to fark up the oceans is more important than your right to live on a nice, clean planet! WHOO-HOOOO! *starts throwing oil and plastic into the ocean*

  4. I wonder how the free market will fix this.

    • emperorreagan | Oct 21, 2013 at 9:00 pm |

      Clearly, the free market is trying to build a bridge between the United States and China so that tractor trailer companies can compete with boats.

      • Anarchy Pony | Oct 21, 2013 at 9:15 pm |

        Something tells me the longshoremen and teamsters are going to have words about that.

      • bobbiethejean | Oct 22, 2013 at 12:34 pm |

        I think I just lol’d my ass right off. Now I have to go fish it out of my couch cushions. Hopefully it won’t be coated in plastic detritus.

  5. BuzzCoastin | Oct 21, 2013 at 10:07 pm |

    you’d have to be in the fishing industry
    not to know the oceans are fucked
    but what
    if I may ask
    am I supposed to do about it?
    otherwise it’s just pointless fear mongering to the already afraid

    • As a former fisheries reporter I can confirm that the fishing industry is indeed in denial about the state of the oceans. Its a weird kind of cognitive dissidence, a bit like the finance types that convince themselves society as a whole would be worse off if they don’t get a million buck bonus – but sadder. Mostly old guys struggling to pay off boats just can’t face the fact we are approaching endgame. They love the life and the sea but its the kind of love a soldier might have for killing and the battlefield. They like to think of themselves as the last of the hunters but with even less sentimentality. You can’t feel sentimental love for something you have to kill thousands to stay in business. I can add that Ive met hundreds of fishermen and I have never seen one that hesitated for a second to flick his cig buts or litter into the water.

      • tibby trillz | Oct 22, 2013 at 3:56 pm |

        ha. i went fishing for striped bass a few years ago and the skipper, or captain, or whatever the fuck told me to flick my ciggerette butts right into the water because they just fall apart and biodegrade right after they hit the water. he said it in a more salty gristled way than i did but i cant remember his exact words. also, we caught a bunch of bluefish and they took em, cut em up and told us they were going to use it as chum for sharks. so odd. i bet anything they used more fish than the weight of a shark in order to get a shark, and im sure it was all so some scrawny dork can take a picture and feel like a god amongst men for having a mechanical advantage over an animal that would rip him apart in about half a second.

    • > but what
      > if I may ask
      > am I supposed to do about it?

      Tell everyone you know, march on your government with pitchforks and demand they increase environmental regulations a hundredfold, spike trees and ram fishing boats and blow up dams…

  6. Clearly corporate management of all natural resources will solve this problem somehow.

  7. >“Part of it was the aftermath of the tsunami that hit Japan a couple of years ago. The wave came in over the land, picked up an unbelievable load of stuff and carried it out to sea. And it’s still out there, everywhere you look.”

    lol maybe when our civilisation dies off/relocates future explorers of the ocean depths will call us ‘atlantis’.

  8. Ted Heistman | Oct 22, 2013 at 11:15 am |

    It will get cleaned up when people can do it profitably. Somebody will. There are people working on this. Green Capitalism and so forth. Someday living things will have lawyers and trusts and things and people will subcontract to help them. Things like the Ocean, will be recognized as providing services.

    I know negative Nancy left wingers that never have any solutions besides Marxism and bitching and moaning won’t like it but at the end of the day who cares? If it fixes the ocean I won’t begrudge anyone a buck or a million or a billion even.

    Really I think there should be taxes on a lot of this shit. Its not impossible to trace. I’d like to see some type of International tax that sticks top polluters like the US, China and Japan with the Bill and then this international body, like the UN or something, or a new incarnation of the UN hires contractors that clean the Ocean. The ocean belongs to everybody.

    So there I pissed off left wingers and Free Market Libertarians. Anyone else?

    Anyway I like the Ocean. This is a potential new market cleaning the Ocean, by a partnership of Big Business and the NWO.

    • bobbiethejean | Oct 22, 2013 at 12:32 pm |

      I know negative Nancy left wingers that never have any solutions besides Marxism

      Fund science, technology, and education above all else. Make sure logic, critical thinking, and environmental awareness are taught emphatically to children throughout school. Move towards a more environmentally sustainable model. So many of the problems we have would be solved by this but we won’t do it because we’d rather waste money fighting wars that don’t need to be fought and keeping the super-wealthy on their government-subsidized wellfare.

    • tibby trillz | Oct 22, 2013 at 4:04 pm |

      the part of the article that said that the amount of fuel that would have to be burned would cause a larger problem than the one they are trying to fix makes me think that it would also take all the profitability right out of it as well. although they were talking about yachts, or yachties. im guessing yachties are ones who yacht. whatever the shit,boats take an extraordinary amount of fuel to power them and driving around in circles in the ocean cant help.

  9. Ted Heistman | Oct 22, 2013 at 11:24 am |

    You could also mine the ocean for plastic once oil prices go up enough and convert all the plastic to oil with gassifiers. Or maybe a Pirate civilization of people living in the Ocean will do this and this will be the way they fuel their society. This garbage is a big resource that will be exploited eventually but some one or some thing eventually.

    I think Landfills might be mined too someday.

  10. bobbiethejean | Oct 22, 2013 at 12:24 pm |

    And yet conderpatives will stand right there and tell you that humans cannot affect the planet because apparently we could hypothetically fit every human into the state of Texas. You can smear the evidence right across their stupid, ignorant faces and they will deny it- even if it is incontrovertible such as in this case. I mean really, how the FACK else do you suppose a metric shit-ton of plastic ended up in the oceans? Did aliens put it there? Did nature suddenly go “ya know what? Plastic in the oceans. Great idea!” Guh. Makes me so angry, almost as angry as the fact that NOTHING will actually be done about this because we’re too !@#$%^&*ing lazy and too !@#%^&ing complacent.

    • ishmael2009 | Oct 22, 2013 at 4:47 pm |

      As i understand it, most of the wreckage this guy saw was the result of a natural disaster wasn’t it? The backwash from the tsunami that killed over 19,000 people. Having said that, i’ve seen the amount of rubbish in the sea myself and it is heartbreaking. What i don’t understand is why all packaging isn’t biodegradable within say two years by law. No one seems to be addressing this problem seriously.

      • bobbiethejean | Oct 22, 2013 at 7:54 pm |

        There are a lot of problems that simply are not being addressed. This apathy is going to be our undoing. I’m not usually prone to crying THE SKY IS FALLING but THE SKY IS FALLING.

    • Anarchy Pony | Oct 23, 2013 at 12:20 am |

      Marry me?

    • John Brittingham | Oct 23, 2013 at 6:51 pm |

      “conderpatives will stand right there and tell you that humans cannot affect the planet because apparently we could hypothetically fit every human into the state of Texas.”

      That’s not true. Government indemnifies Monsanto while they claim global warming is caused by CO2 emissions and want to restrict just that specific pollution, which is also emitted by breath, volcanoes, fires, and 6% by humans. This article points to plastic, garbage, over fishing, pollution, sewer, and radiation. None of which any person in their right mind would want in the ocean they swim in or the food they eat.
      Conservative people hunt, fish, and contribute more to the preservation of wildlife than conservationists.
      Politicians are the ones giving BP oil a free get out of jail card for a hefty donation, and driving corporations to countries where polluting is a normal way to do business.

    • Lookinfor Buford | Oct 25, 2013 at 10:27 am |

      Talk about derp. My goodness. Tsunami; that’s how it got there.

      • bobbiethejean | Oct 25, 2013 at 9:48 pm |

        My gods, you can’t really be this….guh. Wow. Ok, children, where does plastic come from? Does it come from the Plastic Fairy? NO. Does it come from outer space? NO. Does it come from your mum’s bum? NO….. hopefully.

        It comes from HUMANS. HUMANS make plastic. WE PUT IT THERE. The reason there is an ISLAND of plastic in the ocean twice the size of the continental US is NOT because aliens sprinkled plastic on us or because the plastic fairy was particularly generous one year. It is because of HUMAN activities, you friggin derpasaurus rex!

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