May 1, 2012

Plastic in Our Oceans. {TEDx Video} ~ Wallace J. Nichols, PhD

Plastic pollution in our oceans is a big and growing issue.

TEDxGreatPacificGarbagePatch brought together experts from around the world to galvanize solutions to this issue. My presentation focused on a challenge to manufacturers to create products that are safe at all stages of their production, use and end-of-life. I suggest that there is a growing group of people eager to support such efforts.

(I also took on the fearsome Bag Monster, and won!)

Researchers have known that plastic pollution in the ocean is a big and growing problem since 1972 when a groundbreaking study was published in the journal Science, stating…

Plastic particles, in concentrations averaging 3,500 pieces and 290 grams per square kilometer, are widespread in the western Sargasso Sea. Pieces are brittle, apparently due to the weathering of the plasticizers, and many are in a pellet shape about 0.25 to 0.5 centimeters in diameter.

Photo: Kevin Krejci

Twenty-four years later in 1996 our team tracked a sea turtle across the Pacific Ocean through an area oceanographers referred to as the “Pacific Garbage Patch.” That’s when we began to become more acutely aware that both sea turtles and beaches around the world were filling up with plastic.

Over the past decade, awareness of plastic pollution has grown and hundreds of organizations and businesses along with millions of concerned citizens now endeavor to solve the problem.

Now, a new study suggests that the problem may be vastly underestimated because previous research didn’t include the effects of wind on plastic particles in the water.

But the good news in this sea of plastic is that we do have the knowledge and solutions we need to solve this problem…we’ve had it for decades.

Our job is to continue to grow the personal and political will required to reach a tipping point and truly evolve out material lives towards sustainability.

Dr. Wallace “J.” Nichols is a scientist, activist, community organizer, author and dad who works to inspire a deeper connection with nature. A Research Associate at California Academy of Sciences, J. is also founder/co-director of OceanRevolution.org, an international network of young ocean advocates, and LiVBLUE.org, a global campaign to reconnect us to our water planet.

He has authored and co-authored more than 50 scientific papers and reports and his work has been broadcast on NPR, BBC, PBS, National Geographic and Animal Planet and featured in Time, Newsweek, GQ, Outside Magazine, Fast Company, Scientific American and New Scientist, among others.

Lately he is working on BlueMarbles.org and BLUEMiND: The Mind + Ocean Initiative, merging the fields of cognitive science and ocean exploration. He blogs at wallacejnichols.org.

Editor: Lynn Hasselberger

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