Sunday, October 21, 2007

DAYS 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 & 21: An Imminent, Staggering Plastic Baggering Strait

It has been a bizarre but uneventful MASH-tober. The challenge persists, but yields little. Last night, it was warmer so I left the windows open and over the strains of "Boris"' mashing, I heard my downstairs neighbours living and boozing it up into the wee small horas. The alley often sports broken bottles hurled there by Westmount teens or poor recyclers. Perhaps, the lag and unHalloweenliness of the season owe to climate change? In which case, as I noted last time, Monster Masher Bobby Pickett may have hoped on a much more prescient bandwagon when he turned to the Mashing Climate Change with his swan song, the Climate Mash.

Which reminded me that as I was sitting here working at the computer in front the dark alleyway between mine and the building next door, a plastic bad fell straight down, parachute-like, from on high, perfectly in my line of vision. The sky was literally raining plastic bag. It was an American Beauty moment, but it made for a dirty alleyway.

The warm air, the plastic bag, broken bottles, and the mutant squirrel... all of this reminds me of something which leads to something else:

The Vortex of Garbage in the North Pacific Ocean.

I don't remember if Al Gore told me (and 20,000 other people) about this when he spoke in Montreal in March, but it is alternately known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the Eastern Garbage Patch or the Pacific Trash Vortex, but I'm partial to Vortex of Garbage. It forms around the North Pacific Gyre, which is apparently the system of currents tugging at the world's oceans. The currents in turn deposit vast amounts of garbage into the North Pacific, and this semi-buoyant trash heap is currently about the size of Texas.

What this means, I cannot be sure, but I have visions of a distopic future (there's seldom any other kind in the waking imagination) in which a Bering Straight is filled in again with trash, allowing a motley of Americans to walk back to Asia across a pile of dirty tennis shoes, Huey Lewis albums, computer monitors, discarded tubes of petroleum jelly, and other non-biodegradable remnants of human civilization. Eventually, humankind or whatever's left of it will settle the vortex, perhaps breeding Great Pacific Garbage Pale Kids and later, a system of government will evolve there after centuries of warfare for the heaps, but right now it's just a slowly swirling pile of garbage. That's terrible.

I'd like some suggestions for following up. Can anyone direct me towards:

- a cultural histories of plastic (chronicling varied cultural attitudes towards plastic from the fifties to present)
- Climate Mash, where can one hear it?
- Where the last 13 days went?


Ocean Secrets

North Pacific Gyre

Across the Pacific Ocean, plastics, plastics, everywhere

Greenpeace's piece on it

The Original Bering Strait


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