Have you seen the movie Ice Age 4?
August 25th, 2015 – from Aline Freyssinet
This animated film is not only entertaining but also educational. In fact, at the beginning of the film, the audience learns how Pangaea, a single continent that existed several million years ago, was divided into continents.
And yes, everything is the fault of a greedy little rodent called Scrat. This scoundrel’s mischief supposedly created the six continents we all know today:
But did you know that, more recently, a 7th continent was discovered? You might ask, “How did that happen? Scrat died long ago. Did he come out of hibernation to start this nonsense?”
In reality, this time, Scrat had nothing to do with it. It is man’s mischief, another greedy little mammal, that caused a “7th continent” to appear.
What is this 7th continent?
This “7th continent” has nothing to do with the six others. As a result of human activity, plastic waste both big and small has collected, covering several millions of kilometers, and thousands of kilometers of coastline. It exists in the water both on the surface, and up to thirty meters deep.
The term “7th continent” was invented by Charles Moore in 1997. The American sailor was returning from a race in the North Pacific, when he decided to take a route little used by those who sail the seas. He discovered large areas devoid of life, and full of waste.
Le mot « continent » est parlant mais il ne rend pas compte de la réalité selon certains scientifiques (see article). In reality, there isn’t, strictly speaking, an “island of waste.” On one hand, there is lots of plastic waste in all the oceans: North Pacific, South Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian. On the other, most of this plastic waste consists of scattered micro particles that don’t float. They don’t form a solid body. So even though the amount of plastic is very concerning, it isn’t always visible. Satellites aren’t able to see them. (more info).
How did this “7th continent” appear?
All this plastic waste was obviously not discarded by fish that live in the ocean. It is part of the 260 million tons of plastic produced each year by humans (more info). But how does it get to places where people visit only rarely? There are two causes:
- 10% of plastic products are dumped in the ocean. Some waste is dumped directly into the sea: debris related to fishing, and sailing vessels that accidentally or intentionally dump their waste. But most (80%) is garbage left on beaches and waste contained in sewage discharged into waterways.
- The phenomenon of gyres. All this plastic ends up in the middle of the ocean because of gyres, sea currents that rotate around themselves. Caused by a combination of warm tropical winds, cold polar winds, the rotation of the Earth, and alternating climatic zones, these currents carry waste and collect them in areas seldom visited by humans.
Why is this 7th continent dangerous?
- Plastic takes tens or even hundreds of years to decompose. During this period of fragmentation, it absorbs organic pollutants and heavy metals.
- Large pieces of waste trap marine animals. Sperm whales have been found tangled up in old fishing nets, for example.
- Smaller pieces are eaten by the organisms living in the water, and by birds, sometimes causing asphyxiation or poisoning.
- Microscopic particles are ingested by tiny plankton and thus enter the food chain. And who do we find at the end of the food chain? Humans.
- There is less and less life in the ocean over millions of kilometers.
And this is only a glimpse of the dangers posed by plastic.
What can you do?
You can do lots of great things to help:
- Respect the environment by adopting simple actions, such as not throwing plastic in the water or on the beach, and recycling everything you can.
- Share this information with others and participate in raising global awareness of this problem.
- And, why not join the Ecoloodi adventure to discuss these issues and act even more for the preservation of water and aquatic ecosystems!
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