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Trans-boundary pollution

Pollution that occurs across national borders and beyond is referred to as trans-boundary pollution. It may also be the product of emissions for which no nation wants to be held accountable. Pollution is characterized as the introduction of chemicals into water, soil, or the air that have the potential to kill living beings. This introduction alters the pH levels of water and soil, as well as making the air unfit for humans and, to a lesser degree, birds. Recently, pollution has expanded to include excessive sound, light, and heat (Benchekroun and Amrita Ray 607).
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is an area that is made of marine debris within the Pacific Ocean. It was discovered in 1985 and it has increased in volume since then. Most of this debris is plastic that comes from the ships that cruise the pacific and those that often relax at the beach. This, however, is not the only component of the Patch. It also has a high concentration of chemical sludge and pelagic plastics, that is, plastics that have no clear origin within the sea. It is unclear how far the Patch spreads because, first, it does not give out a heat signal, therefore it cannot be located by GPS. Second, different people have given different accounts about its nature and size, making it difficult to use a single narrative as a reliable source. In addition, this debris is only confined to the upper water column, and can easily be mistaken for seaweed (Lavine, 1175). This Patch often appears immobile because of its compact centre and drifty periphery. Its centre is known as a vortex; as it acts as a magnet towards which all oceanic garbage gravitate.

It has recently emerged that the Garbage Patch is composed of more than plastic and chemical sludge. It also contains pieces of synthetic material, most of which is non-biodegradable. The Patch, located between California and Hawaii, is directly affecting marine life. It has been recorded that more garbage is added to the patch within a second, making its effects more dire. The presence of this Patch has its effects on marine and human life as well. It is estimated that 20% of this comes from direct deposition into the water while the remaining 80% comes from land-based activities.

First, the birds that live beside the Pacific depend on the ocean for food and water. A large percentage forage for food from this patch, meaning that they feed bits of debris to themselves and their young ones. This is especially true for albatrosses, whose young ones depend on a regular supply of fish eggs. The presence of non-biodegradable material in their system means a shorter life span and increased diseases among them. In addition, they may die of starvation because the debris cannot be digested. This is also true for marine life that depends on plants. While foraging for food, they may occasionally come to the surface and come into contact with the debris. The bits below the patch are smaller and easier to consume, but cannot be digested. Second, the debris indirectly affects people who regularly consume marine animals. It is inevitable that they also consume that which was indigestible in the animal. This creates an incomplete cycle of synthetic non-biodegradation. The marine debris is also harmful to animals at the lower tier of marine life. For instance, sea turtles prefer to eat jellies, and often mistake plastic bags for their staple. The result is that the sea turtle manages to eat the paper or gets itself trapped in it. Some smaller turtles also consume spawn, which is what photo-degraded plastic looks like. Consuming plastic over time leads to their death because it cannot be excreted.

The presence of the garbage patch also has its effects on the marine plant life. As they accumulate on the surface, the prevent sunlight from reaching the lower levels of the ocean. The plankton and algae are the producers within the ocean. An absence of sunlight means that they cannot fully reproduce and make available the nutrients that the primary consumers require for survival. This, in essence, means a disruption of the entire food chain. The long term effect of the absence of sunlight is a reduction in all levels of the food chain up to the apex predators. When this occurs, sea food becomes expensive because it is less available.

With this in mind, it points out why pollution management is becoming increasingly complex. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is but one example of waste management gone wrong. First, it is difficult to appoint a specific country to deal with the garbage problem. Most of these countries have internal garbage disposal matter to deal with, and would rather focus on that. Second, pollution is a problem in many countries and has been so since the industrial revolution. Air pollution has particularly become rife, with various companies coming up with ways to break down the fumes emitted to make it compatible with the air while not depleting the ozone layer. The mechanism that is used in this process takes time and leaves no room for dealing with external pollution issues (Lavine 1170).

For most nations and governments, trans-boundary pollution is only limited to what happens in the air. This pertains to the effects that accompany emissions. They enact laws that are meant to curb poisonous gas emissions which ensure that industries put in place measures that scrub their gaseous by-products. Individuals are more concerned about the air they breathe rather than the air that the marine animals also breathe. These industries fail to understand that it is not enough to scrub their emissions, but also to ensure that their sewage is properly disposed of (Stemmler and Gerhard 1376).

Most industries choose to operate beside water bodies, especially those that are flowing, or have specific inlets and outlets. This is done under the assumption that the water will carry away effluent from the industries. While this may be true in most cases, the effluent simply turns up in larger water bodies. Since it is less dense than water, it floats and is carried by waves. When it comes into contact with an isolated object, it attaches itself to it, thereby giving it more body. This is how the Great Pacific Garbage Patch began. Eventually, all the debris in the ocean was gathered together by oceanic currents. There have been reports of other garbage patches all over the pacific; the western patch, the eastern patch and the subtropical convergence. These patches are located adjacent to the Kuroshio, California and the northern pacific respectively. This is another reason why there is much hesitation in clearing up the garbage patch. The Ocean Cleanup a non-governmental organization, made an attempt to clear up the plastic. So far, there haven’t been reports of the respective governments joining the initiative, because no one wants to take responsibility for the mess created in the ocean (Madlener and Reismann 2).

While there are organizations that have been set up to clear the debris from the ocean, it is not as easy as has been frequently stated. Considering the amount of time it has spent in the ocean, some elements of the debris have accumulated grime and have been oxidized, causing them to bear semblance to marine life. There have been cases in which the smaller animals have been trapped within the cleaning equipment. Besides, the nets used for clearing the garbage would still capture some of them. To compound this, there is a general feeling that attempting to clear the debris would be an unnecessary waste of time and money. According to Charles Moore, founder of the Algalita Marine Debris Program, if any country attempted to clear the patch, she would go bankrupt. This is possibly one of the reasons why nations are not offering active involvement in the cleanup. It is estimated to involve at least sixty-seven ships in a year. This includes crew and fuelling. There are some patches of debris that have become permanent islands, especially those with a tighter vortex. Attempting to remove them would result in a dispersion of the garbage for miles within the ocean (Lavine 1172).

Work Cited

Benchekroun, Hassan and Amrita Ray Chaudhuri. "Trans-boundary pollution and clean technologies." Resource and Energy Economics 36.2 (2014): 601-619.

Lavine, Marc. "Plastic, Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch." Science 346.6214 (2014): 1175.

Madlener, R. and Reismann, T. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch: A Preliminary Economic Analysis of the ‘Sixth Continent’. No.6. FCN Working Paper, 2014.

Stemmler, Irene, and Gerhard Lammel. "Evidence of the return of past pollution in the ocean: A model study." Geophysical Research Letters 40.7 (2013): 1373-1378.

August 09, 2021

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