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Can Our Ocean Be Saved?

Chase Holding

5/6/18

Professor Fleming

STS W1

Can Our Ocean Be Saved?

 

Throughout history, humans have singlehandedly been the most detrimental species on planet earth. The Industrial Age in the early eighteenth century presented the world with its first real look at Climate Change. While environmental scientists have predominantly focused their studies on the increasing temperature due to Carbon emissions, the world is now faced with another issue; the excess amount of plastics and microplastics in the ocean. “Humanity’s plastic footprint is probably more dangerous than its carbon footprint”(US Deparment 2016). Not only has this form of pollution harmed marine life, but it has begun to affect human life as well. The ocean provides people with resources and more than half of the planet’s oxygen but is treated as a worldwide trash bin. Currently, there is no solution to dealing with the issue of microplastic and plastic pollution, however many environmentalists continue to search for one. While the more progressive countries are attempting to cut down on their plastic use, the amount of plastic debris in the ocean would take hundreds, maybe thousands of years to clean up. The best action an individual can do to help this issue is to influence others to reduce their plastic use. If our society cannot stop using disposable plastic or prevent it from accumulating in marine habitats, microplastics will kill off millions of species living in the ocean, and humans will start to suffer from the effects of this form of pollution.

 

The use of plastic in human societies worldwide has a massive impact on all forms of marine life. The ocean is Earth’s largest ecosystem and supports all planet life. Marine life provides the human race with over a sixth of the animal protein people eat. If society cannot stop polluting the oceans’ ecosystems, this source of food will either become depleted or be too poisonous to eat. Microplastics are the biggest culprit in poisoning fish and other species in the ocean. This form of degraded plastic is defined as small plastic pieces less than five millimeters long (Cho 2011). The reason microplastics are so dangerous stems from their size, but more importantly their quantity. There are anywhere from 93,000 to 236,000 metric tons of these tiny particles floating in the ocean (Parker 2017). They have turned the ocean into what scientists often call a “plastic soup.” With such an abundance of this material, it’s no surprise that there is a severe impact on marine life. One of the biggest reasons that fish and other species consume microplastics and plastic, in general, is because they smell similar to food. When pieces of plastic enter their bodies, they are not able to properly digest it, which in most cases leads to death. Over 100 million marine animals are killed each year solely from plastic debris in the ocean (Sea 2018). While not all of these deaths directly stem from the ingestion of plastic, the number of microplastics entering the ocean will continue to increase this number if society does not change its ways. Unfortunately, plastic is difficult to dispose of properly, so this will likely be an issue for hundreds of years. If the human society does not stop using plastic, soon enough marine life will become completely inedible. On top of this, the animals that so many people claim to love will become much rarer or even extinct. Humans are artificial in this sense because while so many people share a sense of love for marine life and the ocean, their everyday habits show no sense of regard for protecting them. People’s use of plastic in society over the past hundred years has left hundreds of thousands of tons of microplastics in the ocean, and with no sign of stopping plastic production, it is only a matter of time before many species go extinct or are completely poisonous to eat.

 

Much of the ocean’s current plastic and microplastic pollution is a direct result of a variety of the world’s largest rivers. When researching the effect of plastics and microplastics on the Ocean’s ecosystem, the first question that comes to mind is; how does this debris enter the ocean, and where is it coming from? Often time’s plastics are directly placed into the ocean within countries that have less access to recycling programs, however, a large fraction of marine plastic debris comes from rivers and other water sources that transport all forms of debris into the ocean. Environmental researcher, Christian Schmidt, believes that ten major rivers in Asia and Africa transport 88-95% of the global load of plastic (Schmidt 2018). To give a more specific number, Environmental Science & Technology, show that rivers collectively dump anywhere from 0.47 million to 2.75 million metric tons of plastic into the seas every year (Patel 2018). People often think polluting rivers is less detrimental than directly dumping plastic waste into the ocean; however, rivers carry trash and connect nearly all land surfaces with various oceans across the world.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/10/171017110028.htm

While this illustration gives a simplistic view of the actual pollution process, it is essential for people to realize how detrimental it can be when industrial buildings and other factories are built around major rivers and other water sources. Not only do these rivers take in a large portion of mismanaged plastic waste, but also in many cases they are polluted with chemicals and other toxic waste. China, having the largest population, as well as two of the world’s largest rivers (the Yellow River, and the Yangtze), is not surprisingly predominantly blamed for the oceans’ plastic crisis. While there is currently no solution to the issue of river plastic pollution, governments must enforce stricter regulation in populated areas near rivers. If Schmidt is correct in stating that majority of this plastic is coming from rivers, governments and citizens across the world must focus their efforts on preventing mismanaged plastic waste from entering rivers.

 

Microplastic ingestion from marine life has a greater effect on human beings than most of society realizes. When viewing the effects of plastic pollution, most people initially think of the numerous species that are harmed by this issue. The vast majority of the human society puts off being environmentally friendly, as they believe these issues have no effect on them. Especially with regards to recycling, most people don’t realize that plastic pollution is coming back to harm the very ones who started the issue. As more marine life ingest microplastics, more humans are exposed to these dangerous materials.

http://plasticcontinents.com/2017/12/its-confirmed-plastic-is-now-in-our-food/

 

This image is a cycle that depicts not only how humans indirectly ingest plastic, but also how marine life and other animals do. When microplastics and other smaller forms of this debris either float to the bottom of the ocean or remain on the surface, small animals consume them. If the plastic filled animal isn’t killed initially, the animal might make its way up the food chain, eventually being consumed by either humans or other top predators. “A recent study by the University of Ghent in Belgium found human seafood eaters ingest up to 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic every year with dozens of particles becoming embedded in tissues” (Knapton 2017) This is important for society to understand because while a lot of people believe that climate change and pollution is a problem for future generations, they are very wrong. If ingested in high enough quantities, scientists believe humans could face issues with fertility, poisoning, and genetic disruption (Knapton 2017). Heavy seafood eaters already have to be cautious about getting mercury poisoning from various species of fish, but not enough people realize they are likely consuming microplastics as well. It seems fitting in some aspects that the species, which is poisoning the ocean, is in turn poisoning itself. Unfortunately, this species is also destroying the ecosystem that harvests the most life and diversity on our planet. Currently, there are no reports of human casualties from ingesting microplastics, but as more plastic is dumped into the ocean, higher concentrations of these materials will be present in marine life. It is only a matter of time before humans begin to reap the effects of plastic ingestion, and while human illness or even death is something to be avoided at all cost, it might be the only idea that will create change in our society. Societies use of the ocean as a plastic trash bin has, in turn, led to human ingestion of microplastics from eating various species of marine animals.

 

Another question a lot of people have when researching microplastics and plastics is: where do these plastic go, and can we dispose of them? At this point in the paper, you hopefully understand that there is a lot of plastic in the ocean and that it is very dangerous. You also might be thinking, “I swim in the ocean all the time and never have seen evidence of the supposed hundreds of millions of tons of plastic waste in the ocean.” There is a reason that most people haven’t first hand witnessed this mass pollution. Plastic is predominantly widespread in the open ocean, but it is particularly concentrated in five major gyres –rotating currents of water– in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans (Weule 2017). These gyres consist of concentrated microplastics as well as other tiny fragments. The picture below depicts an extremely small fraction of a gyre.

http://srfer.com/pacific-garbage-patch-the-plastic-tragedy/

Some of the largest gyres in the world cover hundreds of kilometers of open water. Let that sink in. Hundreds of miles of ocean are essentially uninhabitable for marine life because the surface is covered with plastic. A large portion of the marine animals killed in the ocean originates from these gyres that form. Seagulls and other predators, which feed on fish, are affected by the gyres as well as they mistake the plastic and other surfaced debris as food. Another commonplace to find plastic is the coastline. “I think that that is something that people really don’t appreciate. The gyres may have a fair bit of plastic in them, but the coastal margin probably has much more”(Wuele 2017). The United States’ coasts are for the most part clean as people and various organizations opt to clean beaches in their local towns. Unfortunately, not all countries possess the same motives to clean their costs. Many towns in less affluent countries leave their plastic waste on the coastline hoping that the tide will take it out into the ocean. In countries such as Indonesia, this is very prevalent, as you will often time see large portions of plastic debris floating near the coast. This is similarly detrimental to marine life as well as other inland animals that consume the washed-up plastic. The sad reality of these places is that often times they simply do not have the resources to properly manage their waste. While beneficial in many ways for society, plastic is one of the hardest materials to dispose of, which is why it often ends up in the ocean. Especially in regions where you cannot recycle, plastics and even tiny microplastics take hundreds of years to decompose properly. The reasons they take so long to decompose stems from the strong carbon-carbon bonds that make up plastic (Wolchover 2011). “Nature doesn’t make things like that, so organisms have never seen that before”(Wolchover 2011). Kenneth Peters who is an organic geochemist believes that plastics take long to decompose because they are newly exposed to nature. The organisms that break down food and other materials such as wood have been evolving for billions of years, allowing them to be effective. Plastics have newly started affecting nature; therefore it will take a while before organisms are able to properly dispose of them. Sadly, the only action that would be more detrimental to the environment than polluting it with plastic would be burning it. People have often attempted to burn plastic in order to dispose of it for good, but this material lets off highly toxic chemicals, which can be detrimental to humans as well as the atmosphere. Similar to the other issues of pollution, the only solution would be to decrease plastic use, and attempt to fix the mess society has made in the last hundred years.

 

Planet Earth gifts humans and all other species around the world with endless beauty and nature, but time and time again society fails to treat it properly. Human nature has evolved over millions of years and is now filled with greed, and ignorance of the problems we are facing. Microplastics take hundreds of years to decompose and are some of the biggest issues for the environment in terms of marine and human impact, and yet most of the human society has made no intent to change its policies. Humans know that most plastic pollution originates from ten major rivers, and yet we do not stop polluting them. Images of gyres hundreds of miles wide flood world news and yet plastic straws are still served at restaurants. It is frightening that majority of the oceans’ plastic comes from regions that refuse to recycle even when they have the proper resources to do so. We live in a world filled with self-centered people, and industries that choose money over just about anything. Society has fooled us in this sense, twisting our priorities to focus solely on our own well-being. Even as I write this I realize I am not perfect. Plastic is difficult to avoid, and not everyone realizes how damaging the effects of microplastics are. I have spent much of my life in the ocean, and I intend to enjoy it for as long as I can. If we as a society cannot find alternatives to plastic, the ocean will no longer be a safe haven for millions of people worldwide. A world without an ocean and the diverse wildlife that inhabits it is not one that most people want to live in. “Many of us ask what can I, as one person, do, but history shows us that everything good and bad starts because somebody does something or does not do something”(Knight 2018). While an individual’s effort to not use plastic won’t have much effect on the environment, it’s their influence on others that creates change. The world is yours; what are you going to do with it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Work Cited:

 

 

Cho, Renee. “Our Oceans: A Plastic Soup.” State of the Planet, 24 Feb. 2011,   blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2011/01/26/our-oceans-a-plastic-soup/.

 

“Information About Sea Turtles: Threats from Marine Debris – Sea Turtle      Conservancy.”Sea Turtle Conservancy, conserveturtles.org/information-sea-        turtles-threats-marine-debris/.

 

Knapton, Sarah. “Fish Eat Plastic in the Ocean Because It Smells like Food, Scientists             Discover.” The Telegraph, Telegraph Media Group, 16 Aug. 2017,      www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2017/08/15/fish-eat-plastic-ocean-smells-     like-food-scientists-discover/.

 

Knight, J.D. “Ocean Conservation Quotes – Famous Sea Quotes on Sea and Sky.” Deep           Sea Creatures on Sea and Sky, www.seasky.org/quotes/sea-quotes-ocean-          conservation.html.

 

Parker, Laura. “Ocean Life Eats Tons of Plastic-Here’s Why That Matters.” National   Geographic, National Geographic Society, 18 Aug. 2017,             news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/08/ocean-life-eats-plastic-larvaceans-   anchovy-environment/.

 

Patel, Prachi. “Stemming the Plastic Tide: 10 Rivers Contribute Most of the Plastic in            the Oceans.” Scientific American, 1 Feb. 2018,             www.scientificamerican.com/article/stemming-the-plastic-tide-10-rivers-      contribute-most-of-the-plastic-in-the-oceans/.

 

Schmidt, Christian. “Export of Plastic Debris by Rivers into the Sea.” C&EN: WHAT’S             THAT STUFF? JELL-O, pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.est.7b02368.

 

US Department of Commerce, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric             Administration. “What Are Microplastics?” NOAA’s National Ocean Service,           13 Apr. 2016, oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/microplastics.html.

 

Weule, Genelle. “Plastic and How It Affects Our Oceans.” ABC News, Australian           Broadcasting Corporation, 27 Feb. 2017,             www.abc.net.au/news/science/2017-02-27/plastic-and-plastic-waste-          explained/8301316.

 

Wolchover, Natalie. “Why Doesn’t Plastic Biodegrade?” LiveScience, Purch, 2 Mar.     2011, www.livescience.com/33085-petroleum-derived-plastic-non-    biodegradable.html.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Dreadful New World

Chase Holding

4/24/18

Professor Fleming

STS W1

A Dreadful New World

 

 

In Aldous Huxley’s novel Brave New World, he describes a society that strives to make everyone and everything equal. While many stories about a Utopia discuss stricter government policies and a lack of freedom, this story goes as far as genetically modifying humans. Another interesting part to this society is that every time someone feels strong emotions or is uncomfortable with something, they take a pill that makes them mentally trip, and in turn relax. As expected one of the main characters John, quickly realized that this life is superficial and inhumane. A society like this strays away from human nature and attempts to recreate emotions that are only possible to feel in ones natural element. One may relate this society to our world and question: Are the changing mindsets in our 21st century society altering the human nature that keeps our society functioning? Continue reading

Robots, Are They Good For Our Society?

Chase Holding

4/13/18

STS W1

Professor Fleming

Robots In The 21st Century Work Place

 

As technology in the twenty-first century has become increasingly advanced, topics such as Artificial Intelligence and the use of robots have become main focuses of study. Many people fear that robots and artificial intelligence will soon begin to take over our society. While the technology to make intelligent robots exists, should humans use them in society? Continue reading

Can Our Ocean Be Saved?

Topic: How society has damaged the Ocean’s ecosystems by overusing plastic leading to an immense amount of micro plastics being ingested by marine life.

Thesis: The human society over the past century has harmed the marine life and ecosystems by overusing plastic which is broken down and dumped into the Ocean.

Critical Questions:

With all the advancements in our society and resources that we have, why did more people not foresee this being a large issue?

How can we use our advanced technology to help prevent further ocean pollution, and possibly clean much of the plastic that is already in our ocean.

A Few Sources:

http://theweek.com/articles/538881/how-ruined-oceans

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/oct/09/ocean-pollution-technology-cleanup-research

https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/01/25/580227045/plastic-pollution-is-killing-coral-reefs-4-year-study-finds

http://theconversation.com/how-microplastics-make-their-way-up-the-ocean-food-chain-into-fish-69148

https://blog.nationalgeographic.org/2016/04/04/pesky-plastic-the-true-harm-of-microplastics-in-the-oceans/

Goal for Paper/Outline/Background:

I chose this topic for many reasons. The ocean has always been a huge part of my life. I grew up on boats and have lived on the sea my entire life. I have also become a surfer, and with that I began to be a huge supporter of ocean conservation. The biggest issue when saving the ocean and the ecosystem as a whole stems from the idea that the ocean isn’t local to majority of the population. It is hard to be passionate about saving something that many people don’t experience frequently. This is where my topic comes into play. I will describe the affect our society is having on the ocean with specific regards to ecosystems and marine life. Micro Plastics and other larger plastic materials continue to pollute the ocean killing off species that help maintain the food chain. If species continue to go extinct at the rate they are right now, our ocean and land food chains will be doomed. On top of this, I will mention how micro plastics being dumped into the ocean actually affect human health as eating too much fish leads to an ingestion of plastic and even mercury. This can hit home with a greater amount of people as they realize they will no longer be able to eat the fish they love or more so witness the variety of species that make this world so beautiful. This topic is relevant to STS because Science, Technology, and Society all have played a part in damaging our environment. Advances in science and technology have proved beneficial in many ways, but have also caused global warming with regards to increases in factories. With regards to the ocean, carbon levels in the ocean have increased as well as many poison chemicals have been dumped into the ocean which affects the reefs. While I plan to focus more on societies negative impacts on the Ocean, I plan on mentioning how technology and society both play a role in this. I also plan to use these initial sources as a background for my project, and when I decide how I want to approach each section of the issue I will use more specific resources and quotes that help backup my thesis. I intend to start off my paper in a somber manner. Giving explanations on what the previous centuries have done to our ocean. This will grasp the readers attention. I then plan on talking about each aspect of STS and how it has hurt or helped climate change. I will end my paper on a positive note giving examples of ways we can possibly fix the issue of damaged oceans and ecosystems. With this outline, I believe I will be able to keep the reader interested the entire time, while also educating them on the issues our ocean and species face. My final few paragraphs will focus on how we can use our resources to possibly prevent further destruction from occurring.

 

Do Outsiders Exist?

Chase Holding

3/13/18

STS W1

Professor Fleming

Do Outsiders Exist?

 

The idea of our society having two cultures –scientists and literary intellectuals—was originally thought of in the mid 1950’s. C.P. Snow can be credited with this idea, believing that if you don’t fall in either category you should be considered an outsider. Viewing this argument from the 21st century, one might wonder why these two fields were considered dominant. Should people who reside in cultures other than science and humanities be considered outsiders? The fact is that each person that lives in our society contributes to the overall culture in his or her own way. The sooner we can accept this; the better off our society will be with regards to diversification.

Snow’s book The Two Cultures is famous for discussing the divide that exists between his two said cultures. He believes that in the work place as well society as a whole, his two groups rarely converse with each other. Based on various studies, Snow wasn’t entirely wrong at the time about this idea. Over the last sixty years, there has been a strong shift in the respect people have for other fields of study. In our Science, Technology and Society class, we compared how three fields of study view each other in terms of their work as well as their personality. Our present day class was much more considerate when describing each other’s fields than classes from decades ago. Many stereotypes about various fields of study still exist in 2018, however there is no question that we are on the right path to a more accepting and respectful society.

Snow’s belief that only two cultures make up our world is a single-minded approach to viewing society. Our current world is filled with billions of cultures that make society the way it is. While there are various definitions of culture in the dictionary, to me culture is created and altered by the actions of each and every person that lives on this planet. The discoveries, the failures, and everything else humans do and have done make our culture unique. While people such as celebrities and entrepreneurs might have more influence on our culture than the average person, there is no such thing as an outsider in our world. Snow’s objective in creating his opposing cultures was to generalize a variety of groups into two branches. This is an impossible task as not even a respected physicist is bright enough to define our world’s culture.

So to answer the question: No, an outsider in our society does not exist with regards to defining culture. Not only was Snow incorrect about the idea of people being insignificant, but also he was also wrong in generalizing our society into two cultures. Diversity has and will always play a significant role in our society and workplace. Imagining a world solely focused on science and humanities is a daunting idea. Instead we must respect the ideas and actions of each and every member of our world. The meaning of culture will continue to change in the future, if we cannot accept diversity and unity in our society as positive values, we are no better than C.P. Snow.

 

Women, Are They Fit For Science?

Chase Holding

3/6/18

STS W1

Professor Fleming

 

Women, are they fit for Science?

 

 

It is no secret that being a scientist was originally thought to be a mans field of study. While it is clear that women have made significant contributions to science, many people still believe that these past stereotypes have relevance, and that they affect young women’s participation in this field. So the question remains: Are women fit to be scientists? Continue reading

Appearance, Does it Matter?

Chase Holding

2/27/18

Professor Fleming

Appearance, Does it Matter?

 

Mary Shelly’s novel “Frankenstein” depicts many life lessons about ones appearance that can be applied in present day society. In the beginning of this novel, Victor Frankenstein creates a monster that is able to feel emotions that any human can. Unfortunately, this monster is hideous and cannot convey his feelings and human like nature to anyone without scaring them away. Having never lived in this world, the monster is quick in understanding how judgmental of creatures humans can be. The way the monster is treated in this novel is applicable when discussing human interaction as a whole. There is no question that ones physical appearance has always played a large role in society. The question is: How far will people go to alter the way they look? Continue reading

Technology, how will it Affect us in 50 years

Chase Holding

2/15/18

STS W1

Professor Fleming

Technology, how will it Affect us in 50 years?

 

After a long day of class or work, many people in the world choose to set aside their technology in order to momentarily break away from its everlasting grasp. This behavior is more common with older generations who grew up without cellphones and laptops at young ages and believe these times were better. As someone who grew up during the era of the iphone and has always had access to the internet, separating from technology has never crossed my mind. While I admit it is relaxing to occasionally travel without my cell phone or computer, the 21st centuries technology dominant culture has entrapped me and will continue to dominate my life for as long as I live. As the generations who grew up without technology slowly fade, the question remains: How will technology affect us in 50 years? Continue reading

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