Sunday, February 3, 2008

Answers to Student Questions

Our noon position: Latitude 33 43 95 North, Longitude: 162 50 34 West.

Hello students and teachers, as always a huge thanks from the crew for your thoughts, keep ‘em coming! To answer a few questions from the last few days:

Students from Animo Leadership Charter High School asked an excellent question: Now that you have observed the effects the trash has on the North Pacific Gyre organisms, how will you use this data to pressure government to pass legislation to reduce the amount of human pollution? What are the challenges you or other scientists face when trying to pressure government to pass legislation?

To date, there isn’t any national legislation in the USA dealing with the plastics issue. Many other countries around the world have passed legislation, China being the most recent example, banning or taxing plastic bags.On the local level, there are cities, like San Francisco that have introduced legislation to address disposable plastics.

As far as any new regulations dealing with plastic and the way we deal with it, that sounds to me like a great challenge for you all – how would you go about finding information about new legislation? Remember, there are different kinds of laws – there are national, state, and local forms of legislation. For example, San Francisco’s legislation regarding plastic bags is a city-wide, local law. We’re out of the media loop here – no radio, TV, newspapers, limited Internet, so if there are any new regulations in the works, we need you all to do the research and let us know!

The second part of this question: “what challenges do you or other scientists face when trying to pressure governments” is a complex one. We’re primarily a research and education organization. So we mainly focus our efforts on collecting solid, accurate data, and making this information available to the public. Our hope is that by providing people with scientifically accurate information, they will be able to make informed decisions, and come up with realistic recommendations for their representatives.

Another student asked: “How do you guys feel about this whole dumping trash in the ocean? What could people like us do to stop this?”

To clarify, its not necessarily people dumping directly IN the ocean that leads to waste filling our oceans, its all the litter from streets and waterways. In fact, 80% of marine debris comes from inland sources – all the trash in our streets washes into the ocean when it rains.

By now, it’s probably pretty clear how we feel about it: were angry, were disappointed, and were moved to do something about it, which you all can do as well. To stop the flow of plastic waste fouling our environment- stop using disposable plastics and switch to resusables, that way you will be sure that you are not contributing plastics to the ocean through the watershed. Simple steps like using a cloth bag when you go shopping, or drinking water from a reusable bottle instead of buying bottled water can add up to a lot less plastic that needs to be disposed of! The first step is to educate yourselves, as you are doing now. What other ways can YOU think of to address this problem?

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