"Who cares?" Such a simple, devastating question.
Trash at the beach, ocean flotsam, why blog about it? Why worry about it? Why waste a moment of thought on it? Is it really such a big deal? Just pick it up -- or ignore it -- and move on with your life. "Why should I care?"
It's the question, and it's one the Flotsam Diaries has kinda dodged to this point. Mostly because there are so many answers, it's daunting to try to put them down in a blog.
But I had a moment of serendipity this morning at the beach. And I think it's a good point for jumping in. So, think of this post as a down payment on a much bigger conversation.
Lookie what I found today:
list. It didn't, but it did have something even more interesting:
Didemnum vexillum, a saltwater version of the sea squirt known, lovingly, as "rock snot." This is an invasive form of tunicate -- a filter feeder -- originally from Japan, that has shown up in New England in only the past decade. They grow into thick, impenetrable masses across the sea floor, smothering and killing scallops and mussels, perhaps even wiping out certain fish spawning grounds.
2004, the U.K in 2008.
Didemnum vexillum can spread easily. All it takes is something on the sea floor that doesn't belong there, and a nice ocean storm to move that something to new breeding grounds. Such as one of the tens of thousands of lost lobster traps now polluting the bottom of the Gulf of Maine.
But it's not just bulky lobster traps that can move species to places where they're most unwelcome. The plastics now bobbing at or near the water's surface can also carry colonies of life:
Project Kaisei, a team hoping to learn about the infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It is teeming with life -- hundreds of fish eggs, two crabs, and countless microscopic organisms. It is one piece out of the billions now floating in the world's oceans. A piece of plastic like this can travel anywhere in the world depending on the currents it finds. It can carry invaders from extreme distances, any of which could, quite literally, annihilate an ecosystem that took millions of years to evolve.
Much of the specialization, and diversity, that make this world such an astonishing place is at risk of being wiped out by invasives, many of which are hitching a ride on our man-made waste.
You want to talk about who cares? We all should.