I get way too much of my information from movies and this year large container ships played a role in two major films.
The first was Captain Phillips, an account of piracy in the Indian Ocean. The problem with that movie is that it didn't ask any fundamental questions about the method of moving stuff around.
Those questions were implied in All is Lost, a movie that begins with Robert Redford wakening to find out his small sailboat has been pierced by one of those enormous box containers, apparently dropped from a giant shipping vessel. The container is filled with sneakers. Later in the movie, one of those giant ships passes the desperate Redford, but doesn't stop for him, either because it can't see him or it just can't stop.
We fly over the ocean, swim on its shores, and vacation at its beaches- amazed by the vast open wilderness of the sea, yet unaware of what's in it.
We rarely think of the sea as a place of work, where thousands of workers contribute to an ocean economy that encompasses 2.6 million jobs and $375 billion, built primarily around deep sea shipping, tourism, and mineral extraction.
We also don't notice the underwater sea creatures whose evolution over time to tolerate harsh underwater conditions, face new man-made challenges like over-fishing, rising temperatures, and higher levels of CO2. While humans tolerate wide temperature swings, aided by intricate heating and cooling abilities and the wonders of technology, sea creatures react negatively to swings of one or two degrees.
And, we rarely think about the ways in which our daily activities contribute to the millions of small and microscopic bits of plastic clogging our waters, from the waste water carrying polyester fibers from the clothes we wash to the plastic bottle we discard on the beach.
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- Rose George is a journalist and the author of several books including “The Big Necessity,” and more recently, “Ninety Percent of Everything: Inside Shipping, the Invisible Industry that puts Clothes on Your Back, Gas in your Car, Food on your Plate.”
- Stephen Palumbi is a Professor of Biology and Director of the Hopkins Marine Station at Sanford University and the author of “The Extreme Life of the Sea”
- Charles Moore is Captain of the oceanographic research vessel Alguita, founder of Algalita Marine Research Institute and author of “Plastic Ocean.”