Secrets of the Sea

Mar 26, 2014

Credit Jagadhatri / Wikimedia Commons

   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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