In my 40 years traveling around this planet, I discovered human beings respect nothing anywhere in the world. No matter how beautiful, no matter how pristine the location and no matter what country-human beings toss their trash everywhere. They inject their chemicals into the land, air and water. They throw their rubbish into rivers, lakes and streams.
In my forty years of Scuba diving around the world, I've seen our pristine lakes and oceans turn into trash cans for humans. Millions of tires, nets, plastic, glass and metal containers roll around the ocean floor like 'creatures' out of place.
As recently exposed on Oprah, "The Great Pacific Garbage Patch" twice the size of Texas, features three million tons of plastic debris floating around the Pacific. In some places, it reaches 60 feet thick. It kills millions of marine creatures annually. It's not just the Pacific, 46,000 pieces of plastic float on every square mile of all our oceans and seas! That figure is correct!
While riding my bicycle around the world or climbing mountains, I have seen humans toss soiled baby diapers into pristine pools, fjords and rivers. On Mt. Everest, known as the "Earth Mother", climbers have left tons of trash and garbage on her flanks in their efforts to reach the top. At the base, climbers have turned the area into a sewage pit.
Most large rivers running out of industrial nations feature raw sewage that creates 'dead zones' like the 10,000 square mile one at the mouth of the Mississippi River to 27,000 square mile dead zones in the North Sea. How big is that? That's the size of North Carolina.
Instead of changing their ways, humans continue adding more trash upon the trash with no end in sight.
In a sobering expose' Mother Jones featured a brilliant piece by world famous author Bill McKibben. He also wrote a ground-breaking book: The End of Nature. I highly recommend reading his books.
"Waste not, want not" by Bill McKibben, Mother Jones/May-June 2009 http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2009/05/waste-not-want-not
"Once a year or so, it's my turn to run recycling day for our tiny town," McKibben said. "But it's also kind of disturbing, this waste stream. For one, a town of 550 sure generates a lot-a trailer loads every couple of weeks.
"More than that, though, so much of it seems utterly unnecessary. Not just waste, but wasteful. Plastic water bottles, one after another-80 million of them get tossed every day. The ones I'm stomping down are being "recycled," but so what? In a country where almost everyone has access to clean drinking water, they define waste to begin with. In fact, once you start thinking about it, the category of "waste" begins to expand, until it includes an alarming percentage of our economy. Let's do some intellectual sorting:
"There's old-fashioned waste, the dangerous, sooty kind. You're making something useful, but you're not using the latest technology, and so you're spewing: particulates into the air, or maybe sewage into the water. You wish to keep doing it, because it's cheap, and you block any regulation that might interfere with your right to spew. This is the kind of waste that's easy to attack; it's obvious and obnoxious and a lot of it falls under the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act and so on. There's actually less of this kind of waste than there used to be-that's why we can swim in most of our rivers again." Or to correct McKibben, at least 53 percent of them!
"There's waste that comes from doing something that manifestly doesn't need doing," said McKibben. "A hundred million trees are cut every year just to satisfy the junk-mail industry. Or think about what we've done with cars. From 1975 to 1985, fuel efficiency for the average new car improved from 14 to 28 miles per gallon. Then we stopped worrying about oil and put all that engineering talent to work on torque."
While we Americans run through our busy days, mountains of trash accumulate worldwide by our singular activities.
McKibben said, "Chris Jordan is the photographer laureate of waste-his most recent project, "Running the Numbers," uses exquisite images to show the 106,000 aluminum cans Americans toss every 30 seconds, or the 1 million plastic cups distributed on US airline flights every 6 hours, or the 2 million plastic beverage bottles we run through every 5 minutes, or the 426,000 cell phones we discard every day, or the 1.14 million brown paper supermarket bags we use each hour, or the 60,000 plastic bags we use every 5 seconds, or the 15 million sheets of office paper we use every 5 minutes, or the 170,000 Energizer batteries produced every 15 minutes. The simple amount of stuff it takes-energy especially-to manage this kind of throughput makes it daunting to even think about our waste problem. (Meanwhile, the next time someone tells you that population is at the root of our troubles, remind them that the average American uses more energy between the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve and dinner on January 2 than the average, say, Tanzanian consumes in a year. Population matters, but it really matters when you multiply it by proximity to Costco."
I have read where Americans use 90 billion plastic and paper bags annually (Source: Sierra Club). But I've also read that the total number of plastic bags for humanity exceeds 386 billion annually. All go to the landfill, or, as you can verify daily-all over the landscape.
"Americans discard enough aluminum to rebuild our entire commercial air fleet every three months-and aluminum represents less than 1 percent of our solid waste stream," said McKibben. "We toss 14 percent of the food we buy at the store. More than 46,000 pieces of plastic debris float on each square mile of ocean. And-oh, forget it."