My EssayPollution looms ahead as one of the greatest threats to Earth’s environment. For years, excess waste and how to dispose of it has been a persistent, unsolved problem. Spanning from our oceans to space, pollution threatens Earth’s environment and must be controlled. The author, Lawrence Gable, in the articles, “Plastic Swirls in the Pacific” and “Space is Filling with Junk”, addresses the issue of pollution in both Earth’s oceans and in outer space.
Since the 1950’s the use of plastic has increased, and so has plastic trash going into oceans. A sailor named Charles Moore discovered the North Pacific Gyre, which is the largest mass of trash on Earth. This area of waste, located about 1,000 miles west of the U.S. mainland and 1,000 miles north of Hawaii, consists mostly of floating plastics, and is thousands of miles across and 300 feet deep.
In the article “Plastic Swirls in the Pacific”, Gable refers to this waste as “plastic soup” because of the variety of trash floating in the water. About 90 percent of the trash in the gyre is plastic. One-fifth of the plastic comes from ships and oil platforms, while the rest comes from land. Garbage goes from storm drains to the ocean. Four Pacific currents push this trash from Japan, North America, and Hawaii to one area in the Pacific. Gable describes the gyre, saying “Water swirls like water in a toilet that will not flush, and anything that floats stays on the surface.” Researchers discovered that there where no live animals floating among the garbage. “Birds and fish mistake plastic for food. Experts estimate that it kills more than a million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals every year.” says Gable. This illustrates its danger to ocean wildlife as well as humans. Researchers from the United Nations estimated that there was at least a million pieces of plastic junk every square mile.
However, pollution is definitely not only a threat to the oceans. In the article, “Space is Filling with Junk”, Gable addresses that the problem has reached beyond even Earth’s atmosphere. As a consequence of space exploration, much of what now orbits the Earth is junk. This space junk presents a danger to spacecraft and satellites. This debris can reach speeds up to 22,300 miles per hour, so even the smallest pieces of junk can do great damage. Because of this, the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA) watches anything more that 10 cm in diameter. There are over 18,000 such objects, including about 850 working satellites. If they fall out of orbit, space debris could even fall to Earth and harm people.
People have been trying to solve the problem of pollution, but there are many obstacles in the way. For example, cleaning up the North Pacific Gyre has proved to be nearly impossible. “It lies in international waters, so no single country will clean it up.” says Gable. This means countries must work together to clean up the gyre. For the moment, people must use plastic objects more responsibly. They should use less plastic packaging, recycle more plastic, and handle plastics so they will never reach the oceans.
Countries have also been trying to find solutions to space junk. For example, satellite owners are sending their satellites to high-orbit, where it is less crowded. However, if a satellite owner waits too long to send their satellite into high-orbit, it will orbit as junk for about three years. On the other hand, if the satellite company sends the satellite up to soon, it will lose time and money when the satellite could have been making money. Another way people have been trying to get rid of space junk is with missiles. In 2007, China used a missile to destroy an old weather satellite. However, that only created more space junk. In 2008, the U.S. tried the same thing, but it also just made more debris.
Pollution is a great threat to Earth’s environment and even the space around it. Lawrence Gable emphasizes this in both articles, “Plastic Swirls in the Pacific” and “Space is Filling with Junk”. In those articles, Gable reminds us that humans are treating our environment and atmosphere like dumping grounds for trash and pollution. Humans must understand that their actions are affecting the Earth. People must learn how to control the problem of pollution on both our planet and in outer space, in order to protect our planet.