Lifting the veil on hidden world of plastic

Lifting the veil on hidden world of plastic
Captain Charles Moore is working to get the message out on what’s happening in our oceans. He’ll be speaking in Oceanside on his book, “Plastic Ocean” and other topics. Courtesy photo

OCEANSIDE — Capt. Charles Moore has logged more than 100,000 sea miles in the Pacific Ocean. 

In 1997, while on a trans-Pacific voyage, he inadvertently discovered what’s now generally referred to as “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” a seemingly floating landfill in the Pacific Ocean.

As an environmental researcher, the Long Beach, Calif.-based seafarer Moore has crewed several voyages to the garbage patch for study. His extensive field time has resulted in the book, “Plastic Ocean,” which was released almost a year ago, and details his accounts on the discovery.

Since that discovery the bulk of his research has been to measure the amounts of plastic in the ocean and its effects on the creatures that live there.

Moore continues his work to bring awareness to what’s going on in the ocean, something, he said, not a lot of people are really aware of.

“I think plastics have kind of been behind a plastic curtain — kind of a veil,” he said. “Plastic is plastic…who knew there were so many kinds and that did so many different things? And the ocean itself is mysterious. So, by opening up the plastic veil and exposing its effect on the ocean, I think we’re getting people involved in two areas that they seldom get to visit.”

Moore will be speaking at the Oceanside Civic Center Aug. 5. His message for that presentation: “We’re part of a dialog in the presidential race,” he said.

“I think my point is going to be that the environmental movement has an inferiority complex, yet we’re going to be the ones out in front dealing with the biggest problems affecting the planet. We’re going to be spending more money dealing with pollution and the effects of pollution,” he said.

Moore believes those raising the alarm on environmental concerns should be the most popular club on campus.

But while giving a lecture at the San Diego County Fair he found that they’re less popular than deep-fried butter. “The line is longer for deep-fried butter than it is to hear about how you can plant a zero-scape garden and not have to water it,” he said.

“We need to be proud of what we’re able to bring to the table and we need to get our message into the national political dialog because we’re the ones that are actually doing the most important work on the planet today,” he said.

His last trip to the garbage patch came in 2009, when he sailed his more than 20-year-old vessel the Algita to the site. Moore will voyage to the patch for an extended research trip in 2014 following a retrofitting of the Algita next year, essentially “trash-proofing” the boat, he said.

He’s also planning to experiment with a cage-like device so as to protect the boat’s propellers from the ghost nets and ropes that are found floating around the ocean.

A 2012 Asia Pacific Expedition done through the Algalita Marine Research Institute studied the debris field resulting from the tsunami that struck Japan in 2011. “What we’re finding is all this stuff is going to join the garbage patch that is already there, what we call the Eastern Garbage Patch, and there’ll be so much stuff out there that we think it’s going to approximate a coastline, a habitat,” he said.

His next trip the garbage patch will include coastal ecologists, who will live out there and examine each floating “tide pool.”

“Each one of these big clumps of debris is like a tide pool,” Moore said. “It has all the different kinds of organisms that live in the shoreline habitat. So we’re going to assess the degree to which we’ve actually created a new shoreline,” he said.

Moore has been conducting research since 1995. He explained that the West Coast has been experiencing a La Nina phase for over 15 years, meaning the water of the Pacific Ocean is cold. That, he said, explains why the summers haven’t gotten super hot and the marine layer and the afternoon winds.

He expects a warm phase will hit in 2020. “Then, we’ll get the bigger El Ninos and possibly a hurricane for the first time with global warming.”

California is leading the way towards restoration of the marine environment, he said. “We’ve been assisted by the ocean itself.”

“I think progress is being made here on the West Coast, it’s just that the rest of the world is not following suit, except maybe in Europe. Asia needs to come on board with this, they’re polluting a lot with their…aquaculture operations, with their industrial and urban runoff.

“Asia is a very serious threat to the world oceans because the oceans are all connected and we need to get the developing nations on board,” he said.

On an international stage, Moore is received very positively.

“There’s no one that comes to a presentation on garbage and says, ‘Boo, we need more garbage,’” he said.

Moore is pushing to have his book translated into foreign languages, and next month his book will be released in Japanese, and he’ll be visiting the country to give a presentation.

“There’s no more important job today than to defend nature,” Moore said, borrowing a quote from the Mexican poet Homero Aridjis, “Because as we defend nature, we defend life itself.”

 

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