Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Adventure Ecology

David de Rothschild, a rich scion of a vast family name has apparently taken on the ecological battle. His current mission is to build a boat of recyclable material precisely, plastic bottles and sail it from California to Australia.

Never mind that it's nearly impossible to build a boat of Coke bottles. The intention is to create a media adventure to highlight the degradation of the ocean by plastic debris. The entire project is Green from start to end, the best that money can buy.

David is in apparent competition with Marcus Eriksen at Charles Moore's Algaltia Marine Research Foundation. Marcus has already built rafts made of bottles, Thor Heyerdahl fashion to demonstrate what exactly?

Charles Moore is the guy who discovered the Eastern Garbage Patch. This vortex of floating plastic trash in the North Pacific is twice the size of the state of Texas. Birds and marine animals feed there, it's a doldrum where marine food accumulates because of the confluence of wind, tide and current. But now they feed on plastic and die. This is a huge problem. Something needs to be done about it.

But people like de Rothschild are counterproductive to this issue.
Plastic bottles!! If he wants a 100% recyclable material (the driving issue) for building his boat, what better material than (recycled) wood? The saga of the development of the bottle boat Plastiki is mostly about money. For the capital spent, thousands of small efficient wooden vessels, made from wood debris bound for the landfill, could make the same voyage and involve so many concerned citizens that the media would be compelled to pay attention. Corporate (green foundation) financing would not be the driving motivation, and the impact would strike close to the heart of people everywhere.

The disposal of non-biodegradable products is a crisis, no doubt. The durability of plastic is one of the defining disposal issues of this century. But recycled disposable bottles can be made into useful products for a long time, even if no more plastic were manufactured from this day forward.

The quest to create a boat of the one material least likely to prove successful - as an exercise in the promotion of the environmental cause - points up the ludicrousity of big money riding a populist ideal.

A less quixotic enterprise would be to collect the entire Eastern Garbage Patch and recycle it.

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