Our Plastisphere future?
When I was an environmental student in the early 90s, I chose the Mediterranean for a study on transboundary pollution. From memory, oil pollution into that sea worked out at over 17 Exxon Valdez disasters every year. That Alaskan tanker spill was still big news back then, driving a lot of environmental awareness. In contrast, 17 equivalent marine disasters in the Mediterranean, year on year: barely commented on. Of course, oil pollution’s just one facet of what we’re now learning to call the ‘plastisphere’ – the planetary zone that encompasses the discarded petroleum-based products and packaging that’s smothering rivers and swirling in ocean eddies, but also the leaked, spilt and spewed fossil fuels with which we make the plastics and push them around the world.
Ironic, perhaps, that these discards of industrial life, derived from the pre-human decay of extinct lifeforms, are now discovered to be the birthplace of new life. Research is uncovering the swarms of bacterial life that’s stewing and evolving in the oceanic soups of micro, meso and macroplastics caught up in the currents of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans and, yes, the Mediterranean. Six kilos of plastic to every kilo of plankton = plentiful post-human breeding ground.