Friday, January 08, 2010

Walking Again, Dreaming Plastic Dreams

Chez Sven gets the New York Times Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. We love the paper, but are not at all enamored with the rain-or-shine packaging made out of blue plastic. For a number of years now the Times has come double-wrapped. I dumped a box of wrappers on Sven’s lap yesterday, a month’s worth, while telling him about Stephen Colbert’s interview with Captain Charles Moore, the man who discovered the garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean. I was especially struck by Moore's description of Hawaiian sand, full of colorful plastic bits. Here's some sand from a Wellfleet beach. No plastic is visible. Not yet, anyway. Thanks to Stumble Upon, I discovered an article about Daniel Burd, a high school student from Canada who won a $20,000 prize in a science fair for having found a way to make plastic bags degrade in three months. Let's hope this method bears fruit: “Burd’s strategy was simple: Since plastic does eventually degrade, it must be eaten by microorganisms. If those microorganisms, as well as the optimal conditions for their growth, could be identified, we could put them to work eating the plastic much faster than under normal conditions.”

Last week I saw tons of plastic on the beach in Truro: milk jugs, net bags for tangerines, balloons, lighters, toys, all washed up with the seaweed. What are people thinking when they throw this stuff away? Seagulls are not too bright. They gobble it up, in search of food. Check out the insides of this bird from Fake Plastic Fish. The EPA needs a mascot like Smokey the Bear, advising folks not to litter at sea, don’t you think?

I allowed Sven to convince me to go for a walk at LeCount Hollow, a much cleaner beach, to try out my new camera. Once spring weather makes travel easier, I plan to set up some camera lessons in Orleans. The beach was absolutely deserted. I love the mixture of wide stretches of sand and snow, almost perverse somehow in their juxtaposition, at least to our human brains. I thought about the rogue plastic problem while walking along.

It was exceptionally beautiful at LeCount Hollow. Winter walks on a beach are very different from summer walks, especially on days when a cold wind is blowing. Know why? In summer, one never wants to leave.