Paradise lost: Remote Henderson Island in the South Pacific is covered in 18 tons of our trash

Posted by DanielS on Tuesday, 16 May 2017 07:02.

Henderson Island has long been regarded as one of the most remote and pristine islands in the world, but trash washing up on shore is turning it into a landfill. - J. Lavers 2015

Popular Science
, “This remote island in the South Pacific is covered in 18 tons of our trash”, 15 May 2017:

Paradise lost

Henderson Island has long been regarded as one of the most remote and pristine islands in the world, but trash washing up on shore is turning it into a landfill.

Traveling by ship, it takes about 13 days to reach Henderson Island from New Zealand. Hidden in the South Pacific, 3000 miles from anywhere, this UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Pitcairns is “one of the most pristine islands left in the world, never inhabited by humans, rarely visited even for research purposes,” says Jennifer Lavers.

Hundreds of crabs, like this one photographed on Henderson Island, now make their homes out of plastic debris. J. Lavers 2015

After she and her colleagues disembarked on Henderson Island in May 2015 to do some ecology research, they didn’t see another ship until they got picked up at the end of August. But even though humans rarely touch the island, our fingerprints are all over it: during their stay, Lavers and her fellow researchers found that this remote island is home not only to endangered petrels and nesting sea turtles, but approximately 37,661,395 pieces of manmade trash.

Their findings are published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. After digging up a startling amount of garbage during their beach survey, Lavers (a marine ecotoxicologist from the University of Tasmania) and Alexander Bond (a conservation scientist from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) concluded that this remote island has the highest density of trash ever reported in nature.

By their calculations, Henderson is littered with at least 17.6 tons of (mostly plastic) trash—and every square meter of the beach gets around 27 new pieces of junk added to its collection every day.

David Barnes, a marine ecologist who studies plastic pollution at the British Antarctic Survey, calls this number ‘pretty scary.’ “In less than a century, plastic has made a world of difference in so many ways. We may spend centuries undoing some of the very serious problems, even if we start now,” he says. “Unfortunately the most remote wilderness spots are becoming testament to the scale of the problem, not just for biodiversity but for us.”

What’s scarier is that Henderson Island’s 17.6 tons is nothing compared to the the total weight of garbage on the planet. In fact, we create exactly that much plastic every two seconds. (Here’s a list of a few ways you can cut down on the amount the trash you generate, just in case you’re now panicking like I am.) Five trillion bits of plastic are estimated to be swilling around our oceans, but we don’t know where most of it ends up once it gets there. Today’s study indicates that remote islands like Henderson may be holding onto some of those “lost” plastics, becoming our unintentional landfills.

“Remote studies like this help us to understand rates of accumulation, composition, and fate of plastic pollution,” says Barnes, who was not involved in the study. Although the amount of trash that gets deposited varies from coastline to coastline, Lavers and Bond hope that doing more beach surveys will help to plug in some of the missing pieces of the plastics puzzle. Plus, these studies are cheaper than trawling through the garbage patches in the ocean.

“The human footprint is everywhere,” says Lavers, “and it runs deeper than most of us imagine.”



Comments:


1

Posted by Trump pulls out of Paris climate accord on Fri, 02 Jun 2017 15:00 | #

Telegraph, “Donald Trump pulls US out of Paris climate accord to ‘put American workers first”, 2 June 2017:

  Barack Obama leads chorus of condemnation
  France, Italy, Germany defend Paris Accord; ‘no renegotiation’
  Macron delivers unprecedented English address against Trump
  Elon Musk quits Trump’s advisory councils after decision
  Theresa May tells Trump of ‘disappointment’ over decision

Donald Trump has announced that he will withdraw the US from the Paris climate change agreement.

The decision was condemned immediately by environmental campaigners and by the president’s political opponents who said it heralded the death of America’s position as a global leader.

 


2

Posted by MIT Dr. Reilly cries for planet on Sat, 03 Jun 2017 01:08 | #

Dr. Reilly, whose MIT study was misrepresented by Trump as justification to pull out of the Paris agreement is not as concerned for his personal reputation -  he literally broke down in tears when he said that he is “not so much concerened bout his career as is concerned about where the planet is heading.”


3

Posted by Al Ross on Sat, 03 Jun 2017 03:24 | #

It is imperative that President Trump earmarks taxpayers’ money , oh wait, no, it’s borrowed from China, to compensate China with regard to Gullible, sorry Global Warming.


4

Posted by DanielS on Sat, 03 Jun 2017 04:08 | #

The money issue is one thing, not sure how that calculates yet - economic travesties are quite possible under its rubric. However, we all have a stake in the environment irrespective of that. The reason I put a comment on the warming issue under this post, is because Henderson Island is graphic illustration of world not so big as to not be impacted by human waste and effluence.


5

Posted by Big oil lauds Paris pullout but warns rising sea on Wed, 14 Jun 2017 04:24 | #

Reveal News, “Big Oil lauds Paris pullout but warns of rising seas, severe storms”, 12 June 2017:

Fossil fuel companies are among the biggest supporters of President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord. Yet federal documents reveal that some companies are well aware of the severe risks of a warming planet.

In filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, several oil and pipeline companies acknowledge that climate change – which the fossil fuel industry has contributed to significantly – could undermine their bottom line and threaten their most valuable physical assets, including pipelines, oil storage “tank farms” and export terminals.

“Climate change may adversely affect our facilities and our ongoing operations,” reported Phillips 66, in 2015 and 2016 annual risk assessments to the SEC. The threats, according to the company’s filings, “include rising sea levels at our coastal facilities, changing storm patterns and intensities, and changing temperature levels.”

“As many of our facilities are located near coastal areas, rising sea levels may disrupt our ability to operate those facilities or transport crude oil and refined petroleum products,” the company states in its SEC 10-K filings. “Extended periods of such disruption could have an adverse effect on our results of operation. We could also incur substantial costs to protect or repair these facilities.”

       
A Port Arthur, Texas, petrochemical facility is covered in floodwaters in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita.Credit: David J. Phillip/Associated Press

Fossil fuels produced by oil and gas companies are by far the leading contributor of greenhouse gases that are warming the planet. More than 5,000 million metric tons of carbon dioxide were emitted in the United States from the combustion of fossil fuels in 2014, out of the total greenhouse gas national inventory of about 6,900 million metric tons.

Mandated by the SEC, the companies’ annual 10-K reports are intended to warn investors about all future risks to their assets and income.

“Some climatic models indicate that global warming is likely to result in rising sea levels, increased intensity of hurricanes and tropical storms, and increased frequency of extreme precipitation and flooding,” states the 2014 10-K filing from oil infrastructure giant Kinder Morgan, which owns or operates 84,000 miles of pipeline.

“We may experience increased insurance premiums and deductibles, or a decrease in available coverage, for our assets in areas subject to severe weather,” the company added. “To the extent these phenomena occur, they could damage our physical assets, especially operations located in low-lying areas near coasts and river banks, and facilities situated in hurricane-prone regions.”

Some companies edge close to climate denial in their filings, while hedging their bets.

“As a commercial enterprise, we are not in a position to validate or repudiate the existence of global warming or various aspects of the scientific debate,” declared Enterprise Products, the $52 billion pipeline and oil storage company, in its 2016 10-K filing. “However, if global warming is occurring, it could have an impact on our operations. For example, our facilities that are located in low lying areas such as the coastal regions of Louisiana and Texas may be at increased risk due to flooding, rising sea levels, or disruption of operations from more frequent and severe weather events.”

Yet companies that, even cautiously, give a nod to the potential threat of climate change stand in contrast to the ongoing denial within the Trump administration and the president’s decision to quit the Paris accord.

Recently Trump has sent mixed signals on whether he thinks climate change is real and caused by human activity. But he has repeatedly called it a “hoax,” and reportedly cited inaccurate weather reports as reason to doubt climate science and to abandon the Paris deal. (This did not stop Trump’s business operation from explicitly citing global warming and sea-level rise in a 2016 application to build a seawall to protect Trump’s Irish golf course.)

Environmental Protection Agency Director Scott Pruitt, whose close ties with energy companies have been widely reported, said in March that he did “not agree” that human activity is “a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.” Last month Pruitt said that “human activity contributes to it in some manner.”

Some companies seem progressive compared with these comments from Trump and his administration. Royal Dutch Shell on its website acknowledges “the significance of climate change” and endorses various “pathways to decarbonisation.”

[...]

 



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