De omnibus dubitandum
7 Nov 2009
You’ve probably heard of the so-called ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch‘, a giant floating debris field in the Pacific ocean believed to be twice the size of Texas. Apparently vast oceanic currents circle this patch and cause all sort of plastic garbage to gather and float there, as a testament to excessive human waste.
Now I’m as eager as the next cynical bastard to denounce humanity’s treatment of the planet, but has anyone ever seen this great garbage patch? It should be pretty hard to miss, being twice the size of Texas and all. We sure don’t seem to have a problem spotting Texas on a map.
Yet there are no pictures or videos of any kind of the garbage patch anywhere to be found. No visual evidence at all.
Yes, say the environmental pundits, that’s because it’s all floating just beneath the surface! Clever, eh?
But hey, fish float beneath the surface too, but we’re not lacking any photographic evidence of their existence, are we? If this garbage patch really is so huge and so full of plastic debris, why aren’t there hundreds of Cousteau-type marine explorers coming back with rolls of underwater film shot full of pictures and images?
Because, *drum-roll*…. the garbage patch doesn’t actually exist. At least, not as we imagine it. Apparently the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ is an area with “elevated concentrations of microscopic plastic particles” too small to see with the naked eye. So this is really the Great Invisible Pacific Garbage Patch.
Not quite so dramatic, is it? Invisible microscopic pieces of plastic don’t make good Greenpeace protest banners or background shots for CNN headline news.
The moral of this story? Don’t believe everything you’re told. Whether it’s right-wing propaganda excremented by Faux News or left-wing treehugger nonsense, submit it to a healthy dose of skeptical enquiry before you start repeating it.
Everyone’s entitled to an opinion, but no one is entitled to an uninformed opinion.