Branson, the billionaire, and Cousteau, the filmmaker, set off to discover what lies beneath the deep blue waves and came back with astonishing findings. Discover the Great Blue Hole’s secrets, and learn all about the wonders of our oceans. If we don’t stop and pay attention, those magnificent findings might soon be gone.
A Giant Mysterious Marine Sinkhole
This incredible vista has been dubbed “The Blue Hole of Belize.” It is a beautiful landmark and has been rumored to hide some very dark secrets.
The blue hole appears as if it were a portal into the abyss, perhaps going as far down as any submarine can go. This larger-than-life location has been the source of much discussion.
The Beginning of a Wonderful Adventure
Recently, a group of scientists and conservationists decided to tackle the challenge. The group was led by Sir Richard Branson, the billionaire business mogul and owner of the Virgin brand, and Jacques Cousteau’s explorer grandson, Fabien Cousteau, an aquanaut, ocean conservationist, and documentary filmmaker.
In 2018, the group set out to explore the abyss and map its properties for the first time in history. What they discovered at the bottom of this piece of nature will shock and amaze you.
Journey to the Caribbean
Fabien Cousteau is the grandson of renowned French explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau. He has been a scuba diver since the young age of four and collaborated with National Geographic numerous times to help change the public's view on sharks. Throughout his career, Fabien discovered many incredible things and explored various depths that many would not dare venture into.
Despite the explorer's vast experience, his most exciting mission was just about to begin. Fabien was about to embark on an exploration of the legendary Great Blue Hole. This mythical vista is located on the west coast of the Caribbean Sea, just next to the Central American nation of Belize. Nobody had ventured into it yet, which meant that it was potentially the most dangerous mission of his life.
An Incredible Ecosystem
The blue miracle that is the Belize Barrier Reef is one of the most incredible natural phenomena that can be found on Earth’s oceans. It is a large part of what is referred to as the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. This reef starts from Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula and stretches all the way to Honduras, making it almost the largest reef of this kind in the world. It is second only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Clearly an incredible view for tourists and visitors, this area also holds terrible secrets which have yet to be explored or even discovered.
The father of evolutionary theory, Charles Darwin, also sailed these oceans in 1842. Upon traveling the Belize Barrier Reef, Darwin famously claimed that it was “the most remarkable reef in the West Indies.” The famous ‘Great Blue Hole’ stands just at the center of the reef, challenging visitors to come to visit it at their peril.
Promising Yet Dangerous Depths
What attracts men and women to carry out this dangerous mission is the thing at the center of the Great Blue Hole. This dark blue circle stares at you like an eye, inviting you into the abyss. For years, mankind has been fascinated with the ocean and its depths, imagining mythical creatures and vast treasures hiding at its bottom, and these explorers were about to dive straight into it. Nobody had any idea what would they would find there, and the speculations ranged from an elaborate natural illusion to the mythical giant octopus, the Kraken.
The depths of the Great Blue Hole have been estimated at over 400 feet, making it even deeper down than the lengths of two Boeing 747 airplanes. Divers all across the world have attempted to see what’s at the bottom, but nobody has come even close. There are actually steep requirements for anyone who wants to go there, as divers must complete at least 24 dives before being allowed to take the plunge.
Carrying His Grandfather’s Legacy
Fabien Cousteau was facing the mission of exploring the Great Blue Hole not just out of professional desire but also for personal reasons. He was, after all, the grandson of Jacques Cousteau, one of the world’s most famous oceanographers. Back in 1971, Jacques had gone to the famous Great Blue Hole but could not explore it because the technology at the time was not sufficient. The legendary French ocean explorer dubbed the Great Blue Hole one of the world’s most important diving spots.
Now, more than four decades later, ocean exploration tech has improved beyond our wildest dreams. Divers such as Fabien are now equipped with technology that can potentially give them unlimited exploration capacities. Up to this day, no diver has ever managed to explore the depths of this miracle of nature. Luckily for Fabien, he was backed up by one of the world’s richest, most powerful, and most adventurous explorers the world has ever seen, Sir Richard Charles Branson.
All of Virgin’s Resources on His Side
The legendary English business magnate, Sir Richard Branson, is one of the world’s most beloved and successful entrepreneurs. One of the things that make Branson such a unique individual is his love of exploration and trying out new ideas, along with the resources of a multi-billionaire. He cares deeply about our planet and has a sly sense of adventure when it comes to challenging and daring missions. When Branson first heard of the Great Blue Hole in Belize, he saw an opportunity.
Richard Branson and Fabien Cousteau teamed up for a mission into the Great Blue Hole. The two also recruited oceanographer Erika Bergman as their main pilot. The three were extremely excited about this journey, and we're excited to make history. None of them had any clue what was lurking in the depths of the Great Blue Hole, but they were going to do whatever it took to find out.
Environment Explorer and Advocate
Since the '90s, Branson has been involved in various humanitarian causes. He worked with Nelson Mandela to try and solve a variety of global conflicts, helped found and sponsor the International Center for Missing & Exploited Children, and opened a school of entrepreneurship in South Africa. All this before 2005. In 2006, Branson also pledged to invest $3 billion towards helping address the concerns of global warming advocates and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
Branson also hosted an environmental event at one of his private islands in the Caribbean, where he likely received the idea of exploring the Great Blue Hole in Belize. If there's anyone who is suited for this mission, it surely is this adventurous and extravagantly wealthy dude. His vast access to financial resources and positive “let’s get it done” mentality was just the right thing for this kind of mission. But even Branson wasn’t prepared for what the group was about to find.
The World Was Watching
The scope and size of this mission drew countless viewers from all over the world. While we have seen men and women attempt to fly into space in the past, there was never such a televised adventure into the depths of the earth. This scientific team was backed by one of the best divers in the world, as well as the world’s most extravagant billionaire. While geologists pondered the depth and properties of the Great Blue Hole, audiences at home were excited about the novelty. Many people truly believed that the team was going to find a giant monster down there, or perhaps even a few of them.
Richard Branson had referred to the mission as a “planetary inner space” exploration. This was truly the closest thing you can get to a real-life science fiction film. Young Americans who grew up reading Henry Melville's "Moby Dick" all had a chance to relive their childhood memory through this great mission. The team was as prepared as they could be, all equipment was functioning and ready, and the audience at home was full of excitement. This mission was ready to begin, and the whole world was watching as the entire event was televised live on the Discovery Channel.
In an epic start to the journey, the team of Richard Branson, Fabien Cousteau, and their trusty pilot, Erika Bergman, entered their submarine and started descending. Audiences could see the submarine as it slowly went down into the giant dark blue hole. As if the event wasn't entertaining enough, the three brilliant explorers were cracking jokes and making observations every step of the way. Their aquatic submarine was top of the line and gave an almost 360-degree view into the action.
The team kept descending for about 10 minutes inside their submarine until they began to get close to the walls of the blue hole. To many, this vista looked like the result of a giant bomb or asteroid, one that blew a 400-foot hole right inside the ocean. At first, it appeared to the experienced team that the formations of this hole were steep and mechanic. As they kept descending into the depths, Branson, Cousteau, and Bergman soon found out that they were in a completely different location than they had ever expected.
Weird Cave Configurations
When the team began reaching the bottom of the Great Blue Hole, they began finding strange formations inside its caves. Something about the geology didn’t look right, and they had a strong suspicion that it was once above the surface. The vegetation and stalactites of the caves had pointed clearly to it not being underwater at one point. The two experts clearly identified that many of the structures that they found were created on dry land. This was completely baffling to the team — how could a cave that is more than 400 feet deep once have been above water?
There was only one possible culprit in Branson’s eyes. It was the same force that he had been fighting for many years now and spent billions to alleviate. Fabien Cousteau and Erika Bergman also knew what the most likely cause of this unexpected phenomenon was. For them, it could only spell a horrible sign of things that may come again in the future. So how does a cave that is found tens of miles away from any land possibly go from being above ground to more than 400 feet beneath the ocean? Branson was about to reveal the answer.
Branson’s Dire Warning
In an almost movie-like realization, the team understood that they were not diving into a hole in the ocean but climbing down what was once a series of mountains. For Richard Branson, this was the strongest evidence he had ever seen of the dangers that climate change poses. To him, this was “One of the starkest reminders of the danger of climate change” and should be televised and explained for the entire world to notice. This large hole was caused at the end of an ice age by a melting series of icebergs of magnitudes that are virtually unimaginable in today’s perception.
This entire area was once a large piece of land and was completely swamped by the rising sea levels in the Caribbean. Luckily, history, geography, and biology always leave traces, which allowed the team to easily figure out which rocks were underwater in the past and which ones were not. Right at the 300-foot depth mark, the team noticed a considerable shift in the color and kind of rocks they were looking at. This was a clear sign for them that anything below that point was underwater for a much longer time.
Historical Evidence in the Cave’s Walls
Even before the three brave explorers went on a mission, another team of researchers had already done some investigating of their own. What these experts found was the potential answer to a huge historical mystery and would help explain the incredible findings of Sir Richard Branson, Erika Bergman, and Fabien Cousteau many years later. The earlier team of explorers consisted of researchers from Louisiana State University and Rice University. They were tasked with trying to figure out what chemical compositions could be found in the walls of the Great Blue Hole.
You see, many thousands of years ago, there was a civilization in Belize that went extinct for unknown reasons. The team believed that there was a relationship between their disappearance and the Great Blue Hole. They were looking for geological evidence to provide a correlation between the two phenomena. The Great Blue Hole could be traced back to about 1000 CE, which coincided with the decline of the Belizean civilizations there. These researchers happened to discover exactly what they were looking for.
An Entire Civilization, Gone
The Mayans were the original inhabitants of Belize and its surrounding areas. They lived and thrived for many years but mysteriously began disappearing and immigrating away from their homes. For many years, archaeologists, historians, and scientists couldn’t explain why. Some believed that it had something to do with war, while others blamed the phenomena on overpopulation. While these explanations made sense at the time, recent discoveries proved that they could not be true. One possible answer was that the Great Blue Hole might have played a part in it.
Samples gathered from the walls of the Great Blue Hole initially surprised the researchers. They found out that there were extremely low levels of titanium and aluminum on these rocks. These two elements are usually found on rocks after tropical storms. What this meant was that the Mayans could have been wiped out due to a terrible drought that lasted many centuries. They had millions of mouths to feed, and drought was just a reason for them to immigrate. Despite the magnitude of this discovery, what researchers found at the bottom was of even greater importance.
Submerged Death Trap
Towards the bottom of the Great Blue Hole, Branson, Cousteau, and Bergman were shocked to discover a deadly death trap. The wall in front of them was filled with a 20-foot thick layer of hydrogen sulfide, enough to kill any creature that came in contact with it. This was one of the reasons why Fabien’s legendary grandfather, Jacques Cousteau, never dared to dive there. Luckily for the team, they were submerged inside one of the world’s most advanced submarines.
The team paved its way through countless numbers of dead sea creatures. This was a horrible graveyard of crabs, conchs, and other creatures that had the misfortune of slamming into the hydrogen sulfide wall. The horrified team live-streamed the entire ordeal, not knowing what they were going to find. As they delved even deeper into the lower layers, they were about to find something that horrified them more than anything they’d seen up to that point.
Almost Hit Rock Bottom
The crew managed to carefully pass through the dangerous hydrogen sulfide wall thanks to their state-of-the-art submarine. As they descended to the bottom of the Great Blue Hole, everyone’s excitement levels began to rise. Branson, Cousteau, and Bergman were focused and prepared for what they might encounter. This was an especially important event for the group’s veteran diver, Fabien Cousteau, who finally had a chance to expand on his grandfather’s legacy.
The world was watching as the crew got closer and closer to the bottom. They began to see the ground finally and were planning on clearing up the mysteries that the Great Blue Hole held. They were the first people to ever reach this depth and were planning on going all the way. At this point, the group knew that it was highly unlikely to find any living thing at the bottom. There was simply no chance that anything could have survived the descent through the thick hydrogen sulfide wall.
A Shocking Discovery
Forms began to appear on the floor of the Great Blue Hole as their flashlights lit it up. They began seeing weird shapes and shadows on the ground, almost man-like in their substance. What they saw, along with millions of viewers, made them disgusted and terrified. What was found at the bottom of the mythical Great Blue Hole after so many years was not Mayan sculptures or incredibly natural vistas. It was garbage, human garbage. Tons and tons of junk and waste, and mostly non-degradable plastic products.
The group was visibly horrified to find mountains of empty bottles, plastic bags, and other man-made non-degradable materials polluting the bottom of the ocean. These were death traps to living creatures, and although no living thing was found there — there is a good chance that these objects killed many curious creatures on their way down. At this point, most of the mystery was gone. What was once an exciting and unknown mission led to one of their biggest disappointments. Although their underwater mission was ending, for Richard Branson, the real mission had just begun.
The True Threat Lurking Inside Oceans
While the expedition into the Great Blue Hole was meant to uncover mysteries of the ocean, it ended up being a reminder of our own faults and misbehavior. There were no giant mythical sea monsters at the bottom of the Great Blue Hole, only a reminder of how much pollution we cause as humans. Richard Branson, who was already an avid environmentalist, took this opportunity to pursue his mission with even more vigor and urgency.
The multi-billionaire business mogul had partnered with Ocean Unite, a conglomerate of conservationists from many different disciplines and professions. They had been actively promoting awareness of the importance of conserving our blue oceans. Mankind has wreaked havoc on these aquatic areas in the last century. A large percentage of the fish population has gone extinct during that time, while countless tons of non-degradable waste has been sent to the bottom of the ocean. It rots there and pollutes the waters, killing fish through suffocation and accidental trapping every second of the day.
Richard Branson’s Environmental Goal
Richard Branson has made it one of his life’s missions to help make at least 30% of earth’s oceans into protected areas. These protective statuses guarantee that fishing and polluting will be either highly regulated or practically non-existent. People who violate these laws are subject to heavy fines and even legal punishments. There is a strong movement towards conserving our oceans, and the fish population is already beginning to make a recovery.
Both Ocean Unite and Richard Branson predict that at least 30% of the world’s oceans will gain protected status by 2030. This coincides with many other ambitious global goals, such as completely annihilating poverty by the same date. Shortly before his journey into the Great Blue Hole, Branson sat down with Belize’s then-Prime Minister, Dean Barrow. In their meeting, the business mogul convinced him to turn at least 10% of this Central American country’s ocean area into a protected zone. Branson also convinced Barrow to ban gill nets, which cause substantial harm to the ocean’s inhabitants.
Facing Issues and Fixing Them
Branson was happy to discover that both Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize, and his wife are avid supporters of conserving the oceans. The three set up an important meeting after the diving team returned from the Great Blue Hole. The respectable politician and his wife sat down with Branson, who explained exactly what he had found. He described and showed them all of the plastic waste sitting at the bottom of the vista and the dangers it held. What concerned Branson and the other two crew members was what would happen to the garbage if it wasn’t taken care of.
Branson explained that if the plastic doesn’t get cleaned up, there is a strong chance that it will spill into the rest of the ecosystem. If this much plastic waste begins traveling freely across Belize’s ocean, it could cause a massive death toll on its inhabitants. The Prime Minister and his wife were extremely supportive of Branson’s ideas and promised to work with him to solve this problem. They planned on making an announcement with their plans.
Living Life By Example
The British billionaire chose to make a large change in all of his airlines, which would undoubtedly affect the environment in a very positive way. He asked that all companies under his supervision pledge to stop using single-use plastics on their flights. Airlines generally use millions of these plastic products, as they serve hundreds of people multiple times per flight.
Branson claims that much of his motivation to help reduce global pollution comes from his grandkids. The thought of them having to live in a world without corals and many of the ocean’s inhabitants is very sad to him. This is why the billionaire works very hard to make sure that our future on this planet is a better one. The country of Belize has also taken major strides in the same direction, thanks to the crew’s visit to the Great Blue Hole. One of the biggest advancements they have made was a pledge to end the consumption of single-use plastics in 2019.
Branson’s Love of Planet Earth
Sociologists have found that the more money a country’s citizens make on average, the more environmentally aware they become. Most people in poor countries are busy surviving and feeding their children, which makes pollution and climate change a secondary priority for them. Someone like Branson has much to be grateful for and works hard to show it. The business mogul has recently started a campaign to dedicate an entire island in the Caribbean to help the endangered ring-tailed lemur species procreate and flourish there.
Branson has also led various other companies to be more environmentally friendly. He hosts an annual Special Award for Environment, which helps motivate the companies, and he is also a member of OceanElders, an organization that constitutes various influential people who are devoted to helping raise awareness for the environment. But what do these highly successful individuals do to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to helping end pollution and reduce climate change?
Celebrities and Influencers for the Rescue
Luckily, many of the world’s most successful and influential individuals have already pledged much of their time and wealth to the environment. These actors, businessmen, and influencers not only donate large portions of their wealth to these causes but also seek to educate young minds on the importance of preserving our environment. The sobering reality of the plastic pollution situation in the Great Blue Hole was just the beginning of what’s actually happening inside our oceans.
Celebrity Leonardo DiCaprio also created a foundation that is devoted to helping boost organizations that seek to clean our earth’s environment. He is the founder of the Plastic Solutions Fund, which seeks to help reduce the consumption of single-use plastic as close to zero as possible. It seems that this trend of environmentalism will only grow over the next few years. Outside of the Great Blue Hole in Belize, there is another ocean crisis that is happening in Egypt. Things there are just as bad, if not worse.
Egypt’s Blue Oceanic Wonder
The Middle East’s Red Sea is considered the most northern tropical sea on earth. It starts in southern Israel and stretches all the way to the south of Yemen. It’s one of the most diverse parts of the sea and is filled with beautiful and colorful fish and coral. The most amazing part of the Red Sea is the Sinai Peninsula, which should be on the bucket list of every diving enthusiast. The Sinai Peninsula acts as a bridge between Asia and Africa and stretches over about 23,000 square miles.
The Sinai Peninsula got its name due to being the home of the Biblical Mount Sinai, which is one of the most important places in the world for Christians, Jews, and Muslims. It is considered a rich tourist destination, not only because of its beautiful vistas and colorful coral reefs but also due to having deep religious significance and history. The Sinai Peninsula also has what we referred to earlier as a "Blue Hole." Although it is way smaller in size in comparison to the Great Blue Hole in Belize, it still has a very frightening reputation.
Widely Accessible to All
What made the Great Blue Hole in Belize unique was just how far removed it was from anything in the region. You had to take a long boat ride just to get to it, which meant that there weren’t many visitors there. In contrast, the Red Sea’s Blue Hole, which resides in the Sinai Peninsula, is so easily accessible that you can get to it from the rocky shores of the beach. While Sinai’s Blue Hole is just as captivating and attractive as the one in Belize, it is much more dangerous and potentially fatal to inexperienced divers and unsuspecting tourists.
This attractive area almost calls you to scan it and jump straight in. Everything there looks comfortable and relatively safe, most likely due to its proximity to the beach. This also gives the illusion that because you’re so close to the beach, the water must not be that deep. While it may be true in some areas, it's very much based on your location. Depending on where you enter Sinai’s Blue Hole, you’ll either find yourself in an enjoyable deep dive or in a tough fight for your life.
The main culprit behind Sinai’s Blue Hole's notorious danger is a structure known as “The Arch”. This rocky structure creates a tunnel under the coral reef, it’s a beautiful and dark arch of rocks that stretches into the ocean, providing an exit to the sea. You swim through it to get from the Blue Hole into the open Red Sea, which rests on the other side of the reef. Many divers specifically go into the Blue Hole to have the pleasure of swimming through The Arch, only to find themselves regretting their decision minutes later.
The invisible threat that lurks in these peaceful and beautiful waters is the disorienting effect of The Arch. This passage causes many divers to lose their sense of direction, often making them swim down directly to their deaths. A very common phenomenon in flight is called “vertigo,” which describes a situation where the plane's pilot loses their sense of balance. While we may know about this phenomenon in regards to flying, it also occurs to divers. Nitrogen Narcosis is the illusion’s name, and it doesn’t matter how experienced or talented you may be — this can fatally affect the rest of the dive.
Almost all of us played a variation of the game where you take a baseball bat, hold it to the ground with your forehead, and spin in circles around it. The disorienting effect you get from doing that is not very different than what you might find as a diver swimming through The Arch. This vertigo effect is even more enhanced by a dangerous illusion. While swimming in this beautiful vista, you’ll likely think that the journey is much shorter than it actually is. This is caused by various lighting and depth illusions that our eyes aren’t built to deal with.
Many consider the Blue Hole in Sinai, especially The Arch, to be one of the most dangerous diving spots on the planet. It’s been estimated that over 200 people have died in these waters due to the disorienting nature of The Arch. While this sea corner may seem less important in the short term, it will have much more catastrophic consequences if not dealt with. We are talking about the pollution on the nearby shores.
Pollution Extends Further Than You Think
While most people agree that pollution is a very bad thing, most don’t know why or just how bad its extent is. The common belief is that these pollutants can mostly be found on our beaches and waters close to them, but the reality extends much further. Even if you travel all the way to the Mariana Trench, which resides in a distant part of the Pacific Ocean, man’s pollution would still be there. This area, which extends 36,000 away from the Red Sea, is absolutely littered with plastic bags. These are the same plastic bags that you use when buying milk at the grocery store.
Plastic bags act a lot like jellyfish and, by their floating nature, can travel as far as the waters will take them. This means that no matter how far you go into the ocean, plastic can get there. These pieces of non-degradable waste aren’t just bad for the environment, they also kill wildlife. Various scientists and divers try to document the location, amount, and effect of this pollution. They have collected pictures and videos documenting mankind’s wasteful habits for over three decades in the Deep-Sea Debris Database.
The Deep-Sea Debris Database
After three decades of meticulous recording, the Deep-Sea Debris Database reached various important conclusions. First and foremost, plastic is the main culprit behind the ocean’s pollution, specifically plastic bags. While you may find other materials in the oceans, such as wood, metal, rubber, and cloth, none of them are as destructive or as prevalent as plastic. Almost 90% of the plastic found in the ocean is single-use. This means that regular everyday objects such as disposable utensils, plastic cups, and water bottles are the biggest sources of pollution.
This is directly opposed to the common perception that most of the ocean’s waste comes from big corporations and factories, as these are clearly regular household items used by billions of people daily. You may think that a part of the ocean that’s as remote as the Mariana Trench is likely barren of life, but it actually hosts many living organisms, from beautiful coral to large octopuses. Unfortunately, they are in serious danger due to the plastic roaming around in the oceans and sitting at its bottom. When divers found out just how bad things were, they immediately published their findings.
Underwater Plastic Traps
When divers from NOAA’s Okeanos Explorer were sent to research the effects of plastic on underwater ocean inhabitants, the results they found were shocking. The group spent many days filming an area of the ocean that was littered with plastic. It wasn’t particularly crowded with either plastic or life but was a good example of the condition in many areas. The explorers found that out of thousands of pictures of plastic waste, almost 20% of them included an aquatic animal trapped in it, with many of these events causing suffocation and death.
The question that baffled researchers was just how all that plastic traveled tens of thousands of miles to a remote part of the ocean almost devoid of people. It’s clear that billions of people use plastic products, with many of those being thrown into the ocean. What was not clear was how did they get so far into the ocean. The going theory was that the plastic, which takes hundreds of years to break down, basically traveled all the way from other places in the ocean. The only thing that was left to test was just how fast the plastic spreads. The answers our researchers found were utterly shocking for them.
Plastic Is Coming
A recent study that was conducted in the Mariana Trench found that it actually has a higher level of pollution than some of the most polluted rivers in China. The reason for these levels of pollution is the result of two destructive phenomena. The first is plastic breakdown. Over time, the pieces of plastic that are discarded into the ocean on beaches and from ships tend to break down. As more pieces of plastic utensils, bottles, and bags begin to break, the levels of pollution only continue to get worse. The second phenomenon is even worse.
The Mariana Trench is a very central spot in the ocean. This means that it often attracts ocean waves and water movements that move directly in its direction. These flows of water drag all the plastic waste from the beaches right into these central areas. What makes these phenomena so frightening is that it makes the entire ocean susceptible to pollution, as every area can be covered in plastic that traveled to it from a completely different place. There is nothing stopping waste from reaching secluded places like the Mariana Trench, which puts all of the ocean’s inhabitants at risk.
You Dropped Your Net
Apparently, another major source of pollution is the fishing gear that is often discarded by fishermen. Large boats carrying tens or even hundreds of people are often used for hunting down large masses of fish for selling. These fish suffer a brutal fate on their own, without even considering all the plastic waste they might choke on on the way. Once they collect enough fish, these fishermen drop their used equipment into the bottom of the ocean, where they wreak even more havoc.
According to a 2017 study, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a massive part of the ocean the size of Texas, contains mostly fishing equipment in its large swatch of floating debris. This area, which is located between California and Hawaii, contains much of the trash discussed earlier. The more it breaks down over time and spreads in the ocean, the harder it will be to tackle it in due time. This can be avoided by simply being more environmentally conscious, which is why awareness of the problem is of utmost importance.
The Ocean’s Plastic Karma
The disastrous consequences of plastic pollution go far beyond just trapping and suffocating marine life. When plastic breaks down, it also finds its way into the stomach and bloodstream of various sea creatures, causing them to suffer from horrible medical conditions which slowly kill them. These various fish, which we end up eating, are often contaminated with not just mercury but also various pieces of plastic.
It’s almost as if the oceans wash up our garbage only to serve it right back onto our plates. By now, there’s no part of the ocean that hasn't been affected by human waste due to the nature of these pieces of plastic to break down and travel. Recent research by scientists from Newcastle University found that even at almost 11,000 meters below sea level, almost every living sea creature there has eaten some sort of man-made material, including PVA, PVC, plastics, and nylon. What do medical professionals have to say about this karmic cycle?
A Professional Opinion
By loitering the oceans with plastic, we force other animals to inject the polluting non-degradable plastic, which chokes and poisons them. These sea animals then get eaten either by us or other living ocean creatures (who are also eaten by us eventually). Dr. Alan Jamieson, a marine ecology professor and the head of the aforementioned study, explains that “there were instances where the fibers could actually be seen in the stomach contents as they were being removed,” He claims that these results were both “immediate and startling.”
The pollution problem is already at a much higher level than what is considered reasonable. Even if we completely stop plastic pollution today, there would still be more than we can handle in the oceans. While we wait to solve this problem, plastics keep breaking down in the ocean, making them even harder to track and extract. In addition, the ocean’s flows also keep spreading plastic all across the seas.
Many parts of the ocean have already given way to the plastic infestation that’s common in many countries. Entire water areas are covered in plastic and are unrecognizable when compared to even 50 years ago. Some of these water locations have become dumping spots for plastics, which eliminates any hope of an animal being able to live there. Once people discover that they have completely destroyed a given body of water, they will usually use this as an excuse to dump even more garbage rather than less.
Eventually, these pieces of plastic, which are currently too big to move, will break down into smaller pieces that are able to travel. Don’t be surprised in the future if we have to put plastic warning labels on fish products due to this ever-increasing situation. “This is a very worrying find. Isolating plastic fibers from inside animals from nearly 11 km deep just shows the extent of the problem,” Dr. Jamieson said about the study’s findings. “This is global,” he emphasized.
These Statistics Should Worry You
Researchers claim that about eight million tons of plastic get thrown into the oceans annually. They also estimate that there are currently about 300 million tons of plastic waste and garbage floating in the middle of the ocean. These pieces of plastic are also breaking down as you read this and turning into smaller, more nimble, and easily digestible pieces of food, which will undoubtedly end up in our stomachs at some point or another. Researchers estimate that by 2050, there will be much more plastic than fish in the ocean.
Based on research that was done by Greenpeace UK’s Oceans department, there are about 51 trillion microplastic particles in the ocean. Many experts believe that this level of pollution, coupled with the earth’s climate change, has a relatively high chance of causing an eventual animal extinction. The more polluted the oceans become, the more susceptible we are to other catastrophic calamities which might occur as a reaction.
A Growing Movement
While the facts about the disturbing consequences of our ocean’s pollution are in, it’s still up to people to actually make the change. We heavily rely on oceans to provide for us in many ways, so it only makes sense that we do the minimum of paying back this debt by not destroying them. Awareness of the problems of climate change and the ocean’s plight is the only thing that can start improving the situation. The damage to our oceans can only start being reversed once we go past a certain critical mass of people who participate in this global healing.
We should aim to be less dependent on various plastics such as plastic bags, straws, utensils, and packaging. On the other hand, we could divert these financial resources into supporting companies that use organic or biodegradable materials which do not cause this type of damage. Another solution would be to improve ocean surveillance, and heavily fine people found littering the oceans.
Young Environmental Icons
A young girl from Sweden named Greta Thunberg rose to prominence in August 2018 when she was just 15 years old. She spent her school days outside the Swedish parliament protesting the government's lack of action towards global warming and helped facilitate a full-blown school protest. She spoke at the 2018 United Nations Climate Change Conference, which reached millions of people.
She has since become one of the most prominent voices for environmental activism, as well as other related topics like slavery and equal rights. Many hailed her as a heroine, although she also received plenty of critical reactions from people who disliked her age or message.
Getting Proper Recognition
In 2019, Greta Thunberg was chosen as TIME Magazine’s 'Person of the Year.' This decision was hailed by many as one of the most inspiring actions the magazine has done in recent years. By boosting voices that promote environmentalism, we help put more pressure on various corporations and governments to take actions that relieve the rate of pollution. At the end of the day, there’s both a personal and a collective responsibility to ensure that our planet survives into the next century.
Thunberg has been applauded for her blunt and direct manner of speaking, which often includes graphic analogies to make her point. Earlier this year, more than 200 academics signed an open letter of support to Greta Thunberg, saying that they were moved and inspired by her actions and speech. She has inspired a large movement of environmental activists in what many call "The Greta Effect" and even got a reaction from U.S. President Donald Trump, as well as various other world leaders.
Vegetarianism on the Rise
One of the largest dietary changes that have occurred in recent decades is a large shift to vegetarian and vegan diets. The U.S. and various European countries are seeing a massive rise in vegans and vegetarians, as well as growing demand for these types of foods. Going vegan makes a huge difference in the environment, as the largest cause of climate change is animal agriculture. It is much easier today than it ever was, with various guides, books, and tutorials on every corner, as well as a vegan restaurant opening up on almost every street across major cities.
If you feel like making a huge difference in the environment while protecting animals’ lives and perhaps even improving your own, this might just be the right move for you. Many experts believe that veganism would become a dominant diet in the coming decades, as trends toward the diet have been rising exponentially faster since the late ‘90s.
Renewable Energy Is Also on the Rise
The massive commercial push towards renewable energy has excited the markets and attracted companies to invest in technologies that promote it. While various green-energy startups have failed over the last two decades due to a lack of commercial viability, it seems that key players have also started to take interest in this new direction. Various companies, such as Tesla, have made massive strides in advancing electrical cars and popularizing them for consumers.
The push towards green technology also brings with it a sense of comradery. For example, Tesla doesn’t hold any patents and lets other companies adopt their technological advancements. This move is clearly not a profit-driven one — it speaks volumes about the good-natured pursuit of profits when it’s based on moral principles, such as environmentalism. This leads companies and corporations to adopt a much more holistic and cooperative attitude.