Sunday, December 20, 2009

Cross-border Plastics - 1440 Bottles/day, Two Lightbulbs

In San Diego, we are (still) battling an ancient and ongoing problem which is unique to our local geography and regional political boundaries: sewage and trash washes across the border from Mexico into the US in San Diego County when the rains eventually come to sunny California & Baja. The Mexican city across the border, Tijuana, is largely unable to stop the flow, for many reasons, the main one being that the riverbed’s uphill watershed sits mainly on the Mexican side, with the sea-level riverbed finishing it’s flow to the ocean on the US side. That’s the simple explanation – believe me that it’s waaaaay/mucho more involved than that, but for our Rise Above Plastics concerns that’s all we need to know for now. (Surfrider’s Dan Murphy and the Tijuana river Citizen’s Council and others have even formed a coalition, cleverly named “NO B.S.” [the B.S. part mainly means “Border Sewage] to try to fix the problem – wish us luck! Check out the NO B.S. blog. Lotsa good photos 'n stuff there.)

What’s this got to do with plastics? Well, the Tijuana River valley empties into the ocean, which means that the trash (lotsa plastic and tires)…empties…into…the…ocean. The photos in a recent Voice of San Diego story show the extent of the trash problem – repeated smaller storms lay down layers of trash and sand, and larger storms that come along wash that stratified trash out the estuary and into the sea.

To see for myself, I made the 20 minute ride down there on a rainy day last year (bad one – horses died in the flooding that day). I was a tad underwhelmed to see only about one-plastic-bottle-per-minute float by, along with the trees, etc being flushed out in the chocolate-colored water. ONLY ONE PER MINUTE?? But, do the math grasshoppah – that’s 60 minutes per hour times 24 hours to a day = 1440 bottles added to the oceanic trash heap in that day alone – yikes! My little brain then tried to imagine how many semi-Third World rivers dump into the ocean around the globe – in areas muuuch more rainy than So Cal – double yikes! (Light bulb above the head) We have a major problem here…!

It’s surprising that we were ever surprised that the Pacific’s “floating trash heap” even existed – (light-bulb above head, again - DING!) OF COURSE, where else would all that stuff go off to? We/I/old-conventional-“thinking” always just figured that it went “away” – out of sight, out of mind, y’know?

At least we now know where “away” is =====> our silent oceans.