Wednesday, October 26, 2011

2014 - If We Survive the Mayan Doomsday We Will Be Consumed By Ocean Debris!!!

So all of the sudden the Internet is abuzz with articles about the massive amount of debris making it's way from Japan to the US West Coast. I've been thinking for the past few days what my subject would be for my next blog, because I know at least 2 or possibly 3 of you would be hanging on my next entry. Then this little gem comes across my laptop screen on Tuesday morning.

I like this story, it's got some legs to it. You read it once and don't believe it, you read it twice and start doing the math and it blows your mind, then you think about it little while longer and you realize this has all the earmarks of Y2K or 2012 all over it. The press is going to run with this one I bet and scare us all into buying ridiculous amounts of bottled water. So lets look at this and break it down, shall we?

In case you haven't already heard, there is a massive collection of debris that is floating it's way across the Pacific Ocean and is slated to arrive on US shores sometime around 2014. This debris is from the Tsunami in Japan last spring following the 9.0 magnitude earthquake that occured. The time frame on this is a little unclear though. Some of the articles seem to be jumping on the "It's going to get here wayyyy faster bandwagon", but the general concensus seems to be that the debris will start to wash up in Hawaii in 2013 and the following year in the Pacific Northwest region of North America.

So that's it, we will all be over run by radioactive garbage on the pacific shores right? Don't fret, experts don't believe that there will be much in the way of radioactive materials, their reasoning is that only a small amount of the debris washed out to sea came from the area of Fukushima.  As for that debris which comes from the affected area, worry not as experts maintain that saturation in salt water for such a long duration should bring levels of radioactivity down to very trace amounts. The fact that a Russian freighter pulled a fishing boat out of the debris that hailed from the region of Fukushima will no doubt be pointed out by the press to scare the bejeezus out of everyone. This fact seems to be popping up in a lot of these articles and are probably what gave it the legs for the story to appear on news outlets around the world.

What did scare the bejeezus out of me when I first starting reading these articles was the sheer volume of debris headed our way. Experts estimate 5-20 million tons of debris. So at their high estimate that would 40,000,000,000 lbs of trash. Yep, let that sink in and think about it. 40 billion pounds. So I started doing math... and it got scarier. Let's break it down;
  • The maximum weight limit for a 40' cargo container (on average) is 44,000 lbs. So if you loaded 40' containers (the kind you see everyday on the highway and trains by the way) with all of the debris to haul it away you would need approximately 909,091 containers loaded to the maximum weight limit.
  • The combined total imports for 2010 into the United States for the top 5 importers, Wal Mart, Target, Home Depot, Lowe's & Sears is approx 980,000 40' containers. So imagine every product we will buy from all these guys combined over a one year period, that's what is floating over here.
  • New York City produces on average a total of 25,000 tons of trash per day which means that this would be around 800 days worth of the Big Apple's trash.
  • As of 2008, the average citizen produced 4.5 lbs of trash per day. With an average population of 300,000,000 people in the United States, that means that this would be the equivilant of 29.6 days worth of trash landing on shore.
In a word, Yikes!

So can you imagine if this were true? The way most of these articles read, they would have you believe that the debris will arrive without fail, all at once and land somewhere around the Pacific northwest, with the coast of British Columbia being affected as well. I don't think it's going to go down this way though. I did some research and after sifting through the same basic article being rehashed hundreds of times, I found some articles that were written last April that had a different stance on what is going to happen. First it is likely that not all of the debris will make the journey all the way across. Some of the debris will break apart and sink to the ocean floor as it falls away from parts that float. Some of it will simply biodegrade in the salt water too. Of course that still leaves a lot of plastic and other items that will not biodegrade on it's watery journey. So what will happen with that debris you ask? Well the way the ocean currents work in the pacific, some of the debris will head northwards and end up of in the gulf of Alaska and the shores of northern British Columbia. Some of the other debris will travel in a circle due to the North Pacific Gyre and eventually end up back in Japan and other parts of Asia. The Gyre is the natural current of the North Pacific ocean and has been studied for many years so you can't really discount what experts believe will happen with the debris based on historical data and research. Finally some will also end up in the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" which is a swirling mass of floating debris that rests out in Pacific and grows annually due to the North Pacific Gyre as well.

Let's look at the other side of the issue and say that I'm completely wrong. I certainly could be given my lack of scientific knowledge of our ocean and it's cause and effects on floating debris. Well what happens then? There is no doubt that the debris would pose a huge threat on the environment and businesses based on the coast such as fishing, shipping, etc. Even a small portion of the amount they predict will arrive would be problematic, so this may be a classic case of the press overselling us on the impact so when it does occur, we will see it as more of a let down, then as a major problem. Like when that snowstorm or hurricane doesn't end up nearly as bad as the news led us to believe.
No matter how this all turns out, in the end you can see why the Great Debris Flotilla of 2014 will probably end up to be a terrible bust. But one thing I can predict is that the wonderful press will likely run this story into the ground and figure out a way for all of us to panic and race to the grocery store for water, bologna and toilet paper.

Leave your thoughts below if you care to and thanks for taking the time to read this.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Technology & Etiquette in the 21st Century

So a few months ago I'm sitting around the dinner table with my parents having a conversation about technology. They had been running this ad on the radio for Comcast or Verizon (I forget who exactly) about how the average home has 4 devices that are connected to the Internet. I counted in my home no less than 12, a fact that I was pretty proud of. Ever since I was a 6 year old kid marveling at Pong at a neighbors house, I have been a huge fanboy of technology and electronics. My childhood was consumed with having my own computer and then the Internet and video games and on and on. Let's just say I'm a big fan of free, readily available information in my pocket. "Let's Google that" is probably the thing I say the most in any given week. Nothing makes me happier than whipping out my Droid and looking up the answer to anything within minutes time. The answer is always out there.
No sooner had the braggarts words left my mouth than my dear Old Dad says, "Yeah but things have gone to far, why do you need access to everything all the time?". "It's really pretty simple," I answer. "Now I never have to be left wondering who stole more bases in the American League last year or what movies Tom Towles has been in other before House of a 1000 Corpses because I know I've seen him before but I can't place it." Things like that go unanswered and drive me up a wall. The short of it is that having the answers makes me happy and I don't wander around wasting thoughts on things for weeks to follow only to be replaced by other useless queries that will fade from my mind being answered.
"It comes at too much of a cost", he says shaking his head. "Look at how texting, smart phones, personal portable Internet access have changed the world in a bad way." He doesn't really elaborate and the conversation fades into something else.
I'm still not seeing it his way, that is until I started to think about it. Maybe there is some truth in what he said. Now I'm not saying I chucked my smartphone in the trash, or even stopped whipping it out to solve arguments or disputes over trivial matters. But perhaps a compromise needs to be made. What I think needs to be done is to have a code of ethics drawn up on what is acceptable and what isn't. So who wants to do it? Ha not me, I don't have the time for it. But I still think it needs to be done and eventually, perhaps it will be.
Next time you go out for dinner, take a look around you and see how many people are seated at dinner, but none are conversing with each other. It surprising how many people would rather find out what their cousins neighbor is pissed at on their Facebook status update than talk to each other about their week. Still no law prohibits this and probably never will. Hey some people are really truly boring anyways so no big deal if this what they need to fall back on to get through a painful face to face encounter with someone close in their life...
I was recently at a wedding and realized I had gum in my mouth. Now if my Mom had been there I would have gotten my ass handed to me for entering a church with gum in my mouth, if it's not a mint or hand candy, ie can't be dissolved within a few minutes then it's a major no-no. I got up from the pew before the wedding party entered to go dispose of it and looked at all the people around me using their phones. So what is the rule on this? Is it OK to use the phone in church if nothing else is going on? What about if you look up something that has bad language in it, does that make it really bad? How about those truly perverse individuals that might look at pics of naked girls in church? That's has to be about as low as it would get. However say that buddy of yours (and we all have one) sends you a text blast of topless women and you unwillingly look at it, does the blame lay with you over this? Probably not, but I say it's just best to leave the phone silenced and in the pocket at church. I think you should be there to reflect on yourself and what you need to do to be better. You need to keep your attention together long enough to get the message being conveyed to you by the minister or priest or who ever is presiding over the event your attending.
How about pictures on Facebook? Sure what could be the problem there? I can look at pictures of girls in bikini's that I know without them thinking I'm a old perv, what could be wrong with this you ask?? Well seriously before you start thinking that this is what I'm in to, I do see a major problem with Facebook and posting of pictures. First of all I have seen people race to post pictures of events they have been invited to before the event host or hostess gets the chance to post their own, so we can call the "Thunder Stealing Matter". It happens a lot and it bothers me to a degree. I mean I know people don't mean any harm by it, but their is some etiquette involved with this issue and common sense says that you shouldn't rush to post pictures that you think other people might want to post themselves. The best bet would be to get their permission before posting pics if you think the host is going to do the same or wait until they have done so themselves.
How about posting pictures of other people's kids without getting their permission? I'm really not too keen on pictures of my kids being posted for anyone to see on the internet and not having control over it. Call me crazy but there should be some rules on that one.
So maybe you haven't recently hosted an event you care to share with your Facebook friends and you may not even have children, so you might be thinking, "Who cares?". How about that time your buddy posted that picture of you on Facebook where your eyes are half closed and you look like you just finished a 5 hour session with a bong? Let's face it, it has happened to all of us and it sucks to have to send that person a message asking them to take it down. Maybe people should just use more discretion when posting content that has to do with other people and they don't intend to get their feedback first. We still all possess common sense, it may vary in degrees from one individual to the next, but it's there right? Slow down and use it please.
I've taken too much time writing all of this, I have to get back to my cell phone, I was texting my daughter about a photo she sent me of different fake mustaches and which ones we preferred. That's way more important than this rant...

Leave your thoughts below if you care and thanks for reading.