Debris from the Japanese tsunami that occurred last year is starting to arrive on the shores of the western U.S. The range of the types of debris varies in size from confetti-sized pellets of plastic to entire shipping docks. The debris that is arriving now is only the very beginning of it, with more and more expected to wash ashore every day.
However, the trash washing ashore is not the greatest of our worries. A vast majority of the massive amounts of debris from Japan will never reach our shores—instead it will become part of the already expansive Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is an immeasurable amount of debris caught in currents in the Pacific Ocean. This floating pile is so large and scattered that no accurate measurements can be found, but one estimate is that it is larger than the entire state of Texas. It has been growing for the past 40 years, and the addition of the debris from the tsunami is only making it larger. The material that makes up this patch is quite diverse. They range from fishing nets, large chunks of plastic, as well as items like soccer balls and plastic bags. Then, there are also many tiny bits of plastic, ranging in size from pellet sized to fine, confetti-like pieces.
The real problem with the garbage patch is the effects it has on marine life. The small bits of plastic are extremely hazardous to fish of various sizes (because they ingest this plastic), birds, and any animals that consumes fish or birds (yes, that includes humans).
Additionally, the swirling masses of plastic are also sinking down to the ocean floor, destroying habitats and creating new, unnatural ones. The spread of invasive species, which can do an extensive amount of damage to an ecosystem, is also increased with this garbage patch, as organisms are carried from one place, like Japan, to another, like the middle of the pacific, by living on these chunks of plastic.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch has been a huge concern to environmentalists for decades, and with no solution in sight, the Patch, as well as those concerns, continues to grow.
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Severe Drought Strikes
The United States is currently experience severe drought due to the high temperatures and low levels of rainfall that much of the country has been experiencing. As of this past week, 61% of the lower 48 states are experiencing conditions of drought. But hot weather and low water levels are not the only results of these conditions. Heat waves and severe storms are occurring across the country, increasing the risk of wildfire with each day (some states have already seen devastating wildfires, which usually do not occur until later in the summer).
As a result, crops are suffering throughout the country.Many Midwestern states are reporting the poorest growing conditions since 1988. Corn is the main crop to worry about. Over 30% of corn-growers in the primary 18 corn-growing states report very poor conditions.
Additionally, over 1,000 counties in 26 states have been declared disaster areas, indicating that the drought is severe enough that they qualify for low-investment emergency loans from the Department of Agriculture.
Wildfires are not uncommon in this country, but drought conditions have caused over 3 million acres of land to be ravaged by fires in the last 3 weeks alone.
Some southern states, particularly those in desert areas, have started putting limits on daily water consumption, to ensure that there is enough water to go around. The limits are not severe, but they are enforced to prevent people from using water to, for example, water lawns.
As the summer progresses, it is also likely that the price of meat, fruits, and vegetables will increase, as more and more water is required for the growth of these products. And keep in mind that it is only July. Who knows what conditions will be like as the hottest month of summer approaches.
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