by Udo Pollmer / June 29, 2019
The Pacific rubbish vortex between California and Hawaii worries people in Germany. Now, as part of the Ocean Cleanup project, young people are allowed to collect all the rubbish again as the cleaning crew of the sea. Impressive videos show plenty of plastic packaging waste being fished out of the water by helpers. Now these very...
...commercials are arousing scepticism: because the plastic waste has meanwhile been subjected to closer scrutiny to find out what is really floating around and where it comes from. Without this knowledge, all the measures and bans are nothing more than puffed up bigotry.
Almost half of all the plastic in the Pacific is not disposable coffee cups from Wanne-Eickel, (a city in one of the former German coal mining areas), Berlin fruit bags on the run, but fishing gear: torn nets, ropes, eel traps, abandoned fishing baskets, etc. Surprised? Furthermore, just under a third comes from Japan. But not because the Japanese throw their household waste into the sea. Most of it was swept into the sea by the tsunami in 2011. Most of the rest of the rubbish has Chinese characters on it.
Our German politicians see a need for political action in view of the way the Chinese deal with waste; they ban straws and impose a deposit on plastic bags under the pretext of wanting to keep the Pacific clean. The only effect is that the citizen is being bullied, who is grudgingly supposed to believe that he is at least doing a favour to the people of Oceania. But the people around the Pacific don't give a damn what the few backwoodsmen in Germany think. However, not quite. In China, they are thinking about it - but in a completely different way than the German hillbillies had hoped:
The German way to save the world
The Chinese call such role models, who want to give them and the whole world a leg up, baizuo: in other words, Western elites who work for peace and equality to satisfy their sense of moral superiority. A baizuo revolves around issues such as species extinction, climate change, open society, disadvantage and LGBTQ; it is committed to political correctness. Baizuo, in Chinese reading, are ignorant and arrogant Westerners who think they are the saviours of the world. We call them do-gooders or, more recently, activists.
What is the point of mockery? Isn't it admirable when young people fish off all the rubbish that fishermen have lost or simply thrown overboard? What's funny about the Ocean Cleanup troop Crews putting up special nets on the surface of the sea so that floating material gets caught in them to dispose of it elsewhere? If only there were not another view of this matter. Experts don't find it funny at all, marine scientists are appalled by the do-gooders' recklessness. Anyone who wants to clean the sea needs more expertise to do so than to clean a carpet rug. The problem the experts are worried about has a name, it's called neuston.
The neuston is the ecosystem that lives on the surface of the sea. Many of these highly curious creatures are unknown to most of us, like the word neuston itself. They are colourful associations of organisms that float on the surface like living islands. The most common are sail jellyfish and so-called blue buttons, water polyps whose golden-brown discs are surrounded by coloured tentacles, mostly blue, sometimes turquoise or yellow. They are joined by deep purple Janthina snails, which, when they appear in masses, are also known as the "blue fleet".
The neuston is not only home to blue buttons and bright snails. Purple, red and golden strands up to 50 metres long run through the shimmering blue lawn. These are the tentacles of highly poisonous Portuguese galleys. Blue sea dragons, which feed on these cnidarians, wander among them.
There are sea anemones, barnacles, copepods, colour-changing crabs, even beetles, all living in this inverted reef in the middle of the open ocean. The neuston is a breeding ground for many species of fish larvae and a hunting ground for argonauts, a type of octopus. Moonfish and leatherback turtles visit these islands to feed. At night, jellyfish rise up to join the neuston, sparkling like fireflies.
Environmental impact assessment - a farce
Marine biologist Rebecca Helm, chair at the University of North Carolina, calls the neuston "an oasis of protection and life far out at sea. Now, as efforts to clean up the ocean of plastic begin, our ignorance is putting this ecosystem at risk."
Make no mistake, the activists are only clearing away the plastic where the ocean currents are gathering it. The same applies to neuston, which follows the same currents. Very different species live in the different regions of the oceans, so that biologists see the biodiversity of the neuston threatened.
And what do the initiators of the Ocean Cleanup project say? They did carry out an environmental impact assessment beforehand. But this ecosystem was not even mentioned in it. From their point of view, that would be stupid. In the meantime, the assessment has disappeared from the stylish website. Instead, a kind of counterstatement is presented. Marine researchers complain about the ignorant answers they received to enquiries.
The marine ecosystem is increasingly becoming a backdrop for self-promoters and fundraisers, a huge playground for the baizuo.
On the internet, relevant technical terms are used differently, for example, the neuston is often referred to as pleuston. Therefore, to clarify the term: organisms that live exclusively by swimming on the water surface are called pleuston, whereas neuston is a broader term that refers generally to the ocean surface ecosystem.
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Ocean Cleanup’s environmental-impact assessment: https://theoceancleanup.com/fileadmin/media-archive/Documents/TOC_EIA_2018.pdf
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Copyright: EU.L.E. e.V.
Originally published in June 2019: => Pollmers Mahlzeit: Plastikmüll - Putzkolonnen auf Abwegen
English editor: Josef Hueber, Eichstätt