Tag Archives: History

The Other Side of the couch – No Warning

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My husband woke me at 5:20 that morning – I was deeply asleep and somewhat groggy when he told me that Nashville had been hit by a tornado during the night.  I was slow to take in what he was saying, but when I had climbed out of the fog of sleep and turned on the news, the overwhelming reality of what had happened to our city and state was all too real – and all too overwhelming.

As is always the case in situations like this, the immediate response is to connect with loved ones.  Are you Ok?  We are OK.  Anyone hurt?  What do you need?  How can we help?  I sent out texts to family in other cities; checked with friends who lived in the path – learned as the day moved on that a friend had lost her home, that another had significant damage.

We know now that a tornado determined to be at EF2 strength decimated the John C. Tune Airport, moved on into North Nashville, pounded Germantown, and then, reaching EF3 strength, obliterated Five Points in East Nashville before continuing through Hermitage, Mt. Juliet and on to Lebanon. According to the National Weather Service this tornado traveled over a 60-mile path, the longest recorded in Tennessee history.  It caused 6 deaths and thousands of dollars of property injury and destruction.  Another tornado struck in the Cookeville area; this E4 storm killed 18 people and ripped open homes and businesses.

Almost one week later, the reality of what must be done to rebuild is coming into focus.  Churches across the area are becoming centers for donations.  Twenty thousand volunteers signed up to help with projects this past weekend through Hands On Nashville.  So many volunteers showed up that in some areas the big machinery trucks and electrical repair trucks had trouble getting through!  Music benefits are planned (of course).  The Titans and Taylor Swift have made million dollar donations to tornado relief.

Tennessee is known as the Volunteer State – this designation really came true this weekend, and it will come true again next weekend – because that’s what people in Nashville do.

Margaret Renkl, Nashvillian and contributing writer to the New York Times, said it best.  Her opinion column in the New York Times, titled “What It Means to #Nashville Strong” is so worth reading.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/08/opinion/nashville-tornado.html

It’s the Nashville way.

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.

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Defining Beauty

Standards of beauty have changed radically over the centuries and say more about our cultural values than anyone’s actual physical beauty.  Attaining the appropriate standard of beauty depends almost entirely on a person’s socio-economic status.

During the Renaissance, a bit of plumpness meant your family was wealthy enough to eat more than one meal a day, unlike poorer people who mostly starved.  That’s why Titian’s female models are, to say it politely, fat by modern standards.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, wealthy people wanted to be pale to separate themselves from the ruddy-cheeked people who did manual labor.  Upper class women regularly ingested small doses of arsenic because it gave their skin a pale, pearly sheen.  They also wore clothes of velvet, linen and other expensive cloth as a visible symbol of their wealth.

One reason for the sartorial splendor was that people rarely bathed.  Bathing only became fashionable for aristocrats and socialites in the early 1800’s when they learned that Beau Brummell bathed every day.  Brummell was the Kardashian of his day, famous for being famous.  He also started the tuxedo tradition in which every sharp dressed man wears a white shirt with a black coat and pants.

By the middle of the 19th century, women’s beauty was defined by an hourglass figure. The ideal woman had an 18-inch waist and couldn’t take a deep breath.  Women wore corsets so tight that it reshaped their internal organs, often leading to complications during childbirth.

In the 1920’s, liberated women rebelled against their corsets and opted for a new flat-chested look, wearing dresses that fit like flour sacks.  They also continued using arsenic to whiten their skin and then slathered on mascara, rouge and other beauty products.

In the 1960’s, we finally awoke to the fact that women of color face a host of beauty questions that white women don’t.  Consider the great debate about hair; about whether to go “natural” or use a relaxer to straighten their hair.

Today’s beauty standard dictates that we must be wrinkle-free and maintain a “healthy” weight.  Higher income people can afford the Botox and cosmetic surgery to look young. They also have the income to pay for a healthier diet and to regularly work out at the gym.  Meanwhile, poorer people have wrinkles, eat a less healthy diet and don’t have the time or money to go to the gym on a regular basis.

For those of us who don’t meet the current standards, I suggest a different approach to the question of beauty.  Buy some champagne.   After a couple of glasses, you won’t care.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

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The Other Side of the Couch – Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

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Of course, everyone knew the outcome.  The conclusion was never in doubt.  Throughout all the testimony, all the witnesses, all the documents, all the hearings, all the news bites and media reports, all the constant talking of all the talking heads, the conclusion was inevitable.  Was it worth it, to go through all this?  Was it necessary?  Was it useful?  Did it make a difference?

We are so broken.  We only listen to what confirms our own beliefs.  We have lost faith in even the ability to know the truth, because truth is under attack from so many sides.  We even have people today who have created a Flat Earth Society and apparently genuinely believe that because the Earth looks and feels flat, it is flat.

Two events have gone a long way toward creating the situation in which we now flounder.  One of those is the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine.  The fairness doctrine of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), introduced in 1949, was a policy that required the holders of broadcast licenses to both present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was – in the FCC’s view – honest, equitable, and balanced.  The FCC eliminated the policy in 1987 and removed the rule that implemented it from the Federal Register in August 2011.  Although there have been repeated attempts to reinstitute this doctrine, none have been successful.  The result has been the proliferation of media that presents only one side of an issue; getting information that presents several sides of an issue is no longer required or easy to find.

The other decision that has overturned our ability to have civil discourse is the decision by the United States Supreme Court in 2010 to allow corporations (including certain non-profit corporations) and labor unions to expand their role in political campaigns.  This decision, along with a separate, lower court case – SpeechNow.org v. FEC – made possible the entities known as super PACS.  With Citizens United as a precedent, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that theoretically independent spending groups could accept unlimited amounts of money from corporations, unions and even individuals with fat bankrolls.  This led to the creation of Super PACs that are legal because they do not “coordinate” with a particular campaign, as well as the creation of “social welfare” organizations that can function in the same way as super PACs as long as election activity is not their primary activity.  These groups are not required to report who funds them, thus allowing for so-called “dark money” to influence campaigns without transparency.

Taken together, these two decisions have had a chilling effect on civil discourse.  Because information is often presented with a clear skew in one direction or another with no provision of any other viewpoints, people are left in a situation in which they become increasingly skeptical of information in general.  When no information can be trusted, the institutions of civil democracy are in danger of breaking down.

So why can’t we all just get along?  The roots lie in the past – and if we don’t pay attention to history, we may be doomed to repeat it.  The only thing I can think of to do in the face of all this is to read widely, listen to more than one media source, and above all, VOTE!

About Susan Hammonds-White, EdD, LPC/MHSP

Communications and relationship specialist, counselor, Imago Relationship Therapist, businesswoman, mother, proud native Nashvillian – in private practice for 30+ years. I have the privilege of helping to mend broken hearts. Contact me at http://www.susanhammondswhite.com.

Like what you’ve read?  Feel free to share, but please…Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

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A Ray of Sunlight Through the Smoke

The images from Australia are truly shocking. Much of New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria states have been reduced to cinders.  Volunteer firemen and others have succumbed to smoke and flames.  Many people have lost their homes; entire towns have burned to the ground.

As bad as the situation is for humans, it’s worse for plants and animals. Animals who survive their burns and loss of habitat face death by starvation as their food sources are temporarily wiped out.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Scott Morrison is a climate change denier.  He appears to argue that climate change doesn’t exist because it’s not the sole cause of the fires.   I’m not sneering at Mr. Morrison.  The U.S. has politicians just as breathtakingly stubborn about denying climate change.

The American west faces a fire threat of Australian proportions thanks to climate deniers. Beginning with Ronald Reagan’s administration, our government has persistently underfunded the controlled burn program in the American west, meaning that our “fire season” is now longer and more devastating.

The underfunding meant much of Yellowstone National Park burned to the ground in 1988.  It’s only gotten worse as weather patterns have changed in recent years.  Yet like their Australian mates, U.S. climate change deniers insist that since it’s not the sole cause of western wildfires, climate change must be a myth.

But amid all the willfully ignorant blather from politicians, there is a ray of sunshine. Ordinary people understand what is at stake and are taking action. Volunteer firemen across southern Australia have put their lives and livelihoods in jeopardy to fight the fires and save lives.

Craft guilds around the world support local Australian guilds that are knitting, crocheting and sewing pouches for injured animals. Orphaned baby bats, koalas, and kangaroos (and many other species) have a chance at life thanks to the surrogate pouches and the volunteers nursing them back to health.

Ordinary people also understand that there are few sole causes to any natural or human-made disaster. They understand that it’s about admitting that our activities affect our world and its natural resources including the climate.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

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Hidden History

 

Long ago, a very obnoxious history teacher of mine insisted that we should look beyond the words on the page at the author.  Every author’s writing is based on the biases formed by the author’s social position, political beliefs and so on.  That was my introduction to hidden history.

History is the written record of human life and activities.  Of course, a nanosecond after writing was invented, people had to decide what was worthy of being recorded.  History is not a record of everything that people do; only what is deemed important to the people of the day.

In ancient Mesopotamia (modern Iraq and Syria), cuneiform tablets contain lists of livestock and grain that were bought and sold in an ancient version of our commodities markets.  A cuneiform tablet also contains the oldest known warranty by a jeweler to his customer, promising to repair a ring if it should break.

In medieval Europe, ordinary people had few legal rights or protections so their lives weren’t considered worthy by the few literate people.  That’s why Froissart’s account of the Hundred Years war recorded only what happened to kings and queens and the aristocracy.  About 500 years later after the creation of academic disciplines like sociology and psychology, Eileen Power’s Medieval People finally gave us the story of Bodo the Peasant.

The historical record also skimps on the lives of women and minorities. Margery Kempe dictated her autobiography in the 1430’s but it was never published and was eventually forgotten.   In 1934, the manuscript was discovered in an English country house by a researcher looking for unrelated materials.  Thanks to this accident, we can laugh at Margery’s adventures in Memoirs of a Medieval Woman, edited by Louise Collis.

Of course, memoirs may contain information that contradicts accepted wisdom, like the de la Pena diary which surfaced in the 1950’s.  Jose Enrique de la Pena was an officer in the Mexican Army that attacked the Alamo in 1836.  His diary says that David Crockett surrendered and was then shot.  Needless to say, the Texas version of the Alamo (a “shrine to Texas Independence”) story is that all the heroes died on the barricades.  Bitter fights continue around the efforts to authenticate the diary.

My old history teacher may have been obnoxious but I still remember his advice.  Look beyond the surface of the author’s words and find the hidden history.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

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A Thoroughly American Feast

Next week we will celebrate Thanksgiving, an annual food fest for family and friends.  The cuisine reflects our diverse culture. Most of us will eat New World foods like turkey, squash and cranberries.  These foods and the rest of the feast will be prepared from recipes handed down the generations.

The food may vary from kosher to halal; from tacos and burritos to pickled red beets and pumpkin pie; from sweet and sour pork to chutneys and curries. My family traditionally had ham with Pennsylvania Dutch delicacies like mashed potatoes doused in browned butter; shoo fly pie (like a chess pie made with molasses instead of sugar) and deep dish apple pie.

Thanksgiving is also a holiday of giving. Many people deliver Meals on Wheels to the elderly or serve meals at homeless shelters.  Each year there seem to be new opportunities to help others who are facing adversity.

All of these activities follow traditions established at the first Thanksgiving. According to tradition, the first Thanksgiving was held in 1621 when the Pilgrims sat down to a feast with Squanto and the Wampanoag Indian tribe. The meal was a celebration of surviving a hard year for the Pilgrims and recognition that they couldn’t have done it without the help of the Wampanoag.

Thanksgiving is the most “American” holiday we celebrate.  It was multi-cultural from the beginning. It combines old and new foods that are prepared using both traditional and new fusion cuisine methods.   It reminds us that family means more than just our blood relatives.

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

 

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HOPE

My last post was pretty depressing, I know. The issue of plastic overtaking our environment, killing off wildlife, and affecting our health IS depressing. This post comes to you with hope for the future. As an ex-partner of mine would say, “Science created it and science can un-create it.” I’m counting on that.

Well, now, there is a lot out there about a “natural” remedy for the problem. Is it really possible that nature has provided “plastic-eating bacteria?”

“Scientists accidentally create mutant enzyme that eats plastic bottles,” a headline from The Guardian touts:

Scientists have created a mutant enzyme that breaks down plastic drinks bottles – by accident. The breakthrough could help solve the global plastic pollution crisis by enabling for the first time the full recycling of bottles.

The new research was spurred by the discovery in 2016 of the first bacterium that had naturally evolved to eat plastic, at a waste dump in Japan. Scientists have now revealed the detailed structure of the crucial enzyme produced by the bug.

The international team then tweaked the enzyme to see how it had evolved, but tests showed they had inadvertently made the molecule even better at breaking down the PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic used for soft drink bottles. “What actually turned out was we improved the enzyme, which was a bit of a shock,” said Prof John McGeehan, at the University of Portsmouth, UK, who led the research. “It’s great and a real finding.”

The mutant enzyme takes a few days to start breaking down the plastic – far faster than the centuries it takes in the oceans. But the researchers are optimistic this can be speeded up even further and become a viable large-scale process.

From another The Guardian post:

Nature has begun to fight back against the vast piles of filth dumped into its soils, rivers and oceans by evolving a plastic-eating bacteria – the first known to science.

In a report published in the journal Science, a team of Japanese researchers described a species of bacteria that can break the molecular bonds of one of the world’s most-used plastics – polyethylene terephthalate, also known as PET or polyester.

The Japanese research team sifted through hundreds of samples of PET pollution before finding a colony of organisms using the plastic as a food source. Further tests found the bacteria almost completely degraded low-quality plastic within six weeks. This was voracious when compared to other biological agents; including a related bacteria, leaf compost and a fungus enzyme recently found to have an appetite for PET.

Here in the U.S., Morgan Vague, Clinical Research Coordinator at Oregon Health and Science University School of Medicine in Portland, Oregon, presents a TED Talk about her research. She talks realistically about the problem we face and how “my bacteria” can help.

How about the solution presented here in an article from Fast Company discussing the enzyme used by bacteria to digest plastic and how it can be developed?

Around the world, several research projects are exploring the potential of enzymes, the part of the microorganisms responsible for digesting the plastic, to help. In the U.K., scientists studying the Japanese bacteria accidentally created a version of the bacteria’s enzyme that worked even better, breaking down plastic bottles in days rather than weeks. At the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the U.S., scientists are also working on the enzyme—called PETase, because it can eat PET plastic—to make it work faster. Researchers in Germany studied the structure of PETase to optimize it. And in France, a startup called Carbios has developed its own enzyme, which can fully break down PET plastic so it can be recycled into new, consumer-grade plastic of the same quality as virgin PET. Major corporations including PepsiCo and Nestlé are now partnering with the company, which plans to begin building its first demonstration plant this fall.

Like some other new recycling technology, using enzymes has advantages over traditional methods of shredding up old products. The plastic doesn’t have to be clean, and can be broken down completely. “We take these plastics back down to some of their precursor components, and then they are maybe in a better position then to be reused and reincorporated into new materials,” Hallinan says. Creating precursors for making plastic, rather than recycling whole plastic into a lower-grade material, might incentivize more recycling because there’s a better market for the final product. “There might be more economic appetite, more industrial appetite, for those types of materials.”

Then, there are the two students, Jeanny Yao and Miranda Wang, who have been studying and have invented bacteria that “eat plastic from the ocean and turn it into water.” Seeing a headline with their work is what got me looking deeper in this possible “miracle” cure.

I’m certainly not convinced these bacteria are the silver bullet we need, but, combined with limiting plastic production, returning to the days of re-usable materials like glass, and the biodegradable, sustainable materials paper and cardboard, even recyclable aluminum, we may be able to get some control of the situation. At least, we can hope.

About Jan Schim

Jan is a singer, a songwriter, a licensed body worker specializing in CranioSacral Therapy, and a teacher.  She is an advocate for the ethical treatment of ALL animals and a volunteer with several animal advocacy organizations.  She is also a staunch believer in the need to promote environmental responsibility.

Like what you’ve read?  Feel free to share, but please… Give HerSavvy credit.  Thanks!

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Waste

Navigating through Nashville is difficult these days with all the construction projects in various stages of completion. The skyline of downtown Nashville is dotted with more than a dozen giant construction cranes.  New hotels, businesses, apartments and condos are opening on a daily basis.

Growth is good. But there’s one thing the city’s cheerleaders aren’t talking about. Waste disposal.

New construction projects must include some infrastructure, such as waste water lines that tie into the sewerage system.  But the city’s sewerage system is outdated. Ancient water mains collapse with depressing regularity.  More pipes will collapse by next spring as the soil contracts over winter and expands with the spring thaw.

During the Great Flood of 2010, only one water treatment plant remained functional.  Since then, the city’s population has increased by tens of thousands of people.  With all that growth, the city should have built more treatment plants but hasn’t.  Meanwhile, thousands of new residential properties and hotels are tying into our decaying system.  Usage is expanding but the system isn’t.

I was reminded of these depressing facts of life recently when I received a notice from Metro Water Services saying that they would be asking for a rate increase.  As someone who grew up in rural areas where cesspits and outhouses were the only options, I place a high value on flushing toilets and safe drinking water.  This is one time I don’t think I’ll protest paying higher taxes.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

 

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No Going Back

I’m a news junkie and an avid historian so I feel compelled to read the news. I read a variety of sources in print and on-line to get different viewpoints.  Recently, I realized that the headlines are uniformly depressing.

Hate crimes are on the rise.  White supremacists continue their terrorist attacks on women, Jews, immigrants, blacks, school children, and any politician who denounces their racist beliefs.  Democratic governments are under threat around the world as their apathetic voters fail to vote and their elected leaders undermine their own governments for personal gain or to save their political lives.   International alliances are being sabotaged by politicians with dubious agendas, breaking down the support system that has saved us for 70 years from another world war.

But then I saw a news story that broke through the gloom.  Three cities just elected black mayors: Montgomery, Alabama, Danville, Virginia, and Richmond, Virginia.  What’s the significance?

All three cities were capitals of the Confederate States of America.   The CSA was formed to defend “states’ rights”, meaning the right to continue enslaving black people. White supremacists often wave Confederate flags to show their desire to return to a mythical past unsullied by multiculturalism.

White supremacists, corrupt politicians and haters have always been a part of history.  But on some level they know they can’t win.  Corrupt politicians are always replaced by reformers who strengthen democratic institutions.  The CSA lost the war in 1865 and the white supremacists have been losing the battle against equality since the 1950’s.  Violence is all they have left.

Then I thought of the scene in Stars Wars when Peter Cushing’s character refuses to leave the Death Star.  “Evacuate in our moment of triumph”, he asks a few moments before the Death Star explodes.

The headline stories about terrorism, failing democracies, and hate are like the Death Star just before it explodes.  Behind those grim headlines are a fresh batch of Luke Skywalkers, taking aim at government corruption, terrorist massacres, and the haters.  They are the types of people who just elected black mayors in three cities that were a symbol of a dead past.

There’s no going back.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

Like what you’ve read? Feel free to share, but please….. Give HerSavvy credit. Thanks!

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Plastics.

‘Trash islands’ off Central America indicate ocean pollution problem

“Floating masses of garbage off some of the Caribbean’s pristine beaches offer grim evidence of a vast and growing problem of plastic waste heedlessly dumped in the ocean, local residents, activists and experts say. These “trash islands” have been captured in images by photographer Caroline Power, who lives on Honduran island of Roatan.” This, from Phys.org.

I know it’s depressing, but, people, we’ve got to talk about this. We have created a debacle probably much worse than any war – and in a VERY short time. This is something that is universally affecting us, all of us.

I met up with some old friends of mine recently. One friend is a Marine Biologist in Florida involved in Ocean studies. We got into a conversation about the plastic problem she is studying. She told me that they have found micro plastics in the bottom of the ocean. The bottom of the ocean! If you’ve seen the 60 Minutes exposé on plastic, then you are probably as mortified as I am. In that documentary, they talked about the introduction of plastic items into our lives. Commercials touting the wonders of plastic, which, by the way, (in case you don’t know) is a petroleum product, and stating excitedly that “it will last forever!” Yes, indeed it will. It is proving itself so. Obviously, no one considered the consequences of such a material and we have embraced it in nearly every aspect of our lives. 60 Minutes Overtime offers more.

Who remembers the 1967 movie The Graduate? The elder corporate guy at the party wrapped his arm around the shoulder of young Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) and advised, “Plastics, son. Plastics.” Hmm…

According  to an article from National Geographic, “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a collection of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean. Marine debris is litter that ends up in oceans, seas, and other large bodies of water. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also known as the Pacific trash vortex, spans waters from the West Coast of North America to Japan. The patch is actually comprised of the Western Garbage Patch, located near Japan, and the Eastern Garbage Patch, located between the U.S. states of Hawaii and California. These areas of spinning debris are linked together by the North Pacific Subtropical Convergence Zone, located a few hundred kilometers north of Hawaii. This convergence zone is where warm water from the South Pacific meets up with cooler water from the Arctic. The zone acts like a highway that moves debris from one patch to another.

About 54 percent of the debris in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch comes from land-based activities in North America and Asia. The remaining 20 percent of debris in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch comes from boaters, offshore oil rigs, and large cargo ships that dump or lose debris directly into the water. The majority of this debris—about 705,000 tons—is fishing nets. More unusual items, such as computer monitors and LEGOs, come from dropped shipping containers.

While many different types of trash enter the ocean, plastics make up the majority of marine debris for two reasons. First, plastic’s durability, low cost, and malleability mean that it’s being used in more and more consumer and industrial products. Second, plastic goods do not biodegrade but instead, break down into smaller pieces. In the ocean, the sun breaks down these plastics into tinier and tinier pieces, a process known as photodegradation. Most of this debris comes from plastic bags, bottle caps, plastic water bottles, and Styrofoam cups.”

From Wikipedia: “It is estimated that approximately “100 million tons of plastic are generated [globally] each year”, and about 10% of that plastic ends up in the oceans. The United Nations Environmental Program recently estimated that “for every square mile of ocean”, there are about “46,000 pieces of plastic”. The small fibers of wood pulp found throughout the patch are “believed to originate from the thousands of tons of toilet paper flushed into the oceans daily”. The patch is believed to have increased “10-fold each decade” since 1945.”

More from National Geographic; ‘Huge Garbage Patch Found in Atlantic Too’

“Akin to the Texas-size garbage patch in the Pacific, a massive trash vortex has formed from billion of bits of plastic congregating off North America’s Atlantic coast, researchers say. The newly described garbage patch sits hundreds of miles off the North American coast. Although its east-west span is unknown, the patch covers a region between 22 and 38 degrees north latitude—roughly the distance from Cuba to Virginia (see a U.S. map).

‘Many people have heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch,’ said Kara Lavender Law, an oceanographer at the Sea Education Association in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. ‘But this issue has essentially been ignored in the Atlantic.’

As with the Pacific garbage patch, plastic can circulate in this part of the Atlantic Ocean for years, posing health risks to fish, seabirds, and other marine animals that accidentally eat the litter.”

Many years ago, I read the 1976 novel Woman On The Edge of Time, by Marge Piercy. It is an intense commentary on many aspects of 70’s society as seen through the experiences of the book’s heroine who “communicates” with “a figure from the future.” I was struck when I read it, and, in my recollected words, I offer the thought that has stuck with me to you now; On one “visit” to this “figure’s” Utopian world, the heroine asks where they throw away their garbage. Perplexed by the idea, the reply is, “Throw away? How can you throw something away? The world is round.”

About Jan Schim

Jan is a singer, a songwriter, a licensed body worker specializing in CranioSacral Therapy, and a teacher.  She is an advocate for the ethical treatment of ALL animals and a volunteer with several animal advocacy organizations.  She is also a staunch believer in the need to promote environmental responsibility.

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