I’d like to take a break from regularly scheduled discussion of health and lifestyle to discuss macro issues of health and lifestyle. Specifically, I’m talking about the health of our oceans and our planet.

When I went to the beach this past weekend, I was struck by how much plastic littered its shorelines. The calculation is simple. Trash gets washed from parks and streets and shopping malls down storm drains and into the water system. It eventually gets washed into rivers and bays and oceans.

After I returned from camping, I decided to do a little research on garbage and oceans. Maybe I’m too sheltered, and everyone already knows this. I thought I’d share anyway.

What I found most striking – there is a lot of research and information out there – was discussion of the Pacific Ocean “Garbage Patch.” Basically, a lot of that garbage is eventually funneled into ocean gyres. I haven’t taken an oceanography class, but from what I understand it’s an area of rotating ocean currents. Things get pulled in and they stay there: garbage patches in the ocean. You can’t see them via satellite, because plastics have been broken down into small particles that are not visible by satellite.

This trash affects the ecosystems of ocean gyres. Plastics are being broken down into smaller and smaller particles, which are then consumed by plankton, jellyfish, fish that are low on the food chain. These pollutants eventually work their way up the food chain to us. (Think bPA – and more – in your food.) More importantly, it’s destroying our oceans and all the animals/plants/creatures that inhabit them (or eat the things that inhabit them).

There’s a more detailed discussion of the Pacific Garbage Patch at TED.com, which is a great website for talks on current research and events.

In other news, I combined a little bit of environmentalism with exercise today. I walked one mile and collected three bags of trash. Those included the remains of someone’s KFC lunch (I did not open the bag), a child’s sock, numerous plastic bottles, bits of paper, and more.

Note: this takes the place of Friday’s post.