This year’s Birdhouse Comment of the Year nod goes to reader BBT, who commented on the recent post More Plastic Than Plankton, re: the intractable mess caused by a century of plastic products making their way to the world’s oceans.
I chose BBT’s comment because, to me, it represented the apotheosis of Dan Gilmor’s citizen journalism credo, “Our readers know more than we do.” I read a couple of articles and watched a video on plastics in the ocean, while BBT has been in the trenches, removing the stuff and seeing the damage it causes with his own eyes and hands. Most weblog comments flesh out entries in a way that’s just not possible with traditional media; BBT’s comment did that extremeley well.
While I was at the Midway Atoll during the summer of 2001 I found it very disheartening to be on patrol for plastics. We had as an ecotourism organization (the midwayphoenix.com company) and a subcontractor to the Dept. of the Interior for maintainance of the island atoll must clean it up regularly. One time I remember heading from Sand Island (the main island of the Atoll) to Eastern and Spit islands to do shoreline cleanup. At times we had 20-30 *tons* of material to gather up on the shore. Those were light duty also. The volume of stuff in the ocean is flabbergasting to even those prepared for the shock of it. I remember seeing the small Albatros chicks dead and rotting in the nests from lack of food. Not that their parenting birds didn’t try. They simply mistook the plastics in the ocean for squid, and regurgitated that back to the chicks which promptly thought they were full but starved to death due to the plastics not passing out. What was often left in the nests were just a ball of small plastic items. Quite sad indeed.