Response to “The Ocean is Broken”

‘The Ocean is Broken’ article has sparked off many conversations about the state of of our seas, the nature and volume of litter which is afloat and creating hazards to the marine life is washed up. Such conversations are needed.  Personally I have  received phone calls and e mails  about the issue following the article.  The following letter was written and shared with me by  John McIntyre a resident living near Ullapool . ‘A couple of years ago for a project that set a buoy adrift filled with letters. I made the buoy for them so sent a letter too….’

I am writing because I want those people who will be
alive a hundred from now to inherit the rich hospitable sun lit leaf
shaded and life tangled world that I grew up in. I hope that our
literature and art can be saved and that our children will have time
to write and tell more stories. I hope that they will be able to
wander and dance in the moss deep northern forests still filled with
the flight of birds. I hope that whales, tigers and the great apes
will not have disappeared and become mythological.
I am also writing because I have spent my entire adult life working as
a scientist and owe it to those people yet to live to speak.

We are living in a blizzard of change and yet act as if nothing is
changing. It is not much more than one hundred years the first
aircraft flew. In that time radio and television were invented, atomic
power and the fusion bomb, jet engines and air travel, cars and motor
ways, computers and electronics, the population of the planet
quadrupled and we have burnt about half of the oil and coal. Even our
education system is not so much older then they are, yet we behave as
if all of these things are unchanging.

The climate and ecology of the world are finely balanced and easily
shifted from one state of almost equilibrium to another. Ice ages
start and end as the amount of sunlight falling at high latitudes
alters imperceptibly.  The oceans act to slow the change for a while
and then the world warms or cools and life must move and adapt to the
Many times the world has changed and life has changed with it
sometimes coming close to being extinguished and sometimes so changing
the environment that it has almost extinguished itself.

Now we have walked into a trap. We didn’t know we had and we didn’t
intend to but we have. The coal and oil that we have burnt to fuel our
technology and agriculture has altered the composition of the
atmosphere and is changing the balance of the climate so that our
civilization will be overwhelmed unless we act.  There is no doubt
about this. The same mathematics and science that allowed us to make
aircraft and computers also allows us to describe and understand why
this plant grows here and not there, why the forest ends where it dose
giving way to a sea of grass. How the earths orbit changes across deep
time and what sunlight is made from.

If we are to escape the trap we must act quickly and do many things all at once.

We must reduce the population of the planet at least ten fold.
We need to create a sustainable agriculture that depends less on
fossil fuel, uses the land more efficiently and dose no great harm to
the life that shares the earth with us.
We must live with less and to use what we use more carefully.
We must learn to look ahead and to plan for change and for stability
over hundreds of years.

Everyone should read “Limits to Growth

Where is it all coming from?

Walking on certain beaches on the west coast you sometimes get the feeling that most of the litter is from the fishing boats as recorded on many of my strand line walks,  but as the surveys with the schools and volunteers showed its only one element of a complex story and even in ‘clean’ Loch Broom and Loch  Inver  users of the beaches and the adjacent land are often the biggest causes of litter.

Achduart litter in seaweed

High on all our lists: plastic bottles, food containers and wrappers, glass bottles, plastic shopping bags, drinks cans, clothes, metal barbeques, gun cartridges…….

  milk bottle  net blog  electrical cable bog psd  plastic bottle & wrapper

The amount of marine litter not only varies hugely between beaches,  coasts, islands , continents, oceans and by climatic changes. It has been estimated that 80%of marine litter could be from land with possibly only 20% coming from vessels. This projection is thought to have originated from the International Coastal Cleanup which Scotland and the UK as a whole takes part in organised through  MCS . Our local survey on Ullapool East Shore will also to add to Scottish statistics on what’s happening in the marine environment  and if continued on yearly help to add to international statistics.

But we know relatively little about what is lying on the sea floor or suspended in the water. That is why the reports from sailors like Ivan MacFadyen,  divers  and the information gathered by specific research teams such as the one based at University Marine Biological Station Millport,*is so crucial to our understanding.  The beaches are our thermometers to the health of the seas, the simple lists collected go on………electrical cable, metal window encasement, ducting, concrete blocks, pier fenders……..

strandline PDF horizontal

*Since starting this project in September the Millport research team has been cut