Visualizing Ocean Issues – Our Carbon Footprint Trumps Ocean Plastic In Scale

Source: Burns/Earth Institute/Columbia University

Photo: Matt Artz/Unsplash


Last summer, I volunteered in Indonesia on the islands of Simeulue and Bangkaru. During this unique opportunity, I helped to monitor and protect the local green sea turtle population, and I witnessed firsthand the effects of waste on the environment. Despite Bangkaru’s lack of human inhabitants—aside from the occasional small group of volunteers and two wildlife rangers—nearly all of its shores were bordered with large amounts of trash, primarily plastic.

Like the trash on Bangkaru Island, carbon emissions have far-reaching impacts on the environment. And the effects of climate change, caused by the  of greenhouse gases (GHGs), are often far removed from the greatest emitters.

Trash can sometimes seem like a larger problem than climate change. That is partly because the pollutants are much larger. Trash is often tangible and visible to the unaided eye. Dumping it far away may allow us to temporarily forget about the waste we produce, but the —littered beaches and giant garbage patches in the ocean—can quickly disrupt this illusion. GHGs, on the other hand, are more or less invisible.

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Photo: Matt Artz/Unsplash

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