Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Vortex of 80,000 Nikes

The Vortex of 80,000 Nikes

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Contrary to popular belief, Fresh Kills in New York City's Staten Island doesn't contain the biggest collection of garbage in the world. What Wikipedia says “could be regarded as the largest man-made structure on Earth, with the site's volume [...] exceeding the Great Wall of China” and was once the temporary dump site for the remains of the WTC Towers isn't the largest landfill at all.

In fact, it isn't even on land, but rather it is trapped in an oceanic riverine system known as the North Pacific Gyre.

Wikipedia again: “The centre of the North Pacific Gyre is relatively stationary and the circular rotation around it draws waste material in. This has led to the accumulation of flotsam and other debris in huge floating 'clouds' of waste, leading to the informal name The Great Pacific Garbage Patch or Eastern Garbage Patch. While historically this debris has biodegraded, the gyre is now accumulating vast quantities of plastic and marine debris.”

It is so vast, in fact, that these floating clouds have a total area equal to that of 2 Texas.

Which begs the question, can you collect these patches to create a floating solid ground? A new Pacific island nation molded together out of “80,000 Nike sneakers and boots” and “tens of thousands of bathtub toys and hockey equipment” lost overboard from cargo ships.

Or a recycled ocean cruisers from where eco-terrorists hunt down holiday cruise ships in the high synthetic seas.


(If it weren't for the booms, this storm debris in the LA River would eventually have found its way to the gyre. Photo by the Algalita Marine Research Foundation.)

Or better yet, dump it all on the Polynesian archipelago of Tuvalu, which Der Spiegel says is “currently only 10 centimeters above sea level” and “likely to become the first country to succumb entirely to climate change.” Paradise Lost it may certainly be, but it may yet be Arcadia Regained from the bottom of the ocean.


(The atolls of Tuvalu. Photo AFP/Torsten Blackwood.)

And of course, the islanders have the option of not anchoring this new accumulated stratum of detritus to their former nation, and thus submitting it to the whims of the ocean currents and trade winds. Perhaps in their intraoceanic meanderings, they'll meet other climate change refugees on their own island nations made out of Barbie dolls. A new trade group could be formed, with the goal of developing self-sufficient economies and expanding territorial boundaries by mining the Pacific for consumer goods Made in China.

Is this the future site of the New Central Park of the Pacific, designed by James Corner?

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