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  • Environment

    A Plastic Sea: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

    A Plastic Sea: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

    Plastic is everywhere.

    From the plastic bottles, we drink water from to the medical equipment doctors use. Plastic use is ubiquitous. However, what happens to this plastic when it isn’t taken care of properly? A responsible citizen disposes of plastic properly via recycling bins. What happens to the plastic that gets thrown into public waterways and rivers and oceans? The meeting point for plastic debris in the Pacific Ocean is known as the “convergence zone.” This zone, kilometers from Hawaii, is where warm water from the South Pacific convenes with cooler water from the Arctic.

    This zone is a highway for marine debris and surrounds by four currents going in four directions: north, south, east, and west. As a result, plastic debris remains in the center of these cross-cutting motions. It gives rise to large patches of plastic floating for miles upon miles. One example is a patch known as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” or as my history teacher affectionately called it, the “Great Pacific Garbage Dump.”

    Now, you might be thinking that this garbage patch is made up of plastic bottles and debris that are still intact in shape and consistency.

    However, the truth is far from what the name of this garbage patch may conjure up. The garbage patch looks like a sea of tiny bits of plastic known as “microplastics.” As a result, when plastic sits on the surface of the ocean, light from the sun starts breaking it down. This process is known as “photodegradation.”

    Although tiny bits of plastic floating in the Pacific Ocean may not concern anyone greatly, don’t let the term “microplastic” fool you.

    These tiny bits of plastic are dangerous for wildlife and us as well. Microplastics take the place of algae and plankton at the surface of the ocean. Therefore, they compete for space when populations of algae and plankton, other organisms that rely on algae and plankton for sustenance become affected. This starts a cascade of harmful effects that go up the food chain.
    Additionally, wildlife that consumes these microplastics can ingest the toxic chemical compounds that are in plastic like BPA (bisphenol-A). These are linked to a plethora of environmental and health problems. Microplastics also can end up in the seafood that reaches the dinner table, adversely affecting our health.

    Since the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is far away from any major country’s coastline, no one country has taken up the responsibility for cleaning up this crisis.

    As plastic debris continues to increase, patches like the Great Pacific will increase in size and number. Slowly but surely the effects of our negligence to clean up this disaster early will come back to haunt us, whether it be in the seafood that we consume or the extinction of the marine wildlife species we treasure.

    Works Cited
    “How Big Is the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”? Science vs. Myth.” NOAA. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 June 2017.

    Society, National Geographic. “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” National Geographic Society. N.p., 09 Oct. 2012. Web. 19 June 2017.

  • School

    A Feminist’s Guide To Buying Clothing Ethically

    If you’re a member of GirlSpring then chances are you identify as a feminist, which is great! What’s fun about that is wearing clothing that shows your passion for women’s liberation. But as a feminist, it’s majorly important to buy from clothing brands that don’t use exploited worker labor. How would you feel if you bought a shirt with the phrase, “This is what a feminist looks like” only to later discover that it came from a sweatshop that employed underpaid and overworked women? This isn’t a random example by the way, something like this already happened. Read more here:

    Does this mean that you should avoid buying feminist apparel altogether, or more generally clothing from any brand? Of course not. It just means you should buy from brands that you know don’t use exploited worker labor. You should also try to expand that to all of your buying habits including the food you eat to ensure that you are always using your money wisely. That can also include doing necessary research to find out if you are buying from places that use exploited worker labor, which most people can agree is bad. So without further ado, here are the best places to buy feminist clothing that don’t use exploited worker labor.

    GreenBox Shop
    This clothing company is responsible for a design you might have seen before, the, “Why be racist, sexist, homophobic, or transphobic when you could just be quiet?” shirt is gaining popularity. The website describes the company as a social justice apparel company that is completely fair trade.

    Check out their stuff here:

    Aurora Lady
    This clothing company puts out clothing made by the same person, the woman who founded the company. Her work reflects her passion for social justice, and I’d highly recommend you check out her Etsy shop and her website’s shop. Even if you don’t want to buy any feminist clothing, you should check out her website for the incredible visuals alone.

    Check out her website’s clothing store:
    Check out her Etsy shop:

    Feminist Apparel
    This shop is actually pretty well known. It supposedly is 100% ethical and fair trade, and had a bunch of different clothing options to choose from.

    Check their website out here:

    This brand emphasizes messages of intersectional feminism, which is awesome. One of their shirts talks about the wage gap in a way that is very interesting and depends upon the race of the person making the purchase. What that means is that when buying the shirt, you must pick your race which then changes the amount on the shirt. For example, the white/ asian options says, “You owe me 21 cents” while the black option says, “You owe me 36 cents.” Basically, it accounts for the way in which the wage gap is racial instead of just being about gender.

    Check out their website here:

    My Sister
    The slogan for this brand is this, “feminists who are tired of exploitation”, and they do their best to donate to organizations aimed at helping women and girls around the world. Part of their earnings go to programs designed to give more opportunities to victims of sex trafficking, which is a very noble cause to support.

    Check out their website here:

    Please note I found out about these brands from these articles:

    Ethical Alternatives to Mainstream Feminism Apparel ft. GreenBoxShop and More

    5 Feminist Fashion Brands With Awesome Ethics

  • Articles, STEM

    Withdrawal from the Paris Agreement: Now What?

    We’ve all seen the pictures of polar bears clinging to melting sheets of ice and read about the alarming acreage of the Amazon Forest lost to deforestation. Yet, a stunning new development has rocked the world – the U.S., once a leader of the climate change movement, has withdrawn from the Paris Agreement, a global pact designed to cap rising global temperatures by 2 degrees Celsius. According to NASA, over 97% of climate scientists believe that “climate-warming trends are extremely likely due to human activities.” Since the Industrial Revolution, the rise in CO₂ emissions, among other greenhouse gases, has slowly but steadily raised the global temperature. Though the rise in temperature – at an average of 0.14 every decade since 1901 in contiguous America – may seem small, the truth is that this trend in warming has disastrous effects on biodiversity, ecological communities, and our 21st-century lifestyles.

    The Paris Agreement provides a way for countries to respond to this disaster by agreeing to limit the global rise in temperatures by 2 degrees Celsius. This move would cap the rise in temperatures until newer clean energy technologies can be fully implemented. The agreement would facilitate a slow transition to renewable energy sources without causing economies to plummet. The Paris Agreement allows countries to create their own unique plans as to how each individual country will follow through with this 2-degree cap. This flexibility provides countries with the freedom to analyze their existing industrial frameworks and how they can respond to this challenge.

    As of today, over 148 countries have ratified the Paris Agreement. Among those who originally ratified the Agreement were India, China, and the United States. Yet, recently, the President has withdrawn from this agreement on the terms that it would impact the economy and hurt American manufacturing. The President who has issued several controversial opinions about climate change had promised on the campaign trail to pull out from this agreement. Though the President disagrees with the treaty, University of Virginia Professor of Natural History Hank Shugart believes that though the treaty is “ weak as it is non-binding and disadvantages developing nations, it is better than taking no action.”

    The withdrawal from the Paris Agreement has sent shockwaves around the world. The UN called the US withdrawal “disappointing.” Many climate scientists also believe that the US is taking the wrong step in fighting climate change. One thing is clear, however, with this setback. Instead of leading the way for fighting climate change as one of the world’s superpowers, the US has regressed and placed its responsibility in the hands of European and Asian leaders who must now lead the way to secure a habitable planet for future generations.



  • Articles, Celebrities, STEM

    the Dakota Access Pipeline: the Latest

    It only felt like yesterday when I logged onto Facebook to see reports of Shailene Woodley getting arrested at Standing Rock along with 26 other protesters, fighting for the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s right to clean drinking water at the construction site of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Her passion for the environment was awe-inspiring and I only felt even more empowered when she took the stage at the 2016 Environmental Media Awards to call even more attention to the #noDAPL movement (no Dakota Access Pipeline). But, all of that happened in October of last year. Now, halfway into 2017, I find my newsfeed, usually inundated with news about protests at Standing Rock, eerily void of all news about the pipeline. What has happened in the last eight months?

    Let’s first go over what the Dakota Pipeline is and why it’s newsworthy. The Dakota Access Pipeline is a project that has been well into the making for several years. According to the Smithsonian, the Dakota Access Pipeline will span over 1200 miles, connecting oil production fields in North Dakota to a river port in Patoka, Illinois. Developers state that the pipeline would transport well over “470,000 barrels of crude oil every single day.” The Standing Rock Sioux, a Native American tribe, opposes the construction of the pipeline because the tribe believes that it endangers the health and safety of its people with the threat of possible water contamination. The Pipeline would also be built on Sioux burial grounds, desecrating the tribe’s sacred history.

    According to the Washington Post, in February of 2017, the Trump administration approved the final permit of the Dakota Access Pipeline. In act of brazen indifference to the Sioux culture, tradition, and basic right to unpolluted drinking water, the administration went again environmentalist concerns and gave the green light for the pipeline’s construction. Yet, I was pleasantly surprised halfway into writing this article to notice a new headline in my inbox, a headline that was positive for the Sioux concerns and a major blow to the administration. The article, released by NPR, stated that the administration failed to “follow proper environmental procedures when it granted approval to the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline project.” Though the judge’s ruling does not halt construction of the Pipeline, it does open up a door to this possibility.

    In our history classes, we often read about the several injustices done to the first Americans. Yet, it’s tragic how we only talk about the Natives at the Thanksgiving dinner table. The reality is that not all interactions between the first Americans and the Europeans were like that between Squanto and the early settlers. The story continued on, and the ending was happier for the European colonizers than it was for the Native Americans. Hopefully, with increased attention to this cause, we can give the Natives the respect they deserve by protesting the development of this disastrous pipeline. Yes, it may be beneficial to our economy to have this pipeline built, but we cannot turn a blind eye to the environmental havoc this Pipeline can cause if the proper environmental risks are not as heavily weighed. As in the words of a Cree Indian prophecy, “Only after the last tree has been cut down. Only after the last river has been poisoned. Only after the last fish has been caught, only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.”