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44. Signs and Wonders - Pollute

Pollute (v.)

late 14c., "to defile," a back formation from pollution, or else from Latin pollutus, past participle of polluere "to defile, pollute, contaminate." Related: Polluted; polluting. Meaning "make physically foul" is from 1540s; specific sense "contaminate the environment" emerged from late 19c.


The flamingos are dying

and the shores of Lake Natron

and Lake Nakuru

resemble giant fallen wings

of dull closed flight.

The water no longer

crucibles of crimson fire

or the sky

pink crowded flocks of clouds-

the flamingos are dying.


falling into the death camps

of deforestation

dammed rivers

pollution, pesticides and poison.

But nothing is done

the world has turned its back

on Kenya anyway

and we must hold on to our

old holiday snaps at any cost

for the flamingos are dying.

Jeff Guess


What is Ocean Pollution?

The ocean remains one of the most expansive, mysterious and diverse places on Earth. Unfortunately, it is being threatened by pollution from people on land and from natural causes. Marine life is dying, and as a result the whole oceanic ecosystem is threatened simply by various sources of pollution. If we are to preserve ocean and its natural beauty, drastic measures have to be taken to combat this pollution and keep what we hold most dear.

Before, it was assumed that because the ocean was so big, vast and deep, that the effects of dumping trash and litter into the sea would only have minimal consequences. But as we have seen, this has proven to not be the case. While all four oceans have suffered as a result of human consequence for over millennia by now, it has accelerated in the past few decades. Oil spills, toxic wastes, floating plastic and various other factors have all contributed to the pollution of the ocean.

Wikipedia defines ocean pollution as,

“Marine pollution occurs when harmful, or potentially harmful, effects result from the entry into the ocean of chemicals, particles, industrial, agricultural and residential waste, noise, or the spread of invasive organisms. Most sources of marine pollution are land based. The pollution often comes from nonpoint sources such as agricultural runoff, wind-blown debris and dust.”

“Did you know that approximately 1.4 billion pounds of trash per year enters the ocean?” Source: NOAA

20 Surprising Facts About Ocean Pollution

Simply put, the ocean cannot continue to thrive as a dump site for people. While the state of the ocean’s pollution may not come as any sort of surprised to many people, the cold hard facts might:

Fact 1: Plastic is the most common element that is found in the ocean. It is harmful for the environment as it does not get break down easily and is often considered as food by marine animals.

Fact 2: The biggest source of pollution in the ocean is directly from land based sources, such as oil, dirt, septic tanks, farms, ranches, motor vehicles, among larger sources. Thousands of tons of waste and trash are dumped into the ocean on a daily basis.

Fact 3: Over one million seabirds are killed by ocean pollution each year. Three hundred thousand dolphins and porpoises die each year as a result of becoming entangled in discarded fishing nets, among other items. One hundred thousand sea mammals are killed in the ocean by pollution each year.

Fact 4: Even though much the trash and waste dumped into the ocean is released hundreds of miles away from land, it still washes up on beaches and coastal areas, and affects everything in between. Every marine animal is affected by man-made chemicals released in the water.

Fact 5: There is an island of garbage twice the size of Texas inside the Pacific Ocean: the North Pacific Gyre off the coast of California is the largest oceanic garbage site in the entire world. There, the number of floating plastic pieces outnumbers total marine life six to one in the immediate vicinity.

Fact 6: Oil is the fastest source of deterioration to the ocean, being far more harmful than trash and waste. However, only a small percentage of oil (around 12%) dumped in the ocean comes as a result of actual oil spills. Most oil causing harm in the ocean is a result of drainage from land. Oil spills suffocate marine life to death, and leads to behavioral changes and a breakdown in thermal insulation to those that do survive. It essentially changes the entire ecosystem of an affected area, such as a long coastline or deep ocean.

Fact 7: Toxic metals can destroy the biochemistry, behavior, reproduction, and growth in marine life.

Fact 8: Plastic debris can absorb toxic chemicals from ocean pollution, therefore poisoning whatever eats it. In fact, plastic pollution is one of the most serious threats to the ocean. Plastic does not degrade; instead, it breaks down into progressively smaller pieces, but never disappears. They then attract more debris. It poses a significant health threat to the various sea creatures, and to the entire marine ecosystem. Overall, plastic is the number one source of pollution in the ocean.

Fact 9: Not all sources of contamination in the ocean come from just oil, trash and solid wastes. The dumping of radioactive waste from nuclear reactors, industrial race (such as heavy metals and acids), and drained sewage are also heavy contributors to pollution.

The truth is that billions of tons of litter end up in the ocean each year, and it is substantially more than the 250 million tons of trash generated. This has led to a gradual loss in marine life and an increase in the number of endangered species. Littering causes pollution in the ocean, which also causes a substantial loss of life beneath the seas.

Fact 10: Sewage leads to the decomposition of organic matter that in turn leads to a change in biodiversity. Even if the ocean’s ecosystem isn’t destroyed entirely, it is still changed drastically, and usually not for the better.

Fact 11: Fertilizer runoff creates eutrophication that flourishes algal bloom (rapid increase or accumulation in the population of algae in aquatic systems) which depletes the oxygen content in the water that affects marine life.

Fact 12: Small animals at the bottom of food chain absorb the chemicals as part of their food. These small animals are then eaten by larger animals that again increases the concentration of chemicals. Animals at the top of hierarchy of food chain have contamination levels millions times higher than the water in which they live.

Fact 13: People get contaminated easily by eating contaminated seafood that can cause serious health problems, from cancer to damage to immune system.

Fact 14: The garbage like plastic bottles, aluminium cans, shoes, packaging material – if not disposed correctly, can reach the sea and the same garbage can again reach the sea shore where it pollutes beaches and affects local tourism industry.

Fact 15: Salty water of ocean has the capability to move pollutants from the ocean into coastal freshwater making wells and groundwater contaminated.

Fact 16: Chemicals from industries and mines can also enter ocean through land based activities. They can seep through soil, water or land either during their manufacture, use or accidental leaks. From soil, water or land, they can enter into ocean currents and can travel longer distances.

Fact 17: As 70% of the earth is covered with water, people actually assumed that all pollutants would be diluted and get disappeared. But in reality, they have not disappeared and their effects can be easily seen as they have entered the food chain.

Fact 18: Until 1970’s, the chemicals and garbage was deliberately dumped into the oceans and became as common practice for disposing everything including pesticides and radioactive waste, assuming that it would get dissolved to safe levels.

Fact 19: In several parts of the world including Gulf of Mexico and the Baltic Sea, Eutrophication has created enormous dead zones.

Fact 20: Till today, in many parts of the world, sewage water is discharged in the ocean – untreated or under-treated. This can cause serious effect on marine and human life and can also lead to eutrophication.


An Essay on the Canadian Novelist Margaret Attwood

Garbage, waste and Land pollution: Atwood, in her very first novel „The Edible Woman‟, describes a tourist spot being polluted and made dirty by the negligent people. Marian McAlpine‟s friend Duncan says of this place, “I used to come down (here) because it was cooler. But it‟s better covered with snow. It hides the junk. They‟re beginning to fill this place up with junk too, you know, beginning with the creek, I wonder why they like throwing things around all over the landscape ... old tyres, tin cans ...” (p. 331). Early on, she describes a typical scene of the woman workers at Seymour Surveys who seem to represent the prevalent addiction of production, consumption and waste. “What peculiar creatures they were ... taking things in, giving them out, chewing, words, potato-chips, burps, grease, hair, babies, milk, excrement, cookies, vomit, coffee, tomato-juice, blood, tea, sweat, liquor, tears, and garbage ...” (p. 206). In the middle of the novel, during one of their academic musings and discussions among Duncan, his university student friends, and Marian mcAlpine, Duncan says, “Production –consumption. You begin to wonder whether it isn‟t just a question of making one kind of garbage into another kind” (p. 174). He is so nauseated with the endless commercial grip production –consumption process that he comes to equate even books in the library with used car graveyards. “The human mind was the last thing to be commercialised but they are doing a good job of it now; what is the difference between the library stacks and one of those used car graveyards? What bothers me though is that none of it is ever final, you can‟t ever finish anything” (p. 174). In „Surfacing‟, the narrator who returns to her island home to find her missing father is greeted by its shore thus: “trash was strewn around it (a fireplace), orange peelings and tin cans and a rancid bulge of greasy paper, the tracks of humans. It was like dogs pissing on a fence, compelled them to leave their signature, stake their territory, and garbage was the only thing they had to do it with” (p. 140). Her next novel, „Life Before Man‟, is a novel with urban setting where garbage and waste has acquired a looming status. When the novel opens, one of the main character‟s, Lesje‟s, companion Willam is shown as working on an important sanitary project, which Lesje calls „sewage disposal‟ (p. 12). Though Lesje refers to William‟s job as sewage disposal he is a specialist in environmental engineering. “However, Lesje admires William‟s job and agrees with him that it is more important to the survival of ARVIND N. BARDE 5P a g e the human race than hers is. Which is true, they are all in danger of drowning in their own shit” (p. 19). Later in the novel, there is a reference to consumer culture created garbage being deposited in the waters in huge quantities (p. 134). How deep the environmental concern runs through the novels of Margaret Atwood is again evident from the descriptions we find in as feminist a novel as „Bodily Harm‟. There are references to negligence begotten garbage and litter on beaches (pp. 79-80), oil scum and junk in the harbours (p. 88), “mound of fruits and unknown vegetables discarded and rotting” (p. 174); and finally, Dr. Minnow says, “garbage collection ... is one of our most urgent problems on these islands” (p. 191). The novel „The Handmaid‟s Tale‟ has an atmosphere that is conspicuously removed from the readers‟ everyday life experience. The story that Offred relates is full of suspense and surprises too. Yet, in so speedy and power-packed a tale, Atwood‟s environmental broodings percolate. For example, Offred can‟t help remembering the time before Gilead, when the presence of plastic bags was ubiquitous and perilous. In Gilead, “Not many things are plastic, anymore. I remember those endless white plastic shopping bags, from the supermarket ... (p. 34). But, however Gilead may boast of its shunning plastic and maintaining tidiness, it also is not immune to junk and garbage, though of other kinds. When the commander takes Offred for an evening out in what seems to be a brothel (disguised, of course!), she is met by “a bank of trash cans ... set out beside the door. And there is a smell of fried chicken, going bad” (p. 293). After that, as the novel advances, there are many references to toxic waste dump sites and radiation. And, the useless people for the regime like old, unfertile women, being made to sweep deadly toxic waste.

ARVIND N. BARDE, Assistant Professor in English


Environmental Degradation and Pollution Prayer

The advances of science and technology of the past 200 years have brought great progress to many people, but a cost. Western industrial economies now have environmental protection legislation with heavy penalties for polluters, but accumulated contaminants remain and toxic spills still occur. Many third-world economies still produce cheap goods with harmful byproducts that damage the health of people who live nearby and who have no choice but to breathe the air, drink or fish in the water or grow food in the soil. Pollution also affects entire ecosystems and contributes both to loss of habitat and to direct deaths of animals and plants. For more information about pollution issues in Australia, see

Forgive us, Lord God our Creator. In haste and hunger for progress we have laid waste the good earth you have made. We have mined landscapes, spoiled coastlines and polluted air and water.

We have brought health and wealth to some and suffering and deprivation to others, exploiting the earth and threatening its creatures. Make us hungry now for generosity and balance.

Make us brave enough to choose more wisely

for the future of the earth, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

© The Anglican Church of Australia

This text may be reproduced for use in worship in the Anglican Church of Australia

©Jeff Guess 2017

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