Research – WaywardSundial

  The Scourge of the Seas

A common “solution” to cleaning oil spills involves pouring dispersants throughout the spill so as to make the oil fade. Unbeknownst to many, dispersants actually cause more damage to the environment and the creatures living in it and around it compared to if the oil was simply left alone. Although this seems very one sided in terms of definitions, there are many aspects that can be mentioned about pollution that provoke thoughts from a different perspective. From the physical description of pollution with it residing in the ocean, to more political ways of describing it, pollution and further damage is caused when efforts are made in the first place.

Although most of the pollution in the waters of Earth are mainly emissions from vehicles such as boats and cars, plastic and oil pollution is still very prevalent. Ocean pollution is both a very broad topic, while also being singular in the sense that there is pollution in the ocean. Compared to the simple, straightforward take on ocean pollution there is also the political meaning of it. With so much damage being done to the ocean every day, alongside the influx of trash and plastic being dumped into it, the effects can and are harming both the ecosystems and the beings that live inside them as well as humans. From this article there are descriptions of how pollution is added to the oceans, “Causes and Effects of Ocean Pollution.”  With all of this pollution being added through a multitude of ways, a solution must come to light soon or else there may be consequences that will be of a lingering enormity.

When dispersants enter oil spills and spread out the crude oil, harm is brought to the marine ecosystem. Based upon a study from “Springer Link,” tests were done to determine how dispersants harm marine life. It was found that microplankton, who are the “starting point” for the food chain of the sea digest the very fine particles of crude oil once it is broken up from the dispersants. From exposure and ingestion of dispersant-treated crude oil spills, the egg production rates dropped by 45-54%, while also being a sadly fast way for crude oil the be spread in an ecosystem. As explained in more detail in the article, since plankton are the primary food source for marine life such as fish, the contaminant will be spread further. To go even further, those that consume the now “tainted” fish will then become harmed by the toxic nature of the crude oil. Although the risk of consuming crude oil through other organisms that was started with plankton may seem small, the actual damage caused by crude oil is quite serious. According to the “Public Safety Department of Santa Barbara county,” consuming seafood contaminated by crude oil spills can be very harmful to ones health. A frightening fact about the exposure to crude oil is “Crude oil is comprised of several hundred compounds, some of which are known to cause cancer.” With this fact in mind, the damage that oil brings is a very serious threat, with the origins of it coming from plankton in the ocean being exposed and consuming crude oil that became accessible to them due to the use of dispersants.

Although it seems obvious, boats produce an incredibly large amount of pollution. These emissions then add to the ever increasing state of ocean pollution. The part that is somewhat obscure while being counterintuitive at the same time, is the fact that even in pollution cleaning efforts, pollution is at the same time being added to the ocean. With many operations with a focus on cleaning the ocean of trash and oil, they use boats to either skim the water or simply pick out pieces of floating rubbish. From a marine article”Ship Pollution” comes information regarding the output of pollution that ships themselves produce. The concept of ocean pollution as a whole can also be applied to this situation; any efforts to rid the ocean of pollution will also add pollution to the very thing people set out to put an end to. Although a very frustrating concept, it is something that must be dealt with until a way of cleaning pollution without using any resources that will directly affect the ocean in a negative way. In a way, this is an extension of my previous statement that ocean pollution has a both singular and broad definition at the same time. Although troubling but still unique, there are many ways that ocean pollution can be applied to modern topics of debate as it is something that is lingering above, or at the very least at the edge of our shores, at all times.

Although there is no definitive “perfect way” to rid the ocean of pollution, nearly every way that we as a whole have to potentially solve this issue also contributes to the fact. With this in mind, perhaps alternative methods must be used such as sailboats or free-floating nets that capture and collect waste automatically with no reliance on power that directly expels waste. Although many potential methods are not in use, there still is a vast amount of opportunity that awaits. With the subject of various world leaders on this issue, it seems as if not much research is going into this issue aside from private groups that seek to diminish the pollution of the ocean. An article from “LiveScience” explains several methods of how these groups are participating in the relief efforts of the ocean state “There are four basic ways to clean or contain an oil spill, and workers determine the most appropriate method depending on the location of the spill, potential hazards, weather conditions, waves and currents”. Although this is a bold claim that there are only four, one of these cause more harm than good, and that entry is dispersants. Only praising the good of it, this specific article does not show how treacherous that “solution” can be. Another method used is the action of simply skimming the ocean with nets to capture several feet worth of pollution, such as trash or oil emissions. This does have several issues, such as contributing to the pollution by using fuel consuming vehicles, it also can potentially ensnare marine life that are unaware that they are about to be tangled. Although this is not outright pollution, it is still considered damage to the environment because life is potentially being harmed.

With all of the things that are a potential source of damage to the environment of the ocean and not a large amount of ways to diminish it, there is still hope. Although efforts to help using boats to slowly chip away at the immense amount of pollution, the amount of pollution that said efforts emit are not as large as the amount of damage that they in turn clean up. Yes, there still is pollution being added, although not always is it more than what is being taken. With this somewhat dark mindset, if more people were to contribute to the cleaning of the pollution that is so numerous in the ocean, the small amount of pollution the efforts may add are a cost that must be paid for the ocean to be at least more clean than it was before cleaning exhibitions were made. I believe that if people were to apply the knowledge of the fact that boats add emissions, by traversing carefully and ethically the pollution that takes so many forms may very well be lessened in the coming years.

With modern efforts set in place to rid the ocean of pollution, every way to do so adds further contaminants to the seas of the world. Dispersants added to oil spills seeking to make the ocean appear clean as well as “protect” the wildlife may be one of the most damaging things that could be done in that situation. Ocean pollution is also derived from plastic waste being thoughtlessly tossed into the seas, out rightly damaging the marine life as well as humans. For efforts that set out to relieve the ocean of pollution, there are sources wherein unfortunately the blame is due to the attempts seeking to expunge the various scourges of the ocean.

With the ocean being such an immense source for the air we breathe, water that we drink, alongside a plethora of other resources it is truly an upsetting prospect that pollution in many forms are being added to it every day. Whether it be intentional or accidental, oil emissions, plastic, and runoffs are among the most damaging and common forms of ocean pollution. Regardless of the form that ocean pollution takes, the effects of such damage are very severe, harming both the life that resides in the depths alongside humanity itself. From an article from “Ocean Pollution Effects Humans” a notable bit of information is “Chemicals such as oil, mercury, lead, pesticides, and other heavy metals can all be found within the ocean and can contaminate water supplies and our food chain by affecting the marine life involved. If humans are exposed to these toxic chemicals for long periods of time, then this can result in dangerous health problems, which include hormonal issues, reproductive issues, and damage to our nervous systems and kidneys.” Although this quote doesn’t focus on the specific ways that wildlife is harmed, it focuses more on the effects of pollution on humans. With the cause obviously being humans for the majority of the pollution being added to the seas, it seems very ironic that it comes around to harm the very creatures that have created this vast scourge. As stated before, with so many resources being taken from the ocean such as water and food, it is incredulous that certain behaviors are committed by any group of people that add pollution, as the results are truly devastating on the health of the ocean, the marine life that reside within, and humans themselves.

Alongside oil emissions from vehicles being added to the ocean or literally dumped into it, plastics are another form of pollution that has been proven to be extremely detrimental to the well being of all three parties involved; the ocean itself, the wildlife, and humans. From an article exclusively dedicated to the causes and effect of plastics that have entered the waters of the ocean discusses how impactful this issue really is to everyone,”Plastic Pollution and the Harm it Causes.” With the focus of this article being on the results of ocean plastic pollution, “In fact, not only do the toxins in plastic affect the ocean, but acting like sponges, they soak up other toxins from outside sources before entering the ocean. As these chemicals are ingested by animals in the ocean, this is not good for humans. We as humans ingest contaminated fish and mammals.” This quote provides insight into the issue of the less spoken portion of plastic pollution. When plastic waste is sitting in the ocean, it essentially absorbs the toxins in the water that were pre-existing due to other forms of pollution. Consequently, when marine life eats the tainted plastic they would in turn be contaminated with this odd form of pollution transfer, due to the seepage of the waste that resided in said plastic. With the scale of fishing that people do, the amount of people that are impacted by this is of a serious degree. When the captured marine life are eaten, the transfer that initially started from two forms of pollution will then end up in the individual that consumes it, with the effects described in further detail in the article discussing plastic and its effect on the ocean when discarded so carelessly. With this type of damage being caused by plastic pollution, it is disheartening to realize there are a plethora of ways that plastic harms the ecosystem of the ocean ever further. Aside from the fact that pollutants seep from the plastic were it to absorb any external sources of pollutants, plastic waste in the ocean physically harms animals living within as it is very easy for a creature to mistake a plastic bag, fork, or straw as a food source. Countless sea turtles alone are recorded every year that they suffocate on plastic bags floating in the ocean as they share a resemblance with a key component of their diet, and that being jellyfish. Amongst the many viral videos depicting sea life getting plastic waste stuck in their throats, nasal cavity, or their necks tangled within 6-pack plastic bindings, it seems that they spark more motivation for people to band together and try and end this hardship that people and animals have to endure. Although efforts are being made to rid the ocean of all forms of pollution, plastic included, those very attempts also add pollution that very well may impact an individual negatively purely due to the fact that as of now there are little to no ways to safely and effectively clean the ocean with a 100% certainty that no further pollution will be added.

Although plastic and vehicle-emission pollution are very big factors of pollution, shown by the fact that I heavily went over the causes and effects of those topics, the worst form of pollution may very well be from dispersants. Purposefully put into the ocean with good intent surrounding the act, the effects are catastrophic. Put into simpler terms in “Beachipedia” it related this effort to putting dish soap in a sink full of water with oil on the top. Although much smaller scale than the ocean, with less harsh chemicals taking place of the dispersants, it shows what they are meant to do; remove the oil from the water or at the very least break it up in order to make it be easier to break down. However, due to the dispersants being way more harmful than dish soap, it actually harms the ecosystems where it is being used in ways that the model can not demonstrate. By breaking down the oil in real-life scenarios, it makes it easier for the oil to be consumed by wildlife. Not only reaching the biological aspects of things, it also spreads throughout the ocean not just on the surface, furthering the reach of pollution into the depths of the water. An often overlooked group of marine life that can be severely harmed through the use of dispersants are coral reefs, with the use of said chemicals being heavily restricted in those areas according to “The Office of Response and Restoration” . Areas that are OK for the application of dispersants to be used is discussed in an article on their website saying “These are areas far from the reefs, or located where currents would carry the dispersed oil away from the coral.” Even though to the public dispersants seem fine to use, it is odd that there are these rules even though the uneducated view of dispersants is one of a beneficial view, even though this a benefit is something not found while using dispersants. Although not visible, pollution is almost always there when using these chemicals, causing more damage than if the oil was left alone.

With so many causes that lead to such negative effects, it seems imperative that ocean pollution of all forms ceases to exist. Although with modern technology, that goal is not directly feasible, however any attempts still help clean a portion of the majority, although it is not the entirety it surely helps. Although the many reasons for pollution has been discovered, the means by which to stop and get rid of existing pollution is not fully in effect. Were a solution to be founded and put into effect, it seems obvious that the well-being of the ocean, those that reside in it, as well as humanity will benefit greatly not just in form of health, but in the sense that the purity of the ocean will not be as tainted as it is in its present state.

Using dispersants to clean pollution that resides in the ocean has direct consequences that harms life living in it, as well as outside of it. Unintentional harm from several techniques cleaning the seas can hinder or even kill unsuspecting marine life, especially from said dispersants. Regardless of the method of cleaning, harm will still be added, and in the case of dispersants being used to make the ocean appear cleaner, it actually is making more harm happen with regards to all life inside and out of the ocean.

When pollution is being cleaned, one could argue that the amount of waste added as well as the damage dealt doesn’t compare to the amount of pollution that is being cleaned, as more good is being done than harm. Although that is true, many lives within the ocean will be harmed in potentially more severe ways. With the example of oil nets that clean up oil spills or emissions from aquatic vehicles, although there exists chances of animals being harmed, a good quantity of pollutants is being taken out of the environment. While this is mostly positive, the few lives in question would be snuffed out due to these efforts. It would be unfair as well as cruel to dismiss the possibility of loss of life, no matter if the loss in question is a fish or bird.

Dispersants are chemicals in which they are poured on oil spills, “dispersing” the pollution so that it appears to be clean, however there very well may be more harm than benefits with this method. Within an article from “How Cleaning Spills can Harm Animals,” it discusses the counterintuitive aspect of cleaning oil pollution and the effects it can have. “While it would be nice to believe that dispersants rid the ocean of oil forever, the truth of the matter is that dispersants do not reduce the amount of oil entering the environment. Instead, they literally just push the problem (a combination of oil AND chemicals) underwater where we can’t see them …” and  “ Not only does it appear that our methods of cleaning up oil spills are ineffective, but the chemicals used in dispersants are also damaging marine life. Dispersants wreak havoc in ocean environments, and have proven to be harmful to many marine organisms.” These quotes show the dangers and effects of a single type of “rescue” people use to clean up oil spills.These dispersants spread the oil to eventually settle on the seabed, where it causes arguably more harm than it did on the surface. From being in the same environment as these harmful chemicals and toxins, marine life become not only tainted but also hindered by these toxins, passing the harmful effects to human were they caught and ingested. The effects of a product of humans seeking to help the ocean and those who benefit and live within it inadvertently negatively impacts the beings who are dedicated to it.

Dispersants deployed on oil spills near coral reefs may be more harmful to them than the oil itself. Done by an organization publishing their research on “ACS Publications”, a group of scientists and oceanographers revealed that dispersants were more harmful to coral than crude oil. “The dispersed oil and the dispersants were significantly more toxic than crude oil WSFs.” alongside a series of tests, this was the conclusion they discovered. Perhaps a good analogy to this overall topic would be for one to metaphorically look at the sky of a polluted city. Although there is a blue sky and everything seems ok, it isn’t possible to see pollution in the sky with the naked eye. This goes for dispersants; although oil spills appear to be gone, they are really just dissipated throughout the water setting up the possibility to cause more harm. Again, the opposition to my overall thesis is that more good may be done than harm in the overall scheme of cleaning ocean pollution with the use of dispersants.

Perhaps the biggest case for refuting my claim is that when dispersants are used on oil spills, the oil that was initally harming animals are nowhere to be seen, completely dissipated throughout the water. Explained by “Marine Life Article” talking about how dispersants work, the types of them, as well as how “beneficial” they are, it completely neglects to talk about how disastrous they really are for marine life and the ocean in general. This claim is completely untrue, as although the oil spill appears clean it actually was just broken down, spreading throughout the ocean in small globules which not only spread the maladies of the pollution ever further, it also is more easier for wildlife in the ocean to consume it and become effected negatively by it. Furthered by my point about how ocean pollution can harm humans, this can be related to the use of dispersants as humans who are unlucky enough to eat marine life that have become contaminated through eating the globules caused by the dispersants will inevitably gain health problems, all leading back to the dispersants them self. This is very much the opposite to what is wanted when trying to save and preserve the ocean. Although it may appear good for an organization in the media to be associated with “cleaning the ocean”, there is virtually no benefit to this method other than the waters appearing cleaner. In actuality the waters are being polluted even more than if the oil were to just sit on the surface.

In today’s society, more often than not issues that have a very obvious cause for malfeasance towards to environment have the “spotlight.” In the case of dispersants, this is not always true. Be it due to the concept that oils spills appear cleaned once dispersants are added, it doesn’t get the recognition that is should. The harm that dispersants cause, both by spreading the oil throughout the ocean as well as causing harm what with the chemicals being toxic to marine life, is not always something that can be captured on photographs. The harm that is caused is very real, albeit somewhat hard to capture. With all of this said, the result is clear that dispersants cause more damage to the environment and wildlife than good. It makes the ocean appear cleaned and healthy, although the consequences to this naive way of thinking could be extremely dire.



2 thoughts on “Research – WaywardSundial”

  1. I included two new sources regarding how dispersants actually damage marine life, how it occurs, and the REAL effects crude oil contamination has on humans. Found an interesting starting point for how it spreads for real in ecosystems (starting with micro plankton) and the actual harm dispersants have on them. Then, I talked about the damage dispersants have on humans after the contaminant is actual spread to humans.


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