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Science

A giant garbage patch floating in the ocean has become home to hundreds of sea creatures

Multiple species of marine life have been discovered surviving on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch that floats between California and Hawaii.

great pacific garbage patch
Image via Unsplash

Plastic floating in the ocean

“Life finds a way” might be a line from a movie, but it’s the perfect way to describe the very real resilience of nature.

Take for example an enormous 620,000 square mile build-up of trash floating in the ocean between California and Hawaii, which has miraculously become a floating home to a myriad of sea creatures, otherwise known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Swirling ocean currents called gyres act as whirlpools sucking in piles and piles of litter into condensed areas, and the debris collects in patches in the center of the gyre. Though there are five of these garbage patches across the globe, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch—made of trash from countries in Asia and North and South America—contains the most plastic, according to USA Today.

In a new study published in the "Nature Ecology & Evolution Journal," a team of researchers revealed that dozens of species of invertebrate organisms that normally dwell on coastlines had been able to survive and reproduce on the floating garbage. Animals like crustaceans, sea anemones, mollusks and worms, oh my! Fishing nets, which make up nearly half of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, held the highest diversity of these coastal critters.

"It was surprising to see how frequent the coastal species were," Linsey Haram, a science fellow at the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the study's lead author, told CNN. "They were on 70% of the debris that we found.”

Creatures already known to live in the open ocean were also thriving on the plastic garbage, Haram told NPR. And more often than not, researchers saw the unlikely neighbors living together on the same piece of trash, with diversity of all organisms being highest on rope.

Of course, the findings of the study highlight possible negative consequences. Not only are the two species competing for food and space (and likely eating each other), there’s risk of these coastal animals becoming invasive species, as more and more learn to travel on wayward debris.

This is why, despite how nature is nature-ing, a huge overhaul of plastic use on multiple levels is still crucial. Another study published in March 2023 said that without urgent policy action, the rate at which plastics enter aquatic environments could increase by around 2.6 times between 2016 and 2040.

Luckily, actions are being taken. The UN Environment Assembly passed a landmark resolution in 2022 to end plastic pollution and create the world’s first global plastic pollution treaty by 2024. The agreement would address the full life cycle of plastic, from its production and design to its disposal.

Elsewhere, organizations have come up with innovative strategies for large scale trash collection. The Ocean Cleanup, for example, has created a net-like barrier known as a trash fence that acts as a trash collecting dam, preventing debris from moving from rivers to the ocean in the first place.

Animals clearly have a knack for evolving and adapting to help their species overcome. Hopefully, we humans can take a page from their book and make necessary changes in order to survive.

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A student accidentally created a rechargeable battery that could last 400 years

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There's an old saying that luck happens when preparation meets opportunity.

There's no better example of that than a 2016 discovery at the University of California, Irvine, by doctoral student Mya Le Thai. After playing around in the lab, she made a discovery that could lead to a rechargeable battery that could last up to 400 years. That means longer-lasting laptops and smartphones and fewer lithium ion batteries piling up in landfills.

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Democracy

12 real stories that show why ruthless immigration laws are the wrong move.

Immigration policies that rip families apart are a travesty.


If there's ever been a particularly bad time to be an undocumented immigrant, it's right now.

President Donald Trump, who launched himself into the 2016 presidential race with his support for a multibillion-dollar border wall, has been cracking down on immigration as promised. In addition to tightening border security, he's pledged to remove 2 to 3 million undocumented immigrants "immediately." And he appears to be keeping his word.

Deportation is nothing new, but Trump's plans are unprecedented. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.

It's a scary climate we're facing, but unfortunately, it's not just Trump and it's not just America. All over the world, people are more concerned with their countries' borders than seemingly ever before.Nations all over Europe, for example, are tightening up immigration rules and/or ramping up deportations themselves.

Amidst all the noise and rhetoric — every "radical Islamic terrorist" attack that gets waved about by politicians with something that eerily resembles pride, every horrific crime committed by white Americans that's met with deafening silence, every press conference faux pas — there are real people and real families being ripped apart in the name of patriotism.

Their stories are terrifying and heart-wrenching, but they're massively important.

1. A DREAMer gave a powerful speech about deportation. Moments later, she was arrested.

Daniela Vargas, who has lived in the U.S. since she was 7 years old, spoke at a news conference in Jackson, Mississippi, about the importance of the DREAM Act, which aims to help immigrant children who have lived in the U.S. for more than five years and graduated high school receive permanent legal status.

After the event, Vargas and a friend were pulled over and arrested by immigration agents.

2. A Sri Lankan student studying in North Wales was saved from deportation only by a last ditch effort hours before her flight.

Shiromini Satkunarajah, an electrical engineering student at Bangor University, was nearly sent back to Sri Lanka earlier this year. Despite having lived in the U.K. since she was 12 and being only three months shy of graduation, Satkunarajah was only allowed to stay after receiving an outpouring of community support.

3. A woman living in Great Britain was sent back to Singapore without being allowed to say goodbye to her husband and two children.

Irene Clennell had lived in the U.K. since 1988 but was abruptly sent back to Singapore after having her indefinite leave to remain revoked. Clennell is married and has two children with her husband but was not afforded the chance to see them one last time.

4. A mom living in Phoenix was sent back to Mexico. Her children would later face Trump as he addressed a joint session of Congress for the first time.

Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos' children were reportedly in attendance as Trump addressed Congress. Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/AFP/Getty Images.

Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos was sent back to Mexico in January this year for having a criminal record. Her crime? Working under the table to provide for her young children.

5. A beloved restaurant manager in a deep-red town in Illinois was arrested, and now the community is reeling.

Most of the people in West Frankfort, Illinois, voted for Trump. They never thought anything would happen to Juan Carlos Hernandez Pacheco, the friendly restaurant manager who seemed have done at least one kind deed for everyone in the community. Now, he's been detained by ICE and is currently waiting to find out if he'll be sent back to Mexico.

6. A Kuwaiti man and father of two living in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on the other hand, was miraculously spared from deportation because it would cause his family too much hardship.

Yousef Ajin has lived in the United States for 18 years with his wife, with whom he has four children. He reportedly met with immigration officers frequently, but on Jan. 30, 2017, he was suddenly detained.

In February, a judge granted a deportation waiver in order to spare Ajin's family from hardship. Many other immigrants aren't so lucky.

7. One man was caught trying to cross the border and returned to Tijuana. He appears to have jumped to his death shortly after.

The man, Guadalupe Olivas Valencia, had reportedly worked in the U.S. before to provide for his family back home before being deported multiple times. Caught trying to enter the country once again, he seemingly decided jumping from a bridge was his only option.

8. A single mother in California was sent back to Mexico, leaving her two young children in peril.

Photo by Jose Cabezas/AFP/Getty Images.

On Feb. 7, María Robles-Rodríguez was nabbed by U.S. Border Patrol and sent back to Mexico, leaving her twin 18-year-old daughters to fend for themselves.

9. Gay men being deported from Britain to Afghanistan are being told to pretend they're straight.

The British government's advice to gay men being sent home to Afghanistan, where they can be freely persecuted for their sexual orientation? Just don't act gay and everything will be fine!

Seriously.

10. Jose Escobar was detained after a routine meeting with immigration officers. He's a husband and father of three.

Escobar, who has lived in the United States for 16 years, had a deportation scare a few years back but was told he'd be safe if he checked in with immigration agents every year. Only this year, an agent reportedly told his wife, "We're just doing what President Trump wants us to do with the new rules."

Escobar will likely soon be deported.

11. A Mexican man living in Idaho was deported. His wife and the mother of his children could be next.

Tomas Copado ran his own auto body shop in Idaho Falls until he was sent back to Mexico earlier this year. His wife, for the sake of their children, recently had her own deportation deferred.

For now.

12. Some undocumented immigrants may be deported to Mexico even if they're not from there.

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

According to several reports, the Department of Homeland Security plans to send anyone who crosses illegally over the southern border of the U.S. back to Mexico, even though they may be citizens of another country.

Needless to say, this is horrendous and possibly in violation of international law.

Statue of LibertyPhoto by Guzmán Barquín on Unsplash

Every modern nation needs smart, empathetic paths to citizenship. Any immigration policy that tramples on human rights and rips families apart is a travesty.

It's time to bust the narrative that foreigners primarily come to our country — or any country — to do harm. They come mostly to find opportunity, to escape persecution, or to be with family.

If we can't come to see them as human beings rather than inanimate outsiders, finding the money to pay for a giant wall will be the very least of our problems.


This article originally appeared on 03.02.17

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