The rate of flow

everything flowsI was inspired in this by a beautiful piece of writing by Donovan Hohn, which has stayed with me ever since I read it in Harper’s magazine in 2007. I think it was the thing that first got me thinking about plastic. (Hohn has written his own striking book on this topic, Moby Duck, where this passage also appears):

“I’ve begun to notice currents everywhere, a universe of eddies and gyres.  Phytoplankton ride the same ocean currents that carried the Floatees to Sitka.  Zooplankton follow the phytoplankton.  Fish follow the zooplankton.  Sea lions, whales, and people follow the fish.  When, at the end of their upriver journey, salmon spawn and die en masse, their carcasses — distributed by bears, eagles, and other scavengers — fertilize the forests that make the fog, which falls as rain, which changes the ocean’s salinity.  All deep water travels along what oceanographers call the “conveyor belt,” which begins with warm water from the Gulf Stream draining into the North Atlantic, where evaporation increases the salinity and makes it sink to the ocean floor, where it creeps south into the Antarctic circumpolar stream.  After a thousand years — a millenium! — the conveyor belt ends here, in the North Pacific, where the ancient water wells up, carrying nutrients with it.  I’m becoming a devout driftologist.  The only essential difference between rock, water, air, life, galaxies, economies, civilizations, plastics … is the rate of flow.”

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