It’s officially summer. Temperatures are soaring, grills are burning and the dead zone is reaching its maximum size (Wait, did he just say the dead zone is reaching its maximum size?). Yes, yes I did, and I’m not talking about the film “Dead Zone” starring Christopher Walken (See it if you haven’t). I am referring to the massive dead zone lying directly off the Gulf Coast.
Since the 1970’s, oceanographers began noting the increase in what they referred to as “Dead Zones.” Like its name suggests, a dead zone is an oceanic area in which no life can be sustained. Sadly, one of the largest on record lies right outside Louisiana’s border in the Gulf of Mexico.
As many of you know, the Mississippi River runs through our wonderful city, carrying precious cargo to its ports. However, many of you may be unaware of the danger that travels with it back out to sea. In a recent study, scientists concluded that the river is now the second most polluted waterway in the United States, trailing only the Ohio River. In 2010, over 12.7 million pounds of toxic chemicals, such as nitrates and phosphorus, were, dumped into its waters. When these chemicals reach the ocean, they create massive amounts of algae, a phenomenon referred to as an algae bloom. This massive amount of algae eventually dies and decomposes, utilizing massive amounts of oxygen in the process. As we know, without oxygen, life cannot be sustained, so as the oxygen goes, so does the marine life, and the result is what we call a “Dead Zone,” where very little life can survive.
The question now becomes, what causes these chemicals to flow into our waterways? Scientists accuse intensive farming, which utilizes massive amounts of fertilizer, pesticide and fungicide to maintain its product. Picture this harmful process: Planes flying over massive expanses of crop, spraying toxic chemicals and pesticides, all in an effort to minimize the need for laborers. Yes, this method may save producers massive amounts of time and labor, but it’s at a devastating cost to the environment.
Currently, that environmental cost has never been more evident, as scientists are estimating this year’s dead zone to be equivalent to the size of Connecticut. Let me say that again, but all caps this time. SCIENTISTS ARE PREDICTING THIS YEAR’S DEAD ZONE TO BE THE SIZE OF CONNECTICUT. Devastation such as this cannot continue. We as a people and nation must make a stand, working together to diminish not only the dead zone off of our own coast, but others as well. How? By collectively making an effort to change the way we cultivate and consume food and dispose of waste. Try creating a permaculture, a farming philosophy which emphasis’s working with, rather then against nature’s tendencies.
To learn more about permaculture and how to create your own, check out our Permaculture! The Basics blog. And to receive more relevant and current information on our Dead Zone, check out this article from NOLA.com.