Plastic pollution, especially in the marine environment, is a wicked problem. Wicked problems, while they often do result from sin, do not refer to the sinner so much as the type of problem that needs to be solved. Wicked problems are very, very difficult, if not impossible, to solve, at least for us mere mortals. The Atlantic did a story earlier this year exposing some of the massive quandaries facing those attempting to address the ever-expanding plastic pollution throughout the earth’s ocean. One of the more “feasible” engineered solutions is to design and place floating garbage collectors in certain locations to trap the material. Big problem: neuston.
Neuston includes all of the surface-dwelling oceanic creatures including those of the pretty famous Sargassum Sea in the mid-Atlantic. If the garbage collector collects everything on the surface it will also collect the ecosystems that float on the surface, including those that have grown around and are now embedded in the plastic waste. This is a wicked problem, as are many of today’s most important environmental problems. Let us be wise stewards, slow to quick and easy solutions and quick to discussion and collaboration and prayer.