Jon Miner

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We should build ocean going garbage collectors to clean up the debris from the Japanese tsunami.

1.5 million tons of junk washed out of the towns in Japan which were struck by the earthquake and tsunami are floating toward the beaches on North America. The old way was to wait until it came ashore and send thousands of people there to pick it up. The amount of junk now approaching far exceeds what this method can alleviate.
This junk include thousands of containers of toxic substances which will degrade over tens of years contaminating thousands of miles of coastline. This is at least a magnitude worse than any oil spill we have experienced.
My idea it to net it up at sea before it arrives on shore.

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    Jun 23 2012: There is an article in the Japan Times about the problem of debris washed up on shore.
    It is underestimating the amount of debris out there.
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    Jun 12 2012: Should we actually do something about this or just read about it on TED?

    First, we need to decide if cleaning this up in the ocean is better than waiting for it to come ashore. This is important because it is a key question. Are we going to clean up this mess - ever? If so where can we most easily find it to clean it up: floating freely in the ocean, or tangled along a thousand miles of shoreline?
    Is the general public aware of this and do they care? Is this only an interesting topic for intellectuals on TED? Or is this a real disaster that is too big for us to try to alleviate? Should we just let the government of each state and county do the best they can as this washes up for the next few years?
    Am I assuming that this is bad when it is not really bad? Stuff washes up all the time. What’s the big deal?
    Is it important to do something now? Maybe we should wait and see if it is really a problem, then decide what to do…
    Do people inland really care about what happens to the seashore? Why should they pay to clean it up? Does the beach really matter in the long run? Most people never go there anyway.
    What are the consequences of not leaning it up? Will sea life really suffer? The junk is already out there. Isn’t it too late for them anyway? Or will the degradation over the next few decades just get worse and worse?
    Who should act? Who should do something. I am sure that politicians are pointing fingers at each other all over the place and will continue to do so right up until the criticisms include, “They should have done something sooner! Now it is going to cost ten times as much!” And they will just keep pointing their fingers long after it is too late.

    What if al-Qaeda had somehow launched this at us? We would be spending billions of dollars to make sure they were not successful in their attack. But Mother Nature? We can’t have a war on Mother Nature can we? Or can we? Does anybody know Al Gore's phone number?
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    Jun 7 2012: I hope TED readers are aware of the large dock that washed ashore from Japan. Just google 'tsunami dock.'

    I noticed one comment... "We didn't expect anything like this..."

    It is because we have never experienced anything like this and my mother always told me, 'a stitch in time saves nine.'

    I think this is the perfect 'word of wisdom' for this even and that we take it to heart, soon!
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    May 29 2012: If you are at all interested in this, please look at this blog:

    and this article:

    Whole houses are going to wash ashore. We've go to do something. This slo-mo disaster has begun.
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    May 29 2012: Subject: Priorities
    I would like to point out a headline about space exploration:
    The average price of a full-up NASA Dragon cargo mission to the International Space Station is $133 million

    So, we are spending $133 million for each cargo mission to the International Space Station. This is because smart people figured out how to do it for less than NASA could afford before.

    I hope some smart entrepreneurs can figure out how to mitigate this coming disaster before it it too late.

    To quote myself:
    "There is no happier sight than a young optimist, except an old optimist."
    Why? Because a young optimist thinks the impossible can be done, and the old optimist knows the impossible can be done!
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    May 29 2012: OK, so I will back up a bit. Perhaps serendipitous blessings are to be found in this mess. I read the following headline in the Japan Times.
    Harley-Davidson Museum to display tsunami-hit hog found off British Columbia
    A motorcycle that was swept away by last year's tsunami and ended up off British Columbia is set to be displayed at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Wisconsin.

    Unbelievable! That is one tough motorcycle!
    Out of the 1.5 MILLION tons of junk floating our way there are indeed some blessings.
    Here it is:

    Two fish processing ships with a huge trawling net between them could gather up untold tons of the not so serendipitous blessings out there. That would be much easier and more efficient than thousands of beach walkers picking up the pieces after they walk ashore...
  • May 28 2012: Hi Jon
    Some months ago I wrote out a bit of a project and presented it here to get the world involved in cleaning up the seven garbage islands that are killing the oceans. I don't think I got one response. You have done better than I and I think it is not only a great idea but is presented in a way that one may think, "yes, this can be done" and "yes, this should be done."

    At the time I presented some of my project / idea / plan here on Ted, the best info I had found regarding them came from the scientific "experts" and oceanographers who claimed cleaning them up cannot be done. They also used their expertise to ensure the world that the garbage islands will be here 1,000 years from now, and growing, if humans do not stop polluting the seas. This they know for sure, as they are "experts". Great..

    I would also like to see all ocean activity stop, for a period of ten years while a project, yours and / or mine are completed so that the seas may heal themselves. We humans cannot do that. We only destroy and kill, tarnish and ruin and we do this with great pride.

    Me thinks your idea comes from a sane mind. Thanks for posting it.
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      May 29 2012: Thanks
      I hope that somebody with a lot of pull talks the people who can do this to actually do it.
  • May 26 2012: Jon, I appreciate one hundred percent of the content of your recent post. Something you wrote elicited a thought from somewhere in my innards that SPECIALISTS will be most cost/efficiently and cost/effectively used in this great important earthwide opportunity. May each of those potentially positive products you listed above, thanks to your writing what you are writing here on, attract the minds, muscles and other positive portions of people all over our lovablelovingloved world be inspired to come up with creative, coorperative, effective and other positive approaches to this current situation that affects every living person on our precious planet. This could be the incident that causes awarenesses to spiral upward in miscellaneous categories. Happy Today to you and all you love.
  • May 26 2012: Good idea. There is also that mass of plastic and other debris that was already taking up some ocean surface prior to the tsunami. Let's think of the stuff as RESOURCES (rather than "junk")to be converted to desirable products that might be made or sold in Japan and other places to enhance the lives of some of our contemporaries. Power to the positive.
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      May 29 2012: I need to point out that the 'some ocean surface' you mention is 4 thousand miles long and 2 or 3 thousand miles wide. The only way to attack it is with huge nets towed between two freighter style ships. Little fishing vessels are useless. We need to convert those huge fish factory ships. Instead of processing thousands of tons of whales or tuna, let them process pollution.

      Really. Take a look.

      If we can convert huge fishing factories for this task, we can also use them to clean up the mid-pacific pollution island and the Bermuda Triangle pollution island as well.
      • May 30 2012: Jon, Thank you very much for this input. Happy Today to you and all you love.
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    May 25 2012: all the floating flotsim gathers at points in the ocean, thats were we need to harvest those discarded resources.
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      May 29 2012: You are mostly correct. However this debris field is caught in the Japan Current and it will wash ashore on Alaskan, Canadian and American beaches. It is large enough that it will spread out and spiral around and around the Pacific Ocean for years.

      If you remember, there were many ships sunk during World War II. Fuel oil from their bunkers polluted beaches for decades. Did you ever go to the beach and have to wash black tar off your feet? This is similar but includes 1.5 million tons of rubbish. A lot of it is also chemicals in containers which will at some point rupture and release chemicals into the sea or seashore.

      We need to go out and get as much as we can as soon as we can. It is a slow motion disaster. This will haunt us for decades as well if we just sit back and watch.
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    May 25 2012: Oh perfect! Another problem for the U.S. . . . well for Alaska, Oregon, Washington and California anyway.
    • May 26 2012: The way I see it, it is another opportunity for U.S ingenuity or the creativity of anyone(s) on earth to convert these floating resources into new, different valuable goods that can enhance the well-being of a whole bunch of people throughout our lovely world. Sometimes opportunities look like problems, I guess.
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        May 26 2012: Mark Twain said QUOTE- "There is no sadder sight than a young pessimist, except an old optimist."
        You do see the bright side Rhona. Thanks for pointing it out to this old pessimist. "Floating resources" sounds much better than "debris" or "flotsam".
        • May 26 2012: One can make a negative statement.
          One can make a positive statement.

          "Mark Twain said QUOTE-"There is no sadder sight than a young pessimist, except an old optimist."

          The above statement and the quote within it are both perfect examples of the clear choices their authors made using the same language, quantity of words, time and other things to make negative statements when they could equally have chosen to make positive statements about the subject matter at hand or anything at all.

          I am well aware that many people think and believe that they are being higher, smarter, holier and other things, when they suffer or express or manifest negativity with respect to miscellaneous matters.

          May as well choose positive, when you have a choice.
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    May 25 2012: If we wait until it washes up along thousands of miles of coastline, we will never be able to stop the pollution for decades to come. The time to act is now, while the junk is floating freely. Use our technologies perfected to catch fish. We can drag nets with ships and collect the junk before it arrives on shore.
    The junk includes all the stuff washed out of factories and garages in the areas struck by the tsunami. Sure, it includes 'cute stuff' like soccer balls with autographs. But there are containers of paint, fuel, oil, and innumerable other chemicals. There are thousands of plastic items which will break down and be eaten by sea-life. This will contaminate the food chain with carcinogens and worse.
    This is not some problem for people living at the beach. This mess will hit the coastline from Alaska to Mexico. The longer it floats around, the harder it will be to gather it up.
    • May 26 2012: Jon, maybe some of what washes up on our shores will be serendipitous blessings. When in doubt, I assume positive. It is not necessarily "junk." It could be valuable resources that can be efficiently converted to different valuable products that will enrich the lives of some people. Anything positive is possible, e.g., mold and penicillin.
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        May 26 2012: Hi Rhona
        I appreciate your positive attitude.
        However, take a look at what is floating toward shore. Imagine whole town-fulls of household stuff washed out to sea and floating for several months. There are cans full of gasoline, oil, paint, insecticide, and innumerable chemical products which are in no way serendipitous. This mess is thousands of miles long. It will be washing ashore for years. Would you want to use something in that condition? What if some town in Utah or Oregon decided to dump all the junk in people's garages on a beach in Oregon. There would be a terrible uproar and lawsuits everywhere. Factories get fined thousands of dollars for illegal dumping. Where stuff is dumped never believe it to be a good thing.
        Sea life is going to eat this stuff. People are going to walk along what used to be pristine beaches covered with aging driftwood and see yellow and orange floats, fuel cans, hairspray, milk cartons, and you name it. And this is going to wash ashore for years.
        It is good to have a positive attitude. That is why I am suggesting that we start solving this problem while it is as easy to solve as possible. I believe people will figure out a way to do it.
        That is my positive attitude.