Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Search trends show more interest in the Pacific garbage patch than other ocean threats

As I mentioned on Twitter yesterday, ocean acidification appears to be surpassing coral bleaching in the public imagination, at least according to a comparison of Google searches over the past few years.

Attention to ocean acidification and coral bleaching is now far surpassed by attention to the Pacific garbage patch.

Many factors may be at play here, including NGO and media focus on the Pacific garbage patch. Regardless, I can't help but wonder if the dominance of the garbage patch points to the power of the visceral, and the inherent struggle communicating "invisible" environmental changes, like ocean chemsitry changes, and in some ways, even climate. Sure, coral bleaching is visceral, but it is also foreign to most North Americans, and the causes of bleaching are invisible. But garbage? People can all relate to garbage. You can see it and smell it. Garbage is also a good metaphor; the ocean is literally our dumping ground.


Tyler said...

I think part of the hype of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the cute animals affected by it. It's one of the big attention grabbers--a bird killed by swallowing plastic, or a turtle drowned by a grocery bag.

The cute animals may be what's drawing attention as opposed to the disaster itself.

Diana Studer said...

All man's pollution will the salt sea cleanse.

No longer.

EliRabett said...

In line with this, it is really confusing why Eli's advertising post for your reef paper got more comments than your post.

Unknown said...

Guess I should be wearing a rabbit costume.

Unknown said...

I added "Jennifer Lopez" as an additional term to your list of ocean acidification, coral bleaching, and pacific garbage patch, and ran the Google Trends search again.

A person could sum up the interest in the three search terms other than Jennifer Lopez as "no one cares". I'm not saying no one cares.

But if you're interested in trends in the interest of the general public in fairly obscure issues not many of them search for information on at all it seems you've got to be concerned that maybe what you're trying to glean meaning from is just noise.