Three Stories Not Told: Earth Day Edition
Over the past year, Media Matters has documented the deterioration of media coverage on a range of environmental issues, including declining coverage  of climate change, unbalanced  coverage  of the Keystone XL pipeline, the perpetuation  of  falsehoods  about EPA clean air rules, disproportionate  and  misleading  coverage  of Solyndra and the denigration  of  clean  energy . Meanwhile, the mainstream press has overlooked some of the most important environmental challenges we face. In honor of Earth Day, Media Matters has compiled three major environmental stories the media missed this year:
1. Garbage In The Ocean Is Accumulating Rapidly. Did you know that in the middle of the Pacific Ocean there is garbage strewn across a region twice the size of Texas? In 1997, oceanographer Charles Moore discovered  what is now known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a whirlpool of debris from storm drains and fishing boats which includes  plastic bottles, light bulbs, toothbrushes, boxes and abandoned fishing nets. The debris is widely dispersed, making cleanup an enormous challenge . Much of the plastic that has accumulated there has broken down into small pieces, which seabirds ingest when they mistake it for food. The plastic is not only toxic  for marine wildlife - it eventually contaminates  the human food supply.
Scientists say this floating landfill has grown significantly in recent years and will continue to get larger as 1-2 million tons  of debris from the 2011 tsunami in Japan makes its way  into the North Pacific's rotating ocean current. And this is not the only one of its kind -- a similar garbage patch has been found  in the Atlantic Ocean, and there are at least several others  across the ocean. But the media has largely ignored this growing problem.
2. At Least 46 Oil Spills Have Occurred In The U.S. Since The BP Disaster. As 5 million barrels  of oil poured into the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of BP's Deepwater Horizon disaster, nonstop media coverage  drew national attention to the safety and environmental risks  posed by deep-water oil drilling. But once the well was capped, the media quickly moved on, Congressional safety reform measures floundered , and the lessons of the largest oil spill  in history were largely forgotten, even as gulf drilling surges . Since then, public outrage has subsided , but the risk of oil spills has not. In the two years since the BP disaster, at least 46 oil spills have occurred across the U.S., according to NOAA data  compiled  by Blue Planet Water Solutions. In the absence  of any meaningful action by Congress, oil spills will continue to threaten ecosystems and disrupt the tourism  and seafood  industries. Nevertheless, the mainstream media has neglected to report on these ongoing risks. Meanwhile, the conservative media have advocated  for  expanded  drilling  while dismissing  the  destructive  impact  of the BP disaster.
3. Gulf Of Mexico Contains A "Dead Zone" -- Devoid Of Life -- The Size Of New Jersey. A 2008 study  by ecologist Robert Diaz of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science found  that there are more than 400 "dead zones" in coastal waters across the world, totaling  95,000 square miles. Many of these hypoxic zones  are caused by nitrogen pollution from farm and sewage runoff, which contributes to excessive algae blooms that deplete oxygen in the water and kill or drive away marine life. Pollution from the Mississippi River watershed contributes to a massive recurring dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico each year, which threatens  American fisheries and costs  the U.S. seafood and tourism industries $82 million per year. Last summer, a team of scientists supported by NOAA measured  the Gulf of Mexico dead zone at 6,765 square miles -- about the size of New Jersey.
Dead zones around the world will only get worse  as the human population increases and requires more agricultural productivity. For example, a study  published in September by researchers from South Korea and the U.S. found  that nitrate levels of the coasts of China, Japan and Korea are soaring due to rapid population growth and industrial development. The study warned that increased nitrogen pollution could have major impacts on marine ecology and could lead to new dead zones in Asia. Global warming is also expected  to aggravate the problem by changing rainfall patterns and increasing runoff from rivers into the ocean. But the media has turned a blind eye to this issue.
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- Environment & Science