• Oil Spills

    A drunk captain and pictures of oil-soaked birds shot the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill straight into the American consciousness. But the 10 million gallons of oil that spilled into Prince William Sound made it only the 34th largest spill in history.

  • The largest oil spill in history was in Kuwait in 1991, when Iraqi forces intentionally opened up the valves on a number of oil tankers. Over 520 million gallons of oil spilled into the Persian gulf, resulting in this pretty crazy satellite image:

  • But even the small ones are a huge mess. In 2007, roughly 3 million gallons of oil spilled into the ocean near South Korea.

  • Messed Up Rivers

    Growing up in the US I had heard about how Cleveland’s Cuyahuga River had been polluted enough to catch fire in 1952 and 1969. But even then the Cuyahuga was as clean as a mountain spring compared to the most polluted river in the world: The Citarum River in Indonesia.

  • Over 500 factories dump their crap into the river…

  • …and it is reportedly more profitable to scavenge the floating garbage than it is to fish. It’s easy to see why:

  • Air Pollution

    The smog that can hang over Los Angeles on a still day is notorious in the U.S., but in terms of air pollution China has stolen the crown for biggest mess.

  • During the Beijing Olympics we saw how bad the capital city can get. In the aerial photo below, Beijing is completely obscured by a layer of grey polluted haze.

  • But Beijing has nothing on Linfen, China. It is considered to be the most polluted city on earth. The air is so thick with factory emissions that just spending a day walking around town is the equivalent of smoking three packs of cigarettes!

  • VBS.tv sent a reporter to Linfen last year as part of their “Toxic Series”:

  • Biggest Mess Period : Pacific Garbage Patch

    Discovered by sea captain and oceanographer Charles Moore in 1997, the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch is easily the largest mess on the planet. The Patch is a massive swirling soup of plastic between Hawaii and Japan. How large is it? Estimates range between the size of Texas and the size of the entire continental United States.

  • Most of the plastic has been broken down by light and wave action into tiny microscopic pieces that are then eaten by fish and other sea life. The larger pieces of plastic ensnare sea mammals and often wind up in the stomachs of birds like the albatross below:

  • Oprah brought the issue to the masses and VBS.tv did a pretty good, though foulmouthed, documentary on the subject.

  • And here’s a “Good Morning America” segment on the Patch.

  • But if you want hear about it from the man that discovered the Patch, you can watch Charles Moore give his 7 minute TED talk on the subject: