science-050912-004-617x416For many weeks now, our news has been filled with daily updates (ad nauseam by CNN!) of the tragic and mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight 370. Most experts agree that the plane must have gone down into the Indian Ocean, and they are combing the sea in search of the wreckage and the all-important black box that can shed light on the mystery. As I have kept up with the news, I have noticed a pattern. On a regular basis, it seems that searchers find debris floating in the ocean, and raise hopes that they have found the wreckage. Yet, the hopes are dashed again and again with the news that the debris was not from flight 370. Or, perhaps it is an oil slick that they discover, but once again, not from the missing flight. Many of us hear this news and consider it a “non story”, and continue waiting until the real debris field is located. To this moment, the debris of flight 370 has not been found. But one thing has been discovered, and very well proven by this search. The ocean is full of debris! In our focus to find the plane, we seem oblivious to the alarm bells that should be ringing when we find debris after debris, oil slick after oil slick, as we comb through one area of our vast oceans. If this one area demonstrates what is happening in all our oceans, then our oceans have truly become a polluted dump!

There are two stories emerging here. One is the search for the missing plane. The other is the discovery of a polluted ocean. While the plane is getting high attention, I hear very few people commenting on the many other debris fields that are being found. I certainly hope that this begins to get the attention that it deserves, because in the future, it may be the much bigger story. When it comes to the search for flight 370 and the debris fields discovered in the search, we may be, as the old saying goes, “Missing the forest for the trees!”