In this sentence, "How could we have fouled such a huge area?",

Does "how could" mean as "Why have we fouled..."? (like "how could I have missed that?") OR Does "how could" mean as "How did we foul..."? (like "tell me how to swim")

a yacht racing captain sailed a rarelly traversed area of the North Pacific Ocean through a sea of plastic considered to be about twice the size of Texas.Every time I came on deck,there was trash floating by. How could we have fouled such a huge area?


1 Answer 1


This sentence is expressing surprise and disbelief that "we" (i.e. the human race) have been so negligent in our care of the planet that we have allowed ourselves to pollute such a huge expanse of water.

  • I think in the example, you could also read it as meaning how did we manage to spoil such an enormous expanse. It's a nice choice of words because it captures both the moral and technical scale of the issue.
    – Carl Smith
    Nov 1, 2014 at 13:50

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