Monday, December 30, 2013

Plastic Nightmare

Did you know that the energy it takes to produce an aluminum can is enough to power a 60 watt light bulb for an hour?  Did you know that there’s approximately 5.1 billion pounds of plastic waste created each year in the U.S. alone?  In Alan Weisman’s book “The World Without Us” he states:  “…every bit of plastic manufactured in the world for the last 50 years or so remains.  It’s somewhere in the environment.” (4)
I have been recycling aluminum and plastic for awhile now, and what really heightened my concern, especially when it comes to plastics, was when I came across the photos of dead albatrosses that were found on a beach on the MidwayAtollWhen a necropsy was performed on the birds their stomachs were literally packed solid with all varieties of plastics that they had consumed from the surface of the ocean (not knowing the difference between food and plastic).  This occurred mostly in an area known as the Eastern Garbage Patch located in the North Pacific, one of the five major oceanic gyres of marine debris. These gyres consist of mainly high concentrations of “pelagic”plastics that became floatsum due to land-based sources and ship-generated pollution.  
A wildlife biologist by the name of John Klavitter who has looked into this estimated that “albatross feed through regurgitation to their chicks about 5 tons of plastic a year at Midway.” (1)  Check out this video from Chris Jordan's upcoming film:

MIDWAY a Message from the Gyre : a short film by Chris Jordan from Midway on Vimeo.

It’s not only albatrosses that are affected by our plastic refuse.   In Weisman’s book he reports:

 “….sea otters choking on polyethylene beer rings from beer six-packs;….swans and gulls strangled by nylon fish nets and fishing lines; ….a green sea turtle in Hawaii dead with a pocket comb, a foot of nylon rope, and a toy truck wheel lodged in its gut.”   “Plastic bags clog everything from sewer drains to the gullets of sea turtles who mistake them for jellyfish.” (4)  Scientists have found that discarded plastic in our oceans are eventually ground down into tiny pieces forming a “plastic soup” (aka micro-plastic pollution),  that ends up being eaten by all sorts of ocean life, including plankton and krill, which then serves as the main food source of whales, seals, penguins, squid, and fish.  “Beyond the albatross, studies have shown up to 1 million seabirds choke or get tangled in plastic nets or debris every year.  About 100,000 seals, sea lions, whales, dolphins, other marine mammals and sea turtles suffer the same fate.  And what about the humans ingesting seafood nourished by the plastisphere?”  (1)  (9)  Nature is talking to us and we damn well better start listening.  I shudder to think what shape the environment will be in when my grand-daughter grows up.
While we bicker and ignore the signs, the health of the planet slowly but surely continues to degenerate into an inhospitable nightmare right under our ignorant noses.  One day a devastating irreversible event will occur and we will then plead with God to fix it, whilst all along He has been screaming at us from the get go.  “Nature is not merely created by God; nature is God.”  (12)  
Albatross photos courtesy of Chris Jordan  

References and Suggested Reading:

(1) Pacific Voyagers: Plight of the Albatross
(2) Rise Above Plastics
(3) Midway:A Message From the Gyre
(4) “The World Without Us”  Alan Weisman © 2007.
(5) NOAA: Marine Debris
(6) Greenpeace: Trash Vortex
(7) Discover Magazine: The World's Largest Dump
(8) Plastic Pollution Coalition
(9) Wire Magazine.  November 2013. Pg. 48.  “Trash Fashion-Wear Your Own Water Bottles” Ben Paynter
(10) "Trashed"
(11) Earth 911
(12) “The Island Within” Richard Nelson. © 1989
(13) Drowning in Plastic
(14) The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
(15) Micro-Plastics
(16) Micro-Plastics in the Great Lakes
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