Sunday, August 12, 2007

"Our oceans are turning into plastic"

Below are links to two articles sent by my former colleague Sarah. I'm no fan of plastic, and try to be very careful to reduce and reuse -- the goal is to never let my stuff even reach the recycling stage, although I find I have to throw away plastic items sometimes. Still, these articles impressed upon me the urgency and magnitude of the problem. I shared them with many friends and fellow-volunteers.
A vast swath of the Pacific, twice the size of Texas, is full of a plastic stew that is entering the food chain. Scientists say these toxins are causing obesity, infertility...and worse.
...Except for the small amount that's been incinerated--and it's a very small amount--every bit of plastic ever made still exists.
Full article

The picture on the right brought tears to my eyes. It's a sea turtle whose shell has been strangled into an hourglass shape by a plastic band.

Really, we have no right. We have no right.

Plastic bags are killing us

...This morning, a turtle feeds serenely next to a half submerged Walgreens bag. The bag looks ghostly, ethereal even, floating, as if in some kind of purgatory suspended between its briefly useful past and its none-too-promising future. A bright blue bags floats just out of reach, while a duck cruises by. Here's a Ziploc bag, there a Safeway bag. In a couple of hours, I fish more than two dozen plastic bags out of the lake with my net, along with cigarette butts, candy wrappers and a soccer ball.

...The plastic bag is an icon of convenience culture, by some estimates the single most ubiquitous consumer item on Earth, numbering in the trillions...Only 1 percent of plastic bags are recycled worldwide -- about 2 percent in the U.S. -- and the rest, when discarded, can persist for centuries. They can spend eternity in landfills, but that's not always the case. "They're so aerodynamic that even when they're properly disposed of in a trash can they can still blow away and become litter...."

..Following the lead of countries like Ireland, Bangladesh, South Africa, Thailand and Taiwan, some U.S. cities are striking back against what they see as an expensive, wasteful and unnecessary mess. This year, San Francisco and Oakland outlawed the use of plastic bags in large grocery stores and pharmacies, permitting only paper bags with at least 40 percent recycled content or otherwise compostable bags.
Full article

My reaction to the articles reminded me of a childhood moment. I must have been 6 or 7. I had borrowed a book from my school library, and it discussed endangered and extinct species. I don't remember what else was in there, but it's now apparent to me that it was an American book: it's where I first came across the black-eyed susan and the pink lady's slipper. The book described how passenger pigeons had been made extinct through excessive hunting. I read this and was furious and sad at the same time. I remember it so clearly! I remember asking my parents how people could hunt every last bird till the whole species was gone, and wondering why anyone would do such a thing. That's the kind of reaction I had when I saw that turtle.

Turtle photo: Dino Ferri/Audubon Institute. Source: Best Life

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