There are many good reasons why we should reduce the use of plastic. In my opinion it’s the world’s biggest environmental threat besides the mass meat production. Both are damaging the planet on a big scale and by planet I don’t only mean nature but also us as a human race, because it is all connected.
While I could spend an hour on talking about the different ways plastic is affecting the world, I would like to concentrate on only one today, because often times the bigger picture is too abstract and overwhelming and can leave us with a sense of discouragement.
So today I want to zoom a bit into the picture – into the ocean to be more exact. A place that is dangerously affected by plastic, even though the only creatures that ever make use of plastic are humans, and we don’t even live in the ocean. Yet, we seem to be claiming the territory by creating a floating plastic island as big as Europe, called “The Great Parcific Garbage Patch“. It’s a gigantic area of plastic trash, accumulated by the ocean currents.
And the plastic we see floating is just a small part of it. There is still so much more under the surface, all the way down to the ocean floor. At first it is still whole, then it gets broken down into micro pieces, but it will take centuries to vanish completely because plastic does not decompose like natural materials.
And when we zoom in a little more, there are all kind of beautiful and fascinating beings who call the ocean their home and who are suffering greatly from its pollution. A group of these inhabitants are whales and I want to put a spotlight on them today, because I think we can actually relate a lot to these gentle beings. Whales are very social, even playful, they are highly intelligent and have developed their own unique ways to communicate. In many ways, we are very much the same.
When I visited Canada in 2015 I was lucky to see a pod of Orcas with a baby up close. That moment has left a great print on my heart because it was so special to me. Seeing these majestic animals swim in their natural habitat felt like pure love and serenity and left me with a complete awe for this planet.
The other day I had the great opportunity to participate in a workshop about plastic that was organized by the WDC “Whale And Dolphin Conservation“. While many topics were discussed that day, the lecture about whales and how plastic pollution affects them, stuck on my mind most, because it reminded me of that magical encounter with the orcas and how strongly I felt the need to protect the oceans. There was one story in particular, that touched me.
It was a story about a whale that was found dead, with an empty stomach. At first sight the giant didn’t seem to be sick and there was even fish found in his throat, so it was clear that he was eating. Then they found a small plastic ball stuck at the end of his throat, which meant that he wasn’t able to swallow the fish completely. That little plastic ball had caused the whale a slow death of hunger.
It was shocking and sad to hear that a small piece of plastic could have such an effect on a giant being and it’s mind-boggling to think of all the unheard stories that happen in the ocean every day because of our plastic trash that ends up there. Animals will get entangled, they will mistake it for food and in many cases it will cause their death.They say that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish and mammals. Ca. 5-13 million tons of plastic trash ends up in the ocean each year. It’s hard to actually imagine this quantity. It’s basically the same mass as 26.000-70.555 blue whales. Still hard to imagine, but that just shows how absurd these numbers are and it should be shocking enough for the world to realize that we have to do something about our plastic behaviors.
In our daily lives, plastic is only a small side-aspect. Most times plastic is used for packaging, so we use it only a fraction of time before we toss it, which is crazy when you think about the fact that it will continue to exist for centuries to come. And all those years it will disturb and influence the environment and all its inhabitants. Even if plastic gets burnt, it’ll stay as toxins in the atmosphere. Come to think of it, this ratio of convenience vs. side-effect just doesn’t add up. At all.
So the message I would like to put out there today is that we should be more careful and considered with our use of plastic. Let’s not view plastic as just another way to make our life’s easier, but as something that is actually a danger for the planet and all its inhabitants. Let’s start choosing products well, considering alternatives to plastic. And if we do buy plastic, let’s make sure to not litter the environment with it, where it will harm other beings.
When I see plastic now, I try to think about the whales and how they roam the oceans so gracefully. I don’t want to imagine a world without them. I rather say no to plastic.