EVEN CLIMATE CHANGE SKEPTICS cannot deny the impact that microplastics are having on our seas and oceans, and the creatures that live in those aquatic environments.
I think back to that famous line in the movie The Graduate, which came out in the 1960s, where the young man who is being congratulated upon receiving his diploma is told in a hushed whisper that “plastics” is where future profits are to be made. In short, he is advised to dive in at once and catch the wave while he can.
Now, unfortunately, a little over half a century later that same wave has become a tsunami and it is one that is coiling back on us with a ferocity that is frightening. We all know it and see it. We are being drowned in our own plastic refuse.
In the Sixties, the more immediate fear in those days had to do with atomic bombs as the source of humanity’s potential destruction. The father of the atom bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer, is quoted as stating upon the successful detonation of that first blast: “I am become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds.” This line is actually from an ancient Hindu text that is thousands of years old.
No one imagined in those days, of course, that it would be a microplastics confetti bomb that would blow and wreak such destruction on the planet. That blast has not only occurred, however, the debris has landed. In fact, it has spread trillions upon trillions of non-biodegradable bits and pieces all across the lands and seas of our beautiful home planet, and those plastics have even found their way into our own bodies. In fact, the average person today is said to consume the equivalent of a credit card sized piece of plastic every single week!
In planetary terms, we now know that even the most far-flung islands in the world have plastic waste that has washed up on their shores from the industrialized world and that virtually all of the birds and fishes around the globe now have bits and pieces of plastic in their stomachs.
What this all means is that we humans have sowed haphazardly and without regard for the environment, and are now reaping the results of our carelessness. We have put profit over people and are presently left with a problem so immense that our seas might well end up actually devoid of life.
That is not only disgraceful, it’s unconscionable. We have poisoned our own habitat.
Indeed. In the 1960s we thought it would be trillions upon trillions of atoms raining down from our skies, destroying the environment and every creature which walked upon the land, including humanity itself. Instead, it is bits and pieces of microplastics, which we ourselves have shunted off into the world’s oceans with barely a second thought.
This is not to say, of course that there is no atomic radiation floating about the world’s skies and raining down on our lands and seas because there is. It is not as much as would have resulted from all-out warfare, but then again it’s not nothing either, so to speak. Then there is the question as to what might happen yet as the world’s great powers continue to build ever more lethal weapons of destruction, engage in bellicose rhetoric and rattle giant sabers with maniacal fervor against one another?
We have to face the facts, humanity has made a right mess of its habitat, as well as its global human relations. The question then is this: Are we absolute fools or a species that has just been exceedingly foolish due to a massive degree of sheer myopia in our rush for industrial and economic expansion?
Either way, the important question is will we finally see the error of our ways?
That is a huge question and one yet to be answered.
This is why there has never been a greater need for visionary leaders who are in possession of an unshakable belief that we must put people over profit, and do so once and for all. Accords and laws are not only necessary, but require enforcement at whatever cost to the economies of the world. It is the big industrial powers that must bear the brunt of these economic losses since these are the very countries that have caused the problem in the first place.
On a positive note, there is now a new invention called a “sea bin” which can draw in any type of floating debris, including plastic waste, into a net for removal from the water. The bin’s pump is also able to oxygenate the water at the same time, which makes for a healthier marine environment and is beneficial to sea life.
At a personal level, we must ask ourselves what we are willing to change in our day to day life to help in the cause. By beginning with simple acts of benefit to the environment ourselves, we can all contribute to some degree, while governments around the globe work on the more complex aspects of this problem.
Together, we can and must turn this disastrous situation around while there is yet time.
New inventions are needed and a fresh determination is absolutely vital, but we can do it! There are brilliant minds among us. Let’s use them!