“IGNORANCE, ARROGANCE, NEGLECT AND CONSEQUENCES.” The Story of Plastic, Oceans, and Our Survival.

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Image Credit: Tyrone Siu/Reuters

“We are living on the planet as if we have another one to go to.” – Terry Swearingen

Our planet is a beautiful one, but it’s ecological integrity and sustainability has reached a tipping point. Civilization is on an irrational and deadly course, and this course has now become a crisis.

Our planet has never needed protection before and life has always flourished on its own. But today, we are now facing a number of threats as a byproduct of the advancement of our civilization that is now threatening the viability of every species on Earth. Today, every living system on earth is in decline. The world and its resources are now being cannibalized by the most dominate species on the planet.

In the last 250 years since the Industrial Revolution began, the explosive growth of business and industry has not come without an extraordinary cost to the integrity of the planet and countless ecosystems.  Despite the disparaging lack of exposure in mainstream media, man’s impact on the planet has been and continues to be nothing short of disastrous.

Today, a whole host of problems are now threatening our long-term survival on the planet and our children’s future.  Unfortunately, we are facing a number of crises that are mounting in complexity and in scope, the cumulative effect of which may have already created insurmountable odds where the hope of reversing these trends and protecting our children’s future is dwindling.

With our growing population and the advancement of our civilization, the economy slowly gained precedence over the reflection upon how we’re impacting the Natural world.  As a collective consciousness reflecting societal values, it has become more important than the ecology of the planet.

In our relentless pursuit to compete in the marketplace, industry has been driven to create more and more conveniences for us, which has created a “throw-away society.” That terminology, which could almost be regarded as trite and passé, is an oversimplification of the dangers posed by our most prevalent waste material . . . . . . plastic.

The convenience and cost effectiveness of plastic has lead to its use in just about every aspect of our lives, but its benefits are easily dwarfed by the very disturbing and life-threatening consequence of its use.  By “life-threatening” I mean threatening to all life, NOT just humans.  Because of a lack of media exposure, the masses remain completely unaware in their understanding of how our collective actions are literally creating a biochemically toxic planet.  As a byproduct of our consumption-based lifestyle, pollution and waste has become a devastating consequence of our choices and is now endangering the future of not only ourselves but truly every species on the planet.

By far and away, the single biggest pollutant society creates is “Single Use Plastics!!!!”  By single use, we mean plastic that has a utility confined to one single use and is then discarded.  Things like:  Ziplock bags, Saran Wrap, plastic grocery bags, bottled water, shampoo bottles, cosmetics, and more.  Since these are products everyone purchases, no one is exempt, we’re ALL contributing to the problem.

Living in the mid-west, many absolve themselves of any culpability in contributing to the problem, by believing that because of our lack of proximity to the oceans, we can’t possibly be contributing to the decline of the oceans or the environment as a whole.  It’s a sad commentary but nothing could be further from the truth.  Isolating the use of just one such “single use plastic,” such as plastic grocery bags, one can easily begin to see that even those of us at a great distance from the oceans are still part of the problem.

With less than 40% of Americans recycling, most plastic grocery bags unfortunately, end up in a landfill where wind currents and breezes lift the plastic bags from the mass of garbage and carry them into the canopy of surrounding trees, litter our highways and surrounding forests, and choke waterways where they begin their long journey to the oceans.

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This is but one example of how “single use plastics” are leading to the degradation and decline of our oceans. Countless examples could be given but our impact will become very evident later in this writing.

Approximately 280 – 300,000,000 metric tons of plastic is manufactured every year with the average American throwing away approximately 4 ½ pounds of plastic trash a day.

Sadly, only 7% of all the plastic manufactured is being recycled. As for the other 93%? Most of it ends up in landfills, but approximately 8 million metric tons of plastic finds its way to the ocean every year. [1]

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Do to a lack of media coverage, the accumulation of plastic in the oceans is a far bigger problem than most are aware of, because these are extremely long-term, very persistent, deadly, toxic chemicals that do not degrade in days, weeks, or months, but rather over decades, centuries, or even millennia.

Every piece of plastic ever manufactured still exists today, whether it’s in your house, in a landfill, in the open environment, or in the ocean.  This is because the chemical polymers they are manufactured from and consist of never go away.  Let me repeat that.  The polymers they are made of NEVER GO AWAY!!!!  Plastic is a substance the planet simply cannot digest or recycle back into the environment.

Because of advances in civil engineering and planning, man has almost completely divorced himself from the natural world, as is evidenced by society and industry’s misunderstanding and disregard for what is in best interests of the environment which provide for us and every living thing.  As technology has evolved it has served to subrogate us from a deep spiritual knowledge possessed by the ancients, that saw their divine connection with the natural world and the entire cosmos. We once saw ourselves as woven out of and into the very fabric of the universe itself, but to a very large degree, we’ve lost this connection to the Earth and the Cosmos.

What was lost was an ancient spiritual knowledge and understanding that life is only passing through us from the past into the future.  We are merely vessels temporarily “housing” life.  Unfortunately, as this knowledge was abandoned we it replaced it with the perverted ideology of materialism and consumption, along with the idea that we only live one life and disappear.

This mindset, firmly in place, has created a society that is predicated largely on entertainment, consumerism, conveniences, and an egocentric perspective of life, where we are oftentimes detached from the consequences of our actions. As a result, with the advancement of technology, making our lives easier and easier, our most sacred responsibility of preparing the way for future generations has been abandoned.  The care taken by nurturing and protecting the planet we live on as an endowment for those that come behind us has been superseded by a narrowing focus on our lives in the “here and now” with little regard for the environment or consideration for what we’re leaving our children to inherit.

THE CONSEQUENCE OF NEGLECT . . . . 

In 1997, oceanographer and racing boat Captain Charles Moore, made a startling and tragic discovery while returning to California from Hawaii. What he discovered was a tremendous aggregation of plastic trash floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. What is now known as the North Pacific Gyre (pronounced – jī(ə)r), or more specifically the “North Pacific Garbage Patch,” is a convergence of plastic trash over an area half the size of the U.S. or twice the size of the U.S. depending on the size of the particulates being measured.

It was this discovery that led to an entirely new perspective on our use of plastic and its detrimental effects on the planet’s ecosystems.  More specifically, it created an entirely new concern with respect to the use of “single use” plastics. Astonished by what he saw, Capt. Moore has made saving the oceans his life’s work ever since.  Shortly after his discovery, he and a team of scientists returned to this ocean desert to begin conducting research on its origins and the now well-documented hazardous effects of its degradation.

AN ISLAND OF TRASH?

Reading this, one may envision an island of trash floating in the ocean. If only we were so fortunate!  That statement might sound a bit sarcastic, but at least if it was an island of trash and debris, containing what is becoming the biggest ecological disaster and biohazard in human history, it would be something that we could at least go out and clean up. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple of an issue. The problem is far worse.

Imagine a substance that can never ever disappear but only break down into smaller and smaller particulates till it becomes so fine and infinitesimally small that it simply creates an almost invisible mesh that is diffused throughout every square inch of the top 100 meters of ocean water and you’re starting to get the picture. The oceans are being turned into a toilet bowl of bio-toxic chemicals as a byproduct of plastic slowly dissolving into the oceans. We are quite literally, slowly “plasticizing” the oceans.

To help create a picture of our ocean gyres where the plastic is accumulating, it is important to note, this trash is not like an island of debris with items touching one another. To the contrary! Although there are aggregates where fishing nets and garbage have collected, it’s more like a slimy, gelatinous, plastic soup, where the plastic has dissolved in the water to the extent that it is now a chemically rich, toxic film that floats near the surface with particulates of plastic of various sizes in it. This mass of plastic constitutes approximately 50% of the trash that has converged here. The other 50% sinks and is at the bottom of the ocean.

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Above:  Trawler Samples from the Pacific Gyre

The North Pacific Gyre is an enormous expanse of ocean and represents the largest climatic system on Earth. It is a circulation of currents that is roughly the size and area of Africa, or 10,000,000 sq. miles, and the currents along it’s periphery take approximately six years to complete one cycle. [3]    As a result of these enormous circular currents, garbage and more specifically plastics have aggregated into 2 very distinct patches – the Eastern Garbage Patch and the Western Garbage Patch.

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Map provided by NOAA at www.marinedebris.noaa.gov/info/patch.html

In addition to the North Pacific Gyre a total of five Gyres have been discovered in the world’s oceans all of which are seeing enormous aggregates of garbage and plastic accumulating in them. 

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Map provided by 5 Gyres at www.5gyres.org

The consequence of this garbage in the ocean is devastating to aquatic life and represents a greater, long-term, biohazard than even the worst oil spill in history.

The hazardous nature of plastic is because the decomposition of plastic, depending on the type, can take between 20 – 1000 years for its physical composition to decompose into the individual micro-polymers it is made up of.  Complicating the issue is the way plastic decomposes. Plastic is not “bio”-degradable.  It is not devoured by bacteria, mold, or fungi like organic matter is.  Plastics, viewed at the level of its chemical bonds, are polymer chains (multiple links) created from monomer (single) hydrocarbon molecules that degrade through a process referred to as photo-degradation,” a process in which the absorption of light, or more specifically, photons of light cause a chain or matrix of molecules to break apart.  Ultraviolet light weakens the polymer chains until they break, which is why we see the confetti-like microplastics found in the ocean.  Each break in these chains causes the release of hazardous, bio-toxic chemicals such as dioxins, mercury, and Polychlorinated Biphenyls or PCB’s.

As the plastic degrades into smaller and smaller polymers, this “confetti” becomes “neustonic,” meaning it is now “bio-available” to sea animals, or small enough to be ingested, and can enter the digestive tract of sea animals that eat it.

The images below illustrate how small these plastic particulates, known as “micro-plastic,” can be.  Without exception, these microplastics can be found on every shoreline worldwide and are so small that they are virtually indistinguishable from the granules of sand themselves.  By simply taking a handful of sand and dumping it into a bucket of water, one will see the sand (which is essentially natural glass) sink to the bottom and the tiny pieces of plastic confetti float to the surface.  Recently, microplastics have even been found in sea ice at the poles according to the UNEP.  Sadly, their presence is very pervasive.

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But not all of these microplastics are the end product of photodegradation.  In the last decade, numerous companies jumped on the bandwagon touting the benefits of the tiny polymer microbeads as “polishing agents” or “exfoliating agents” in their toothpaste, gels, facial soaps, and body scrubs. What makes these so problematic is the fact that most municipal water systems aren’t equipped to remove or filter these microbeads out of the water so they end up in our streams, rivers, and oceans, having devastating effects on aquatic life.

Compounding the problem is the presence of “micro-fibers” that end up in our waterways, marine ecosystems, and ultimately our oceans, as our clothes, made of synthetic fibers such as acrylic and nylon breakdown in our washing machines.  By sampling wastewater from domestic washing machines, ecologist Mark Brown estimated that around 1,900 individual fibers can be rinsed off a single synthetic garment – ending up in our oceans. [4]

Following his research, Mark Brown shared his findings with the largest outdoor apparel companies that are big purveyors of synthetic plastics, looking for their support in changing industry standards with the hopes of producing more durable materials that would produce fewer microplastics.  He approached companies like Patagonia, NIKE, and Polartec, but none of these companies agreed to lend their support.

And that brings us to the problem:  Eventually, all these polymers break into pieces so small that they are invisible to the naked eye (thus the film on the surface of the water and translucent or opaque appearance throughout the water to various depths) but are never truly gone.  They’ve simply degraded to the microscopic level, but are very toxic and profoundly more hazardous to the environment and to every species, including us.  With no government or legal protocols governing the manufacture of such products in place, the burden falls to us as consumers to make better choices when choosing what products to purchase and to avoid the purchase of these kinds of products.

SO HOW DOES THIS EFFECT US?

Most of the plastic in the gyre is roughly the same size as krill and plankton that sea animals feed upon, so it is very common for it to be mistaken as a food source and ingested.  Because of its toxicity, the ratio of plastic to plankton is a very important ratio to keep track of in taking measurements of this particular debris in the ocean.

In the span of 10 years, with the first samples being taken in 1999 by Captain Charles Moore and a team of researchers, and the last samples being taken in the year 2009, the ratio of plastic to plankton went from a 6:1 ratio to a 36:1 ratio. The bioavailability of this plastic to sea animals is now six times what it was just 10 years ago, and sadly, this trend is not abating. Currently, of the 8 million tons of trash that are going into our oceans every year, 80% of this trash is coming from land and the other 20% coming from ships and platforms in the ocean such as oil drilling platforms and cruise-liners. In an interview with Fresh Air’s Terry Gross and Edward Humes, author of Garbology, “the weight of plastic finding its way into the sea each year is estimated to be equivalent to the weight of 40 aircraft carriers.” [1]

If the threat was only to sea creatures, that would be bad enough. But now, the threat is to all of us and our children.

In a story that only karma could write, the plastic we manufacture, purchase, and have grown accustomed to carelessly throwing away, is the very plastic creating a whole myriad of previously unforeseen and soon to be dire consequences for us.

Once degrading to the molecular level, the plastic ingested by fish and sea animals is absorbed into their bloodstream and tissues. This is where the insidious nature of plastic’s slow and unique demise of breaking down into smaller and smaller polymers, combined with our throwaway mentality, comes full circle.  In what could be seen as almost an “act of justice” for our complete disregard for the environment, is now jeopardizing our long-term survival as a species on this planet.

Studies performed at the University of California – Santa Barbara, revealed the unthinkable. Devastating to consider, these studies have now found that these microscopic polymers once ingested diffuse into the tissues of fish and other animals where they can remain for months and can accumulate in the blood cells themselves. The problem with this is that the plastic contains persistent biochemically toxic concentrations, approximately 1,000,000 times greater than that found in seawater. [2]

Ultimately, these sea animals that are part of our food chain are now serving as a vector, in a negative feedback loop for humans, allowing these bio-toxins to be absorbed by humans ingesting them. These microscopic particles of plastic cannot be cooked out of the meat.  Most disturbing about this finding is that prior to recent studies; experts believed that it would be impossible for plastic to be passed from species to species and find its way up the food chain. To the surprise of the researchers, not only did we find it was possible, but what we discovered was that as the polymers became smaller and smaller the more the rate of transfer from one species to the next increased. In other words, the smaller the polymers become the more they are absorbed and the more hazardous they become, infecting each species as it consumes the other.

In a study done in Singapore, scientists purchased fish in every single market in order to study the possibility of plastic being passed through the food chain.  What their research uncovered was devastating.  In every fish they sampled they found dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls, which are used in plastic manufacturing. It is also found in the lining of canned food as an epoxy and a rust inhibitor which is leaching into the canned food itself and has serious health effects. It is an endocrine disruptor and can change hormone levels in people. Beyond that, they have also been tied to heart disease.

The reason we are seeing so many plastics in the oceans is that of our “Culture of Convenience,” which utilizes single-use plastics for everything.  Single use plastic is fantastic from an economic standpoint because their use warrants the need to always make more.  More plastic, more money!  But from an ecological standpoint, this approach to business is a system that is horribly flawed and inherently unsustainable. We cannot continue taking from a finite system and expect it to keep producing for us forever, while we’re using plastic items for a few minutes and then throwing them away.

AN INVISIBLE CONCERN

Walking along our beaches worldwide where more and more plastic is washing up every single year, one may be convinced, living in our own garbage is something we have just come to except. As mentioned earlier, because the North Pacific Gyre is not an island of trash, but rather more like a soup of plastic confetti that’s very diffuse, this is confusing for the public to understand the threat this poses, because of the fact that we can’t really see most of it. Despite the fact that there are environmental groups, think tanks, and scientist screaming with a sense of urgency to begin solving this problem, the prevailing mentality is, “if we can’t see it, it doesn’t really exist.”

If in fact there was an island of trash that we could walk across there may be more of a public urgency to fix the problem. But when we see blue seas with very few pieces of actual physical debris, it tends to be very deceptive and lulls us into a state of apathy, thinking the issue is nothing to be alarmed about.

It’s unfortunate but that is, in fact, the very surreptitious nature of the plastic problem. If we could just see all of the plastic we would probably be inclined to go out and begin cleaning it up. What is invisible to the naked eye is where the real problem exists.

Using a plankton net trawler, to sift through the ocean water in order to obtain samples, what researchers have discovered is very alarming. Over 500 samples have been taken throughout the five gyres around the globe and of all of those samples, only two came back with no plastic in them. This is a globally pervasive problem in which our entire oceans are becoming infused with plastic.

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Plankton Net Trawlers

IMPACT ON MARINE LIFE

As a result of our use and subsequent discarding of plastics, over 350,000 marine mammals are killed each and every year by either eating plastic or by becoming entangled in it, including dolphins, whales, sea lions, seals, along with countless species of fish.

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“Despite appearances, this is not designer beachwear for aquatic animals!”

Approximately 100,000 sea turtles are killed every year by attempting to ingest plastic bags which are mistaken for their main source of food, jellyfish, and over 1.2 million sea birds die every year from ingesting plastic. [2]

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Photo provided by National Geographic at www.tommtaylor.wordpress.com/2010/11/03/digital-image-creation

Over 1,000,000 seabirds die annually from ingesting plastic.

Bird in plastic

Currently, 663 Species of sea animals (2/3rd’s of aquatic life) have been identified as being adversely affected by the presence of plastic in our oceans.  But in truth, every organism in the ocean is affected by the presence of this plastic, in every depth of the ocean. We are finding micro plastic in krill and all the way up through the food chain in the bellies of fish, seals, whales, and seabirds.

Plastic has truly become the deadliest predator in the oceans.

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Images provide by ENV at www.tomnotman.com

To illustrate this point, in January of this year, a Pilot whale washed up on the beach in Lanai, Hawaii. The whale was completely intact but somehow its stomach had come out of its body and was lying on the sand. In opening the stomach, they discovered the whale had ingested over 20 lbs. of plastic.

A sperm whale washed up on the shores of Spain and a necropsy was performed in order to determine what caused its death. Beyond belief, scientists discovered over 400 pounds of plastic in its belly. [5]

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Photo provided by Inquisitr at www.inquisitr.com/561291/whale-death-caused-by-eating-plastic

Once inside the sea animals, the animal is doomed because plastic itself cannot be broken down and most of it cannot pass through the digestive tract of the animal.

Dozens of species are going extinct and disappearing from the planet forever because of us. Today we are currently seeing the greatest die off of species on the planet since the age of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Plastic in the environment has literally reached a tipping point and if not addressed will be the catalyst in the extinction of countless sea species.

To show how pervasive the problem of plastic has become, in 2013 photographer Chris Jordan documented our debilitating effect on even the most remote ecosystem in the world, Midway Island. What he discovered was nothing short of appalling.  In Seabirds on the island of Midway, more than 2,000 miles away from any inhabitable continent, he found shorelines covered in plastic items and countless birds carcasses with bellies full of plastic.

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How much plastic is out there? It’s astounding! Over 20,000 tons of plastic debris washes up on Midway Island every year, with 5,000 tons of debris being fed by mothers to their chicks. As a result, 1/3rd of these chicks will die of plastic ingestion before ever reaching adulthood. To view a four-minute trailer for his movie, click on the link provided here.

Midway Island: A Love Story For Our Time

http://vimeo.com/25563376

By the year 2050 society is going to add an additional 33 billion tons of plastic to the oceans. [3]  To say this is problematic would be an understatement because as for now, we still are not entirely sure where even half of the plastic goes, which is approximately 15 billion tons of plastic unaccounted for.

Marine Biologist Dr. Andrea Neal, studied what happens when microbes come in contact with plastic polymers and waste debris in our oceans, as well as studying the degradation rate and effects of these polymers breaking down in the oceans.

UV light interacting with these polymers changes the surface charge of the polymers, making them a favorable environment for microbial life.   Even more insidious than this, is the fact that the UV light changes the actual structure of the carbon groups in these polymers.

“Because we get about 98% of our carbon from dissolved carbon in ocean water if we are changing the structure of carbon at its most basic level and we are in fact changing the very building blocks of life itself.  Because the oceans are so vast, the tendency is to believe that they are somewhat impervious to the effects of our neglect. Contrary to popular belief, studies have shown that the oceans are in fact an incredibly delicate and fragile system. The smallest changes in temperature can affect the ocean’s conveyor belt, the smallest changes in the chemistry or pH of the ocean can kill massive numbers of species.

For example, studies recently discovered that the sunscreen people wear into the ocean have killed off entire coral reefs.  With respect to Global Warming, we have changed the temperature of the ocean so dramatically since the birth of the Industrial Revolution that now over 50% of the world’s coral reef ecology has disappeared.”

 Dr. Andrea Neal, CEO of Blue Ocean Sciences [3]

OUR DYING OCEANS

Oceans today are on the brink. They are suffering from so many stressors, that we have begun to see their decline to such an extent that the demise of the oceans as a life support system is becoming inevitable. Samples taken every day of the ocean reveal an entire menagerie of issues we must now confront, including increased acidification of the oceans, radioactive waste and radioactive heavy metals still leaking into the ocean from Japan’s crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant since March 11th 2011, oil spills, radar, and most pronounced and pervasive, is PLASTIC!

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Photo provided by KUWAITIFUL at www.kuwaitiful.com/information/beach-pollution

How does this impact us? It impacts everything starting with carbon, oxygen, the food we eat, the water we drink, and more. It affects every aspect of our lives. If we do not change what we are doing to the ocean, we are literally destroying the building blocks of life itself.

SO WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT IT?

SOCRATES once said, “people get the government, they deserve.” I’m going to extend that concept by saying people get the government, the society, and the world they deserve. To put it more bluntly.

“WE” Are The Issue!!!

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Photos provided by GREENPEACE at www.greenpeace.org

The world is a reflection of who we are, and what the world is reflecting back to us is that most of us are in a deep slumber and have been lulled to sleep by an entertainment complex that has kept us very distracted and very uninformed as to what the real issues are in the world.  Real news is superseded by the superficial. The real issues are not what is going on in “Hollyweird,” nor is it what is taking place on Capitol Hill, in corporations, or abroad.

We can fight with the politicians. We can fight with the corporations. We can march in the streets with banners and have clean up rock campaigns with the hopes of changing the world. But the bottom line is, the world will never change until we as individuals change.

Mahatma Ghandi once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

The very corporations and the very government we march against are the very corporations and the very government that we vote for each and every day with the choices we make. Every dollar we spend we are voting for the world the way it is. The lifeblood of each and every corporation, bank, and government is money. We have it, and they want.

I, like many, would love to think that, somewhere a crackpot team of scientists will figure out how to fix the issues we face.  I would love to think technology will fix everything.  But until companies begin producing products that are environmentally safe, the burden is on us to “choose” as educated consumers and make better choices.

The environmentally irresponsible and neglectful corporate entities doing the well-documented damage to our ecosystems are monsters that we’ve created through complacency, convenience, and in our choosing to support them through the purchasing of their products.  They have morphed collectively into a leviathan that is now devouring the planet.  The only power corporations can exert over us is the power we give them by choosing their products and services.

Let’s ask a simple question.  Why does any business fail?  It’s because people have chosen to spend their money elsewhere.  We support corporations by choosing their products and services.  Likewise, our lack of support puts them out of business.  Simply put, as consumers, we can starve the corporations that are ecologically irresponsible by spending our money elsewhere.  In doing so, we’re cutting off their revenue stream and those corporations will either adapt to the new demand created by consumers or they go out of business.

If collectively we chose to stop buying bottled water, they would have no choice but to discontinue the manufacturing of it. If we collectively chose to stop using plastic bags at the grocery store, they would have no choice but to discontinue production. If we do not like what a bank is doing with our money, simply pull your money out and move it elsewhere. The collective action of 314 million Americans is more than any government policy could ever hope to implement, change, or influence.

Through our ignorance and our arrogance, we have neglected the planet on such an unprecedented scale that now we are stepping into the essence, the power, and magnitude of who we truly are. No one wants to look into the mirror and admit to themselves that they are the problem because ultimately that would require us to look at the consequences of what it is we each have done in taking the future away from our children. And it is being taken away!

Hope lies in the fact that there is an awakening occurring in small pockets of humanity, where individuals and small groups are truly beginning to reconnect with nature. People are slowly beginning to rediscover our relationship with the natural world. What we are finally starting to realize is that there is no one steering the ship, there are no leaders moving us in a positive direction, and they’re certainly not to be found in Washington D.C. or in the corporate entities on Wall Street.

Because we are a society of people immersed in the business of our daily lives fulfilling our own personal obligations and responsibilities, the “bigger picture” is something that eludes us.  And why wouldn’t it?  These issues aren’t talked about in the media.  Subsequently, there is very little concern about our collective impact on the planet as a society.  As a result, very few have awakened to the horror of what we doing to our home.

Today, we are beginning to eat the very plastic we throw away.  Few have truly begun working towards what benefits the whole of humanity.  There are only small pockets of heroes choosing to champion the cause of protecting the planet from our continued neglect, and those that do are often written off as “tree huggers” supporting “hippie causes.”

We cannot continue blaming society for all the ills we are now confronting. Now is the time for each of us to step into the essence of who we are and the world we’ve created. Now is the time to restore our relationship with ourselves, with each other, with the earth, and the universe.

Now is the time to begin speaking out for life. Not for the businesses or the banks on Wall Street . . . . . for the ecology of the planet, not the economy! It’s time to become advocates and heroes for Earth. Can you think of a better cause? Can you imagine having a better circle of friends than those willing to save Earth as an endowment for future generations?

RESTORING OUR PLANET

So how do we go about the task of restoring the planet? By first realizing that in killing our ecosystems, we are ultimately cannibalizing the planet that provides for us and bringing about our own demise and every other species. Recognizing that fact first, choose to begin Reducing, Reusing, Recycling, Refusing, and Reclaiming our independence from our dependence on corporations and blind submission to corporate interests.

Recycling is in and of itself, NOT enough . . . .

As a result of the Earth Day Movement, so many corporate killers have jumped on board to present products in a way that is referred to as “Greenwashing” the public mind. They take on the appearance of helping the environment, and provide citizens with a way to feel good about themselves for recycling, while simultaneously contributing to the problem. Remember, plastic never truly goes away.

As a consideration, let’s ask the obvious question. How can we expect any company, whose main product and therefore profit involves the production of plastic bottles, whether for water, soft drinks, alcohol, cleaning product, etc. to claim that they are for the environment when in fact they are the leading source of the problem? As we’ve discovered, even in recycling plastic bottles a percentage of it ultimately finds its way back into the environment, back into the oceans, back into the food chain, and ultimately back into our diet where it begins to create a whole host of health problems.

This is really an ethical issue for all of us in considering our children and the condition we’re going to leave the world in for them to inherit. Companies do not have a moral conscience when it comes to the “Economics of commerce” which is why the “Ecology of Commerce,” which involves understanding that everything we buy means they’re going to have to deplete more natural resources in order to make more of it, is not considered. It is rarely considered in the marketplace, which is predicated on the manufacturing of things with “planned obsolescence” as part of its design so that what is purchased will fail or to be used once and thrown away in order to keep selling more of it and making sure stockholders are making money. It is very disheartening, and a very sad commentary indeed, that money is far more important than the environment.

As a glowing exception to this model, when France and Australia were faced with the increasing number of plastic bottles ending up on beaches and in and around their cities, they decided on a very simple and environmentally responsible solution. For once an ethical decision was made to put the environment ahead of profiteering. By ethical, I’m referring to the fact that a society collectively looked forward to what it was they were leaving behind for future generations and changed their habits and the infrastructure of their society for the better. They stopped producing plastic bottles and instead created drinking stations for people, which forced citizens to begin using reusable containers instead of single-use plastic bottles.

The most effective technique any of us can employ in solving the problem is to refuse to use anything that is wrapped, sold, or marketed, with plastic or at the very least dramatically reduce our use of plastic items. This may be impossible, but we can make huge strides in diminishing our use of plastics. We are as much of a contributor to the problem as is any business or industry manufacturing plastic products. To give this argument some weight consider just for a moment the direct and indirect costs of bottled water.

Everything we do, every choice we make, every action we take counts. Understand, that everything you purchase means they’re going to make more of it. Reach for the glass bottle or do you reach for the plastic bottle of water? The glass bottle of water is far less damaging to the environment than the plastic.

Choosing to throw anything plastic on the ground carries with it the possibility that it could find its way into a storm drain or sewage drain, find its way to the rivers, and ultimately end up at sea. The single action of choosing to dispose of it properly could save countless animals lives, including our own. If we see garbage on the ground and choose to walk past it, the very act of picking up that plastic bottle or plastic item could make all the difference in the world.

The reality is, we are always at choice. We’re allowed to ask for biodegradable products. We’re allowed to say no to the Styrofoam cup. We’re allowed to say no to plastic cups and bottles. We’re allowed to say no to the plastic grocery bag, and on and on.

Prevention is the key.

What we cannot afford to do is walk through life with the misguided belief that someone, somewhere is going to figure it all out and that someone other than our self is going to save the planet. It is all of us making better choices that will create a much better future for our children.

The only way to confront the issue of global pollution and the increasing amount of plastic in the environment is with the choices we make every day. Every day we vote with our dollars in determining what it is we choose to purchase. If we stop purchasing items containing plastic or wrapped in plastic, sales decrease and manufacturers begin looking into alternative ways to meet a specific need.

“Plastic now runs our lives . . . . We’ve always been told that if we would just recycle and throw trash away responsibly, everything will be okay. The lie that is built into that, is the fact that there is no place called “AWAY.”   There is no place to really throw things away.   Litter isn’t the issue. The issue is the manufacturing and use of plastics in the first place and the fact that this stuff doesn’t degrade. It doesn’t go “AWAY.”

What kind of egotism is it that we have as a society, that we’re willing to use something once, for five minutes, and then turn around and simply throw it into this magical place called “AWAY.” It is going to here long after we are all gone, and even much longer than when are great, great, great, grandchildren are gone, and all the while it will only continue to degrade into toxins and pollution that will continue to harm the environment, harm us, and harm our children for generations to come.

Dean Jordan PhD, Dean of Political Psychology, International  University for Graduate Studies. [3]

CHOICES WE CAN MAKE . . . . 

REFUSE TO USE ANY PLASTIC BAGS!!!!   The average American throws away over 500 plastic bags annually.

STOP PURCHASING PLASTIC WATER BOTTLES!!!!   Instead, use reusable water bottles.  Companies like BRITA and BOBBLE make reusable water bottles with carbon filters for drinking pure filtered water.  Each filter can filter the equivalent of 300-350 water bottles.

AVOID THE USE OF ANY TOOTHPASTE, GEL, FACIAL WASH, OR BODY SCRUB CONTAINING PLASTIC “MICRO BEADS!!!!”

AVOID THE USE OF POLYSTYRENE (OTHERWISE KNOWN AS STYROFOAM)

WHEN SHOPPING!!!!  Bring your own bags with you.  Whether shopping at the grocery store or shopping at the MALL, bringing your own bags prevents plastic from ever having a chance of finding its way back into the environment.

WHEN SHIPPING!!!!    USE “ECO-FRIENDLY” BIO-DEGRADABLE (VEGETABLE BASED) PACKAGING PEANUTS AND OTHER PACKAGING MATERIALS.  These are packaging materials made of starch, that to dispose of can simply have water added to them, where they dissolve entirely and pose no threat to the environment.

Ultimately the choice is ours!

 Image

References

[1] How Plastic In The Ocean Is Contaminating Your Seafood by ELIZA BARCLAY  December 13, 201310:07 AM ET

[2]   Inside the Garbage of the World. Film for Action.

[3] U.N. report: Oceans are trashed with plastic by Casey Tolan for CNN Published On: Jun 24 2014 05:43:02 AM EDT Updated On: Jun 24 2014 09:25:00 AM EDT

[4] Inside the lonely fight against the biggest environmental problem you’ve never heard of by Mary Catherine O’Conner    The Guardian, Monday 27 October 2014  10:21 EDT

[5] Spanish sperm whale death linked to UK supermarket supplier’s plastic by Giles Tremlett  The Guardian, Friday 8 March 2013 12.53 EST

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30 Comments on ““IGNORANCE, ARROGANCE, NEGLECT AND CONSEQUENCES.” The Story of Plastic, Oceans, and Our Survival.

  1. Mr Gieske, I didn’t know about the garbage patches. For someone who reads and writes about such issues, it is a sad realization. I’m glad you brought it up!

    [the prevailing mentality is, “if we can’t see it, it doesn’t really exist.”]: I agree. It’s the bigger picture that they miss and it is science. I really think school children be taught about such facts. Their textbooks should reflect the changes that are taking place. This reminded me of a story. I grabbed a sandwich while was waiting for a train home one evening. It was packaged with very thin plastic. When I was grabbing a bite out of it, I noticed a very very thin strand of plastic clinging to the bread. I could have missed it and it could have ended up in my stomach. I removed it because I could ‘see’ it.

    We can reduce our dependence of plastic but it is at the cost of our convenience. Convenience is not a bad thing, we all want it, it is natural to want it. So there has to be a way around. If convenience can’t be traded something else can be. For example, one can be mindful while using it. At the same time, one should demand for action from the government and corporations. This will allow them to change their conventional ways of doing things and pave way for innovations that can replace plastic.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anuja, thank you so much for your comments. This is an alarming issue that receives no press, like so many other environmental issues.I have enjoyed your efforts to educate the masses. Together maybe we can make a dent eventually but my biggest concerns surround the fact 232,000 people are added to the planet every day. With our numbers increasing at such a staggering rate, we are losing ground every day if we don’t educate that many people. I completely agree with you that education of how are youngneeds to transition into a core curriculum that includes a much deeper knowledge of our relationship with the natural world. Keep up your efforts as I will continue to keep up mine an by networking, we can continue to change the world one mind at a time. Keep in touch!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. David, thank you for this well researched article. I thought that I was thoroughly informed about this issue, but your research brought up several points I had not heard of before. Everyone reading this is, I would hope, properly horrified about our dependent relationship with plastics and the certain sickness and death this is causing.

    Good God what can we do about this?

    Your answer to this despairing question is spot on! Same as it ever was, if you realize you’ve dug yourself into a hole, the first thing you must do is stop digging deeper. Stop making the problem worse, then get smarter and figure out how to fix it.

    Mankind – no scratch that – we must accept personal responsibility – I have got the world into a hell of a mess. And I need to make changes in my lifestyle to change the world for the better. Maybe along the way I’ll set a good example for someone else to follow.

    I love the ideas for change that you present and your emphasis on each of us assuming responsibility for the damage we do individually and collectively. Keep up the good work.

    Liked by 1 person

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