Thursday, 15 October 2009

A Plastic Plague – Blog Action Day

 

One day, one issue, thousands of voices.  Today is Blog Action Day where bloggers from all over the world will speak their minds about climate change.  In that context,  I’ve decided to take a kind of sideways look at how we human beings impact on our planet. 

Have you heard of the North Pacific Gyre, an area the size of a small continent, covered with floating refuse - bottles, tangles of fish nets and monofilament line, six-pack rings, cling film, deflated balloons, condoms, broken toys and other detritus.  In nine years, the North Pacific Gyre expanded from 10 to 25 times faster than models of global warming predicted and it is at least twice the size of Texas. It has expanded to the northeast into the eastern Pacific and portions of the Hawaiian archipelago – the northwest island chain and the Papahnaumokukea Marine National Monument.  That is flippin’ terrifying.

 

Believe me, this isn’t going to be a ‘holier than thou’ diatribe about how sensationally eco-friendly  I am.   On the contrary.  I do try, but sometimes I forget.   This post is really just a memo to me.

 

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Alan Weisman has confronted the impact of our infection of the biosphere in his fascinating and thought-provoking book ‘The World Without Us’.  The book provides a mental jolt to remind us how vulnerable and insignificant we all are compared to the long history of the earth – but it also makes us realise how much of a lasting impact our lifestyles can have on the natural world around us.  Weisman’s premise is based on an unsettling yet compelling thought experiment – what would happen to the planet if humans were to vanish from its surface overnight?  The answer is both illuminating and frightening. 

Within hours, underground train systems would flood.  Within a few weeks, untended nuclear power stations would begin to over-heat and eventually explode.  Within a few years, our cities would start to crumble and become overgrown with vegetation.  The seas would once again burst with formerly depleted fish.  Yet some of the plastic rubbish we’d tossed away would still be around for thousands of years after we’d gone.

Weisman’s hypothesis is fiction – it is highly unlikely that we’ll all disappear off the face of the planet in a puff of smoke – but it does make it clear that the durable poisons that humans have injected into the environment will persist with or without us.  Waste from nuclear generating plants, plastic polymers of all sorts, polychlorinated biphenyls, phosphate and nitrate fertilizers, and fluorocarbons - these are serious ecological issues that concern us TODAY.

19 comments:

Sujatha said...

A wonderful - and much-needed - wake-up call, Tessa. Thank you.

The Bug said...

I always pack my lunch & have tried to use reusable bowls as much as possible. But I couldn't figure out what to do about baggies (for my goldfish!). And then I started packing a sandwich for my husband twice a week. I told him to keep his baggie clean so I could reuse it, but he kept getting mayo on it. So I ordered cloth sandwich & snack wrappers. They have a sort of plastic inside that can be wiped off. No more baggies!

Now if I can just stop using products with so much packaging!

Angela Recada said...

Terrific post, Tessa! So glad you are joining me and thousands of others in posting about this topic today.

I had, indeed, heard of the huge plastic blob in the middle of the ocean. We have become so used to all the plastic packaging, it's difficult to remember life before plastic *everything*.

Best wishes,
Angela

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

We try to be cognizant of these issues here. No plastic bags. I refuse bags in stores, which is really quite easy for me since the handbags I tend to love are huge ones! There is really so much we can all do, if we can just manage to realize that every little bit helps. It's easy, I fear, to become overwhelmed and give up.

lakeviewer said...

We can't talk about this enough. The threat is real and here already. Beautifully researched, eloquently expressed, just the right tone post.

p.s. Thanks for your sweet,sweet words of praise. It takes one to know one.

Lori ann said...

You've shown how much we all have to learn still, an excellent post Tessa, thank you.

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

What we are doing to the living planet is horrifying and obscene. We are killing that which so faithfully sustains us. We need to be shocked out of our complacency. Thank you Tessa - important reminders!

Titus said...

Thank you Tessa, timely reminder on something we can all take action on.

Heiko said...

I had no idea it was international blogger action day, otherwise I'd have written something. Although actions speak louder than words of course. We try to buy only the essentials in shops, things we can't produce ourselves or gather in the wild. And as for recycling, anybody got any spare bottles or jam jars? I keep running out for making jam, chutney, fruit in syrup, tomato sauce, olives. Recycle things properly, not just put them into the glass container, which then costs more energy to turn it into bottles again. And eat less meat. Meat production is one of the greatest contributors to greenhouse gases. There is so much one can do, but now I'm starting to preach, sorry.

ewix said...

Yes, plastic and excess packaging is a terribly waste and a menace.
I have a super ancient Moroccan straw shopping basket I take everywhere.
Awfully hard to explain sometimes why I don't want napkins, plastic forks etc etc.
If we were all a little ore mindful perhaps we could cut down.
My vote is to charge for plastic bags......
Good post.

steven said...

hello tessa - thankyou for posting this piece. my work is delivered entirely at the local level - i bicycle, i reduce, reuse, and recycle to the degree that is possible within my home, and then i push the reduced footprint model at my school. in this way i honour the premise that acts of quality are not bound by scale. i empower a very small portion of my community each year to pursue their own notion of rightness within the context of helping this place we call home remain viable for all living things. have a peaceful evening, steven

staceyjwarner said...

Tessa,

I've been thinking about this recently how we think we are different than the dinosaurs or any other species that has gone extinct. It could happen (and most likely) will happen. The earth will restore itself.

Very thought provoking post. Thank you!

Em said...

I would have blogged yesterday, had I known. I've only recently discovered your blog - I'm enjoying catching up.
Here in Spain, it's a nightmare. The supermarkets hand out plastic bags as if they were nothing. When buying fruit and veg, whether at the supermarket or a little independet store, you have to (and I mean, have to), wear a plastic glove before picking up the produce, use a too-big clear plastic bag for each item, and then even if you say no, they throw everything in a big plastic bag at the end. There's nowhere here recycle used carrier bags either. I'm a good recycler really, but the situation here is a real "head in the sand" mentality.

Carol said...

Stunning and very informative post hon!! I had never heard of the North Pacific Gyre...and now I have I don't really know what to say (it's not often I'm stunned into silence!!)

C x

Ps. It's good to be part of Blog Action day isn't it!!

A Cuban In London said...

And a memo to me, too. Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

Tessa said...

Sending jet-propelled hugs and HUGE thank-yous to all of you. Each and every one of you has something enormously important and powerful to say. I appreciate your comments so much and always learn something of great value from them - not only on this particular post, but on ALL of them. Thank you. You rock the world. Seriously.

Maithri said...

Thank you beautiful Tessa for sharing this....

Its indeed a powerful wake up call for all of us... I agree with Cuban.... This is a Memo to me!

Love to you, M

Renee said...

These poisons are also in our bodies and killing some of us slowly.

xoxoxo

Jessica said...

I think more and more of us are trying to do the right thing by the three Rs, I know I try. But I really think that until the government gets their hands dirty and tries to make it easier for the public, it won't get any better. 5 stars to "A Plastic Plague".