The Plague of Plastic

From National Geographic comes an award-winning series Strange Days On Planet Earth. This documentary focuses on raising public understanding about how each of us are interconnected to our planet’s life systems. The inaugural 4-part PBS series, hosted by Academy-award nominated actor Edward Norton, earned 14 major film festival honors—including Best Series at Wildscreen, the environmental equivalent of the OSCARS®. The summary of this episode states:

Far out at sea and deep in the nation’s heartland, experts are discovering the disturbing consequences of a hitchhiker in our waters—plastic. On the remote islands in the Pacific, a team of researchers is trying to solve the mystery of why albatross chicks with full bellies are starving. Many miles away another team is finding more plastic than plankton in giant garbage patch of ocean called the North Pacific Gyre. Could these two events be related?

What’s equally worrisome is the menacing wake plastic pollution leaves on fresh water and consequently, our health. Scientists in Missouri are finding a gender-bending chemical called bisphenol A in local streams whose source may be plastics. They are also finding this nasty compound leaching out of commonly used plastic products (including baby bottles).

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1glVFMej_3g]

*Thanks to my sister Laurie for sending this my way*

Head over to Plastic Pollution Coalition website, and take the REFUSE disposable plastic pledge:

Disposable plastics are the greatest source of plastic pollution. Designed to be discarded, straws, plastic bottles, plastic utensils, lids, plastic bottles and so many others offer a small convenience but remain forever.  REFUSE disposable plastics! Follow the “4 Rs” of sustainable living: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

I’m looking for a practical alternative to disposable straws that is available in Canada.  Does anybody have any suggestions? 

More links:


The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Part of what climate change is showing us is that human beings have to change their relationship with the world around them.  Rather than buying, using, and discarding without giving any thought to the real cost of what we are doing, we need to live in a sustainable way that recognizes that we are part of a larger eco-system and we live on a planet with finite resources.  Just in dollar terms, the real cost of a gallon of gas to Americans  – in terms of subsidies to oil companies, military presence in unstable oil-rich regions of the world, and damage to the environment, increases the price from cents to thousands of dollars per gallon – and this isn’t even counting the loss of both American and Iraqi lives.

FISH FOOD: One researcher holds up a tray of debris pulled from the garbage patch, pointing out tiny pieces of plastic that fish can swallow. (Photo: ZUMA Press)

Another symbol of the way we need to change our lives to live more in balance with our planet is what has become known as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”.  This floating island of garbage stretches for hundreds of miles and has doubled in size in the last decade. It is one of five “giant gyres” in the world’s oceans where humanity’s plastic pollution collects.  Because plastic doesn’t biodegrade, the stuff just sticks around and around, causing problems for the animals and plants that call the ocean home.

It’s the poster child for a worldwide problem: plastic that begins in human hands yet ends up in the ocean, often inside animals’ stomachs or around their necks.” (Mother Nature Network)

It was interesting for me to note that following the article on Roz Savage that “reality checker” provided recently some of the negative comments implied Savage’s work to highlight the garbage patch, and the garbage patch itself,  is a “scam”:

But somehow, envirowackos will have you think that the moment something turns into garbage, it is suddenly immune to the laws of thermodynamics and entropy and remains an eternal corruption upon mother Gaia.” (comment section of CNET article “Roz Savage Rows the Ocean Blue for a Green Cause”)

The implication seems to be that the scientists who are starting to study the patch and other eyewitnesses are wrong just on principle – it can’t be happening, the writer implies, because it’s his/her opinion!  Unfortunately, this kind of non-scientific nonsensical way of thinking that substitutes opinion for critical thinking (“if I don’t like it, it must not be true”) is pervasive in the anti-science mindset that dismisses climate change, too. But sooner or later, humanity will find, the earth will run out of patience with our thoughtless disregard for natural limits.  That is the challenge that we are facing in the next 10 years – to find a different way of being on the earth, or to face the dire consequences.

For more on the Pacific Garbage Patch, check out these links:

What Is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?

An Intimate Look at the Monstrous Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Pictures: Rubbish on the Oceans. NYTimes