Earth Day was April 22nd, and there were many photos on the internet of how beautiful our planet is, all the breath taking views and places. Our Earth is beautiful, it is our home, and has so many wonderful things. But there are also a lot of not so pretty things as well.
Pictures of sea turtles wrapped in fishing nets, fish caught in plastic debris. It makes my heart break that we as humans treat the animals, that share this planet we call home with us, so poorly. I’m sure everyone hears about how we need to recycle and not litter, but do people know the weight of it? The direction our Earth is heading in?
It is hard to say the exact amount of plastic in the ocean currently, but according to NOAA, scientists think about 8 million metric tons of plastic enter the ocean every year. To put that into perspective, that is the weight of almost 90 aircraft carriers.
The issue with plastic is that is does not decompose. Large pieces of plastic may break down into smaller pieces called microplastics, but will never completely go away. Plastic that enters the ocean will indefinitely cause harm to it, and everything that lives in it.
The amount of plastic that people use every day is mind boggling. Almost everything that we buy at the store comes in a plastic container. It is cheap and easy to make, so that is what is used. The toothbrush I use in the morning, my deodorant container, the disposable razors I use, the bottle my soaps and perfumes come in; all plastic that I use within the first hour of my day. Plastic drinking bottles and disposable eating utensils are things that are meant to be used one time and then thrown away. When they are thrown away, they will eventually find their way to a land fill or the ocean.
It can be hard to avoid plastic, and there might not be a recycle bin near you, so the problem can be daunting. But there are ways to replace your plastic items with things that won’t hurt our oceans. For example, a bamboo toothbrush is a great alternative to a plastic one. When it is thrown away, it will decompose eventually and not cause any harm. There are even bamboo utensil sets that come in a cute little bag that anyone can carry around with them when they know they otherwise would need to use a plastic fork or spoon. You might look a bit strange whipping out your own fork, but think the positive impact you will make. Plastic straws are another huge issue. Some places have banned plastic straws and are now using paper ones, or you could purchase metal, reusable straws for drinking.
Right here in Hillsboro, Kansas there is soon going to be a recycle truck that comes around town, and I hope that everyone takes advantage of that. Even though we are just a tiny town, every single person counts when they get rid of plastic the right way.
Not only are the animals suffering from plastic waste, humans are too. According to National Geographic, the microplastics in the ocean look a lot like food to marine animals. Scientists have found microplastics in 114 aquatic species, and more than half of those end up on your plate. That’s right, when you eat seafood that have ingested plastic, you are eating plastic.
We can fix these things though. We can clean up our oceans. Did you know that the one billion dollars that was donated to rebuilding the Notre Dame cathedral would have been enough to clean all of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? I am not intending to offend or disrespect the Catholic religion or the cathedral. It was a beautiful, historic building, but was also an inanimate object that we do not need. Living, breathing, feeling animals and the health of the planet we live on seems to me to be more important than a building.
Field Ecologists stated that as Notre Dame was burning, the last female Yangtze softshell turtle died. The extinction of yet another animal, caused by the effects of humans, went unnoticed, and certainly did not receive one billion dollars to help prevent more extinctions. People value objects that are by no means essential to our survival higher than living things. Our ecosystems are degrading at a rapid pace to the point of species of plants and animals going extinct, and at what cost to humanity?
The first mammal species to go extinct due to global warming was pronounced recently according to National Geographic. And who caused that? We did. I know people like to pretend that global warming isn’t a thing, but it is. Research done by NOAA says that 97% of scientists say humans are the cause of global warming, there is 40% more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution, and 70 million metric tons of carbon dioxide are added to the atmosphere daily. This is due to the greenhouse effect and deforestation. When we cut down forests, there are not enough trees to take in carbon dioxide. The burning of fossil fuels also adds to this. I know that we need to drive cars to get around and they need gas, and I don’t have the solution, but I hope someone will find it and soon.
The cathedral isn’t the only thing that people are misplacing their money on. The Borgen Project states that only 60 billion dollars is needed to end world poverty. If everyone just in the U.S. would take all the money they spend on just one Christmas, we would permanently abolish global poverty by 50%. If we did this two years in a row, the problem would be completely solved.
Take care of our home, our animals, and our people. There is no planet B.