Being back on Seal Island, a 66-acre spit of land more than 20 miles off the coast of Maine, I feel like I’ve returned to paradise. But while this beautiful island, rich with life, appears at first glance to be pristine, one soon can’t help but notice what the receding tides reveal. Trash. And most of it, all manner of plastic, be it a soda or bleach bottle, cups, plastic bags, bottle caps, balloons and every size, shape and color of styrofoam.
You’ve all probably at least heard of this short film and the suffering birds it focuses in on, or watched in horror yourselves at the graphic scenes it portrays. It’s hard not too look away when you realize how not just these seabirds, but countless other species we might never have encountered ourselves are suffering at our very own hands, despite that they might exist miles and miles out to sea . Yet the plastics that we’ve encountered in our lifetimes and they in theirs are what we have in common. Plastics persist in our oceans for hundreds and hundreds of years, but they don’t remain in the shape you last see as that soda bottle starts it’s journey, floating farther and farther out into the water. The degradation and persistance of plastics over time is what hurts our birds and other wildlife the most. Plastic bottles and styrofoam break into pieces, and those pieces break into smaller pieces and on and on until it’s just millions and millions of tiny bits floating around in our oceans. And the birds can’t help but ingest them.
This short film by Chris Jordan is mightily graphic, you don’t just witness the pain that a bird dying with a stomach-full of bottle caps and shards of plastic, you’re eye to eye with that bird until it’s eyes no longer hold life.
“Do we have the courage to face the realities of our time?”
I spent the afternoon with a big garbage bag and went about the rocks looking not just for bottles but for that awful, awful human creation: styrafoam. It’s disgusting and it’s everywhere, even when you don’t see it, plant roots grow around it, it blends in and looks like rocks, it’s tiny specks in the soil. So that was my contribution for the day. What else can I do? Well, I have it right with me, wherever I go: my water bottle. Think of how many times you drink water when you’re out and about and how many bottles it can save if you opt for a refillable container instead of buying it pre-bottled. The more we can make plastic unnecessary, the more we opt to bring our own reusable grocery bags and speak up when someone thinks it’s okay to release a balloon into the sky, the more we resist the onslaught of over-packaging and put up with grocery cart cooties (your fruits and vegetables are going to get washed anyways, right?), the more we can make plastic obsolete. Think about it.
And while you’re at it, sign this Greenpeace petition demanding big corporations do their part to end plastic pollution!
Tags: garbage, oceans, plastic bags, plastic bottles, plastics, pollution, seabirds, trash