Updated: Oct 4, 2019
Our survival depends on a global emergency response
In 2013 I finally realized my childhood dream of traveling on a riverboat up the mighty Amazon. But my adventurous carefree self was no match for the unbearable site of plastic trash that filled the inlets, covered shorelines, accumulated in villages, and burned in heaps along the way.
I ended the trip only a few hundred miles upriver, as it was just too much to wrap my mind around. The largest river basin in the world that supplies 20% of all freshwater to the ocean and is home to an estimated 10 million people (and more species of plants and animals than any other terrestrial ecosystem), was being destroyed by a seemingly endless stream of plastic waste.
It was painfully obvious that, if plastic products could do this much damage to such an important remote region of the planet, we are all in for a world of hurt. As soon as I recovered from the shock of witnessing this, I decided to go down the rabbit hole where there’s 6.3 billion tons of rotting plastic dating back to the 1950’s when plastics were first made into consumer products.
Once I faced the reality of this situation, simple truths surfaced out of the muck. “Earth is completely trashed.” “We are all screwed as a result.” “This disaster happened on my watch.” “I need to do something about it since I helped create it.”
“There is no time to waste.” “With action there is hope.”
During the past 6+ years I tried desperately to find a way back to a plastic-free world. After exhaustive research, study, and contemplation I believe it is not possible unless we are actively engaged in solving all aspects of the plastics problem including:
Mitigating the harmful effects of plastic pollution on our health.
Eliminating plastic waste from the environment (land, water, and air).
Protecting the biosphere from all-pervading micro and nano plastic particles.
Putting an end to plastic products with a “we choose to go to the Moon” type
commitment to develop eco-friendly alternatives.
Accelerating change in consumer behavior, highlighting personal and corporate responsibility, supporting calls to action, and encouraging a global emergency response.
By early 2019, my commitment to understand all things plastic was getting me down both physically and emotionally as more and more of my waking (and dream) states were spent worrying about the consequences of inaction. The further I fell into the bottomless pit of inquiry the more problematic, complex, and insane my obsession with plastics became. There was no slowing down or resting, no way to turn back, and nowhere to hide.
The enormity of devastation, caused by a 70 year old love affair with plastic products, led me to a frightening conclusion with burdensome responsibility. If we do not treat the mismanagement of plastic waste as a true and immediate crisis, life as we know it will come to an end in the not too distant future.
I don’t expect you to take my word for it. I can only hope this sharing inspires you to do your own research – to find out what might be lost if we continue down the same path and how your personal behavior fits into the plastics equation.
Perhaps you will discover, as I did, that plastic waste is rapidly destroying the environment and slowly killing human beings. You may realize that your response to this catastrophe could make all the difference in the world. .
"The doorstep to the temple of wisdom is a knowledge of our own ignorance." - Benjamin Franklin
Plastic pollution is far more pervasive worldwide and detrimental to the survival of planetary life forms than our scientific community was aware of just a few decades ago. Only recently have we begun to understand the extreme dangers associated with fragmentation of plastic - the state of being broken into smaller and smaller parts. The deterioration of plastic products, especially those first mass-produced in the 1960’s, have now reached the micro and nano scale, which is raising hell with ALL forms of life on Earth.
Abundant evidence of these tiny particles is found literally everywhere; from “the highest microplastic concentrations of all the world’s oceans in the most remote reaches of arctic sea ice”, to microscopic fibers “raining down from the sky” in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains and the Pyrenees in France, to “extraordinary” levels of pollutants 36,000 feet below sea level in the Mariana Trench (and the entire hadal zone) where “every tiny animal tested had plastic pollution hiding in its gut”. Trillions upon trillions of micro and nano plastics have already entered the food chain, water we drink, and the air we breathe at an alarming rate and with devastating consequences.
We all know what it feels like to walk on a beach littered with a mass assortment of plastic stuff. What is harder to get a sense of is the enormous quantity that lies beyond our trashed shorelines. According to an updated report released by the World Watch Institute, 10-20 million metric tons of discarded plastic is accumulating in the oceans each ye