We all share the only life-supporting planet in the solar system, the Earth. By ‘We’, I mean right from the ant you accidentally stepped on to the largest mammal, the Blue Whale, which recently incurred a death by plastic. We have exhausted the Earth with our wisdom, more often used for immoral developments than anything worthy.
Discovery of Radio waves, electromagnetism for telecommunication, internet for fast browsing, electronics for handy gadgets, and finally the plastic to use and throw – if you claim all these great inventions for making our lives better, then you ought to agree we are extremely self-centered beings.
Every discovery or inventions are brought to the spotlight by use and betterment of human lifestyle. The last thing or the one we even forget to think of is the Environment, the plant and animal life that we equally share this world with. One such cruel discovery was Plastic.
Overly welcomed into the world in the 20th century, the parts of the first plastic product used, still lies on the Earth – floating in the oceans, buried underground and ingested by innocent animals, who underwent a slow painful death and then the decayed matter leaves the plastic out in the habitat killing more wild and marine life.
What the statistics have to say?
A Bryde’s Whale died in the year 2000, after consuming 6 square meters of plastic. The Autopsy revealed that the whale had its stomach filled with the plastic, which slowly led to drastic and painful death by starvation. Given an approximate lifetime of 1000 years for plastic degradation, practically, these plastics are not at all degradable, for they break into smaller pieces, contaminating the animals even at the lower part of the food chain like the small fishes, birds, and domestic animals.
About 100 million marine animals are affected by the plastic products that are dumped in the seas and oceans. Often the sea seals are pictured with a part of the fishing rod sticking out of their mouths. These are the broken waste products thrown into the oceans, which trap in small fishes and lure bigger fishes or sea animals to eat them, without realizing it’s the man-made poison.
Also, sea turtles and other sea creatures swallow in these plastic bags presuming it to be a jellyfish.
Apart from these, Styrofoam, plastic brushes, ropes, fishing nets, water bottles, disposed of razors, use and throw cups, Bakelite, etc. end up creating a dump yard in the middle of the ocean itself. It is a shame to humanity, we have ironically named it the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’. This is one such topic to shed out the grief among ecologists and environmental activists, in the recent times.
According to a National Geographic survey, about 90 percent of seabirds consume plastics, which end up at shores now. In 1960, the amount of plastic found in their bodies was about 5%, and within two decades, by 1980, the numbers had increased to an alarming 80%.
‘Pete’ Pelican suffered a pathetic death by consumption of plastic in 1998. After eating 17 bags of plastic, assuming it to be food, theses plastics have tortured the bird to death. As a symbol of ‘Death by Plastic’, Pete is preserved and displayed in front of Fitzroy falls, to instil a sense of guilt in the visitors about how he was killed by the plastic waste they irresponsibly threw away.
How are humans affected?
We, the humans have been selfishly placing ourselves on top of the food chain, hoping to never come across a downfall. How easy would you take it, if there were some plastic remains in the fish stew you had for dinner?
Apart from wild animals, nowadays it is common to find plastic in the intestine of cows, goat, and chicken too. The tiny fishes are known to have ingested small bits of plastic, as all freshwater sources have been indifferently polluted with industrial and biowaste.
A recent study by United Nations Environment program declared that about 15% of all cows slaughtered in Nairobi had their stomachs filled with a couple of kilograms of plastic, mainly from plastic bags and plastic straws. Imagine the plastic contamination in the meat and the milk produced by these cows. This has a direct impact on the food we consume, besides killing them.
Finally, Karma has played well, to affect us through our deeds of affecting the food chain of other animals. New diseases arise due to ingestion of high chemicals and food that is infected by lethal constituents. This is again taking a toll on our health, and that is when we realize the level of damage done.
Apart from sharing the top spot in the food chain, we are equally vulnerable to the effect of plastic and bio-accumulation. The term bioaccumulation is used to describe the fatal situation posing in front of human survival. It’s not too much in the past that we realized how this pollution we cause could backstab us. In the late 1950’s, the story of mass poisoning in Minamata, Japan due to mercury waste dumped into the ocean, created shock waves across all nations in the world. The Chisso Corporation factory situated in Minamata dumped its waste by-product mercury into the ocean. This contaminated the entire fish species in that area and settled into their systems, slowly killing them. The people whose primary staple food was fish, consumed it without knowing the curse that had befallen them. Thousands of people died, and numerous numbers of people still suffer from the various nervous disorder for generations have passed now.
A similar tragic end is destined for all of us shortly if we don’t buckle up soon and act fast to save the marine animals and birds.
The Final Verdict
With so many ecologists’ setting up teams to analyze and speculate this issue, many have shown an indication of a danger buzzer for humans and all living organisms, besides contaminating the whole of the earth.
The more the production, the easier we replace the present plastic goods, and the faster they end up in the oceans. It is estimated that by 2050, the world would hold a long list of extinct species compared to the ones struggling helplessly to survive. Apart from this, humans have no escape from the horrors of bio-accumulation and bioleaching. This is irreversible destruction to the Earth as a whole, including us.
Any possible and realistic solution?
It is high time that we stop turning a blind eye towards this issue and start rising protests to wake up our governments across the world. We have done the damage as individual countries, with our destructive plastic dispose policies. It is time to unify beyond borders and take a united stand to protect the marine animals and birds. It is essential to realize and withhold the sense of humanity, which is slowly vanishing in humans.
The rule of three R’s: Reduce. Recycle. Reuse.
Reduce the use of plastic articles. Instead, opt for reusable eco-friendly products that can be digested by the Earth. Recycling is another mandatory investment to be made by all citizens of countries worldwide to ensure this man-made debris, are re-used by us only and do not hinder the habitat of marine and wild animals and the birds.
It is necessary for all of us to globally address this issue and set up cleaning missions across the oceans and water bodies in the world. Apart from this, many organisms can be saved while struggling to cope up with the already ingested plastics. Medical help groups need to be initiated and have to work as teams aimed at saving these innocent living organisms from the mess we have made.
The change begins with you. So next time you toss a plastic water bottle out on the road, imagine the long list of animals that would pay up their lives for your act.