Many of you will have enjoyed, perhaps even been spell-bound, over the last seven Sundays by Blue Planet II. You will have been amazed by the stunning underwater photography, the sublime close-ups and extraordinary behaviour and habitat of marine creatures from the mighty to the minuscule. But only to have an icy-cold splash of reality in the last episode when you learnt that everything is in peril and the environment that covers seven-tenths of the surface of our planet is in jeopardy of toxic suffocation with plastic.
Plastic is far from the miracle product it is made out to be. Yes, it is ubiquitous. Yes, its application is practically universal. But as a resource, humanity has used it with a blind indifference to the residual problems it causes on a truly gigantic scale.
Think I exaggerate? Well, have a look at this link posted on the BBC News website a couple of days ago: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-42264788. Here you will find seven charts that explain the plastic pollution problem and bring it sharply into focus.
As a scuba diver, I first became truly aware of the perils in which we placed the ocean last century, when on dives around the UK and even remote places around the world. Here I would see first-hand huge amounts of plastic rubbish of myriad diversity ranging from plentiful bottles, bags and packaging to, on one occasion, a golf ball on a Mozambique reef about three miles out at sea (for which I have no explanation even today). I have learned now more about the harm all this causes to our wildlife, sea creatures, marine birds and how plastic, that may take centuries to biodegrade, can work its way into the food cycle of wild creatures and humans too.
Plastic is found throughout our seas. A report from Newcastle University just this October disclosed that they had found plastic or man-made fibres in 100% of the animal samples they had taken from the deepest part of the Mariana Trench, nearly seven miles below the surface of the sea – and that’s the deepest you can go anywhere.
The record found by one conservation group was 276 pieces of plastic inside one 90-day old chick. The Blue Planet described how plastic can turn toxic the milk of dolphin mothers, which in turn poisons their babies that then die.
Rather more can be found about the catastrophe of plastic in the sea from the educational media group, the Plastic Oceans Foundation. View the trailer for their film at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4_XAZufsGI; better still stay online and go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ykz0iha7G-4 and watch “A Plastic Ocean” documentary in full and spend the next hour and a half getting both disturbed and motivated by the enormous issues we face.
The damage caused by plastic is of course far from confined to the sea. Just think, with ONE MILLION PLASTIC BOTTLES ARE SOLD EVERY MINUTE around the world, the true nature of the harm caused to land, sea and shore is inestimable.
Please look at these links and think about the implications. Some countries have already taken dramatic action to fight plastic. You might be astonished to know that in Kenya, not far up the East African coast from Mozambique, you can now be imprisoned for up to four years or fined over £30,000 for producing, selling or even using plastic bags, because there is just “so much out there”.
We might not expect that here, but are you playing your small part in recycling plastic, encouraging others to do so, or better still avoiding it wherever possible?
Change is possible and it starts with us!