Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Our Plastic Bag Addiction

The more I know, the less I want to know.

I toured the Algalita Marine Research Institute in Redondo Beach (http://www.algalita.org/index.php). These great people are responsible for research in the 5 Gyres, especially the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, as well as the tsunami debris field. I have met, and know and respect these people. They are doing amazing work. They inspire me.

Bezoar from camel's stomach
During the tour, the instructors brought out something surprising. It didn't have anything to do with the oceans. It had to do with the Arabian desert, of all places. Plastic bag pollution there? Yes.

I Googled, and I've seen some pictures of the desert just strewn with plastic bags. I don't recommend it; it's pretty depressing. And before you think that you have nothing to do with that... yes, our recycling cast-offs (because, remember, we don't actually recycle things here, we just bundle them and ship them off to other countries to be processed) end up over there, and because even those places don't want to recycle plastic bags, they just get tossed away. They blow off into the environment. No one wants to pick them up. Where else to put them, anyway? Then, it turns out, camels will go along and just eat whatever they come across in a goat-like manner. They are not discerning, They do not know what will hurt them. They just graze. So they end up munching a bunch of plastic bags. All this crap and debris just kind of sticks around in their stomach, becoming a huge mass called a bezoar, which I have pictured here. This, of course, eventually kills them. Slowly and painfully. This thing pictured weighs around 30 pounds. Think about THAT extra weight in YOUR stomach. You weigh more but you starve to death anyway, because you can't take in nutrients around this thing.

Our plastic habit has much further-reaching impact than we think. How insane is it to grab something that you use for mere moments, then discard, and then that thing goes on to pollute the place we live for years and years and years? How does that make any sense to anyone? Because it's convenient? Surely we are better than that. Surely. Please let us be better than that.

We need to realize that other creatures on this planet are suffering because of our carelessness, negligence, and desire for convenience. Because we can't be bothered to remember our reusable bags. Because we just have to have bottled water. Because... just because. There are no real reasons to do this to the planet and to the animals that live on it and through no fault of their own are harmed by OUR actions. Ours. Ours and nobody else's. And there is no excuse for this. There really isn't. We don't have to be a disposable society. We don't. We need to think, we need to care. We need to be the stewards of this Earth that we are supposed to be. That the other creatures here need us to be, because they cannot defend themselves against our apathy.

We have to do better. We just do.