The world’s oceans are under attack by humans! Our oceans contain 97% of the ourplanet’s water and covers nearly 75% of our earth. The ocean provides the air we breathe, food, medicine, transportation, economic benefits and a home to more than 200,000 known species of marine life and another 2 million unknown, which may remain unknown if we don’t keep our butts out of the water.
5.6 million cigarette butts are smoked each year around the world. People discard up to two-thirdsof a cigarette stick after smoking. The filter tip of a cigarette is non biodegradable and contains smaller bits of plastic. These plastics are increasingly joining the millions of pieces ofmicro plastics already in our ocean.
Who eats plastics? Micro plastics are eaten by the smallest of fish and invertebrates in the ocean. These plastics end up in the bellies of the humans at the top of the food chain as we enjoy our seafood dinners.
Cigarette butts, fishing line, plastic bags, water bottles, candy wrappers, straws, food and beverage containers; there are almost more of these items in the ocean than marine life.
We can read about it online, look at all the pictures, shake our heads and say “How sad!” It is beyond sad. Some scientists have even said by the year 2050 there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish unless we do something, Yesterday!
Recently I was fortunate to teach a plastics unit to 3rd grade children in Asia. It was an eye opening experience. We took the most interesting field trip. We went to pick up cigarette butts! We walked less than a mile and picked up thousands and I mean thousands of cigarettes butts.
Of course, I had heard and even read about all the plastic in the ocean, but upon further research by the children, we saw that our ocean is in bad shape and if we don’t do something now, we are going to be in a world of hurt. They wrote letters to local grocery stores and to a popular yogurt company expressing their concerns about their over use
Shopping for fruits and vegetables in Asia is a miserable experience. Almost every fruit and vegetable is wrapped in plastic, including bananas. Apples are individually wrapped in foam and then placed in a plastic container closed with a piece of plastic tape. I refused a plastic bag when I was having my vegetables weighed before purchasing them. You just don’t do things like that here. It took a while for the lady to realize she could just put the sticker on
the vegetable than on a bag, but finally she agreed to let me go without a bag. I didn’t want to cause to much of a stink, as I am a guest in their country, but the plastic usage in Asia is out of control.
On a recent trip to the Philippines, I was fortunate enough to go diving and snorkeling. I was so amazed at the sea life. Whale sharks were swimming nearby, seahorses had attached themselves to fan coral, blue starfish were plentiful and swimming amongst the thousands of sardines was incredible. I was so excited when I was swimming along and a sea turtle swam next to me. The turtle was actually faster than I considered he would be. I tried to keep up with him, but his one stroke was to my three strokes. I enjoyed trying to keep up with him when I noticed a piece of clear plastic floating within reach of the turtle. I knew what was going
to happen (as sea turtles often confuse plastic with jelly fish). I tried so hard to get to the piece of plastic before he did, but I did not make it. I was screaming at him in my head, “Don’t eat that plastic!” The turtle ate the plastic and kept on swimming. I was just sick about what I had just seen.
On a different trip I was walking the beach in Singapore. I have been gathering sand for a friend in Oklahoma for several years. I took my bottle down to the beach to gather some sand for him. When I scooped it up, I noticed colorful pieces in the bottle. I dumped it out and tried again, even more colorful pieces inside. Upon closer inspection, I noticed these were small pieces of plastic mixed in the sand. The plastics just kept coming up in the waves. I had read about all of the micro plastics in the ocean, and it is truly a head shaker, but in person, it is a heart breaker.
On a recent trip to Tulsa, I was fortunate to get to listen to Alexandra Cousteau speak at the Performing Arts Center. She is the granddaughter of french ocean explorer, Jacques Cousteau. She mentioned that in the 100 years (1950-2050) from when her grandfather first began exploring the ocean to our very near future, our “oceans have gone from abundance to absolute devastation, it’s something we should all be concerned about.”
Everyone who reads this, please vow to use one less plastic each day. Spread the word, tell your friends.
What is your next step?