Wake up and see the man-made debris

Akshitha Viswanathan, Contributor

The earth is all around us so why can’t we see the state our planet’s in? There’s a bubble around us, shielding us from reality. In other countries, and even in some cities here, the surrounding bodies of water are toxic. The bubble blocks us from everything that happens in the world, and as a result, we live life not seeing the world everyone else lives in. We use plastic, unimaginable amounts of water, and we live life, not knowing what happens after. For some reason, we can only seem to think short term, and don’t seem to care about the long term effects of plastic pollution. As far as we know, plastic gets thrown out and then it goes to dumps/landfills, but that’s not the end of the story. The story I’m about to tell is one that seems like it’s a dystopia, but it’s real life, I swear. To prevent everything I’m about to tell you, we need to cut down plastic use as much as possible to better the state of our planet, animals, and people.

When we see plastic pollution, we see it in the form of wrappers or trash on the street, but there’s a whole other world that we’re not aware of. In all oceans and seas, the water is starting to become toxic because of all the plastic underneath the surface. The plastic that goes into bodies of water will take 450 years to never to biodegrade or break down. Most trash gets dumped off the land and into the oceans. We manage to produce 6.9 billion tons of plastic, and 6.3 billion tons of that never gets recycled. One day, that water will become too toxic for us to even dip our toes in. According to National Geographic, “Each year, an estimated 18 billion pounds of plastic waste enters the world’s ocean from coastal regions. That’s about equivalent to five grocery bags of plastic trash piled up on every foot of coastline on the planet.” We know that there are literal tons of trash on our planet, but no one seems to care.

Although we suffer a lot of the consequences of plastic pollution, the animals face most, if not all of the consequences. Plastic in the oceans kill millions of marine animals a year, and 700 species get affected. The animals that encounter trash in the oceans choke and get tangled in the debris. Marine animals also ingest the plastic that breaks down and makes the ocean toxic. This impacts the food chain and also makes the food we eat unsafe.

An article from National Geographic had talked about an investigation about the fishes’ interaction with plastic, and the findings are shocking, “We were close to the spot where, a few years earlier, other researchers had collected 504 fish of 10 species and given them to Thompson. Dissecting the fish, he was surprised to find microplastics in the guts of more than one-third of them. The finding made international headlines.”

Recently, I learned about environmental racism, where people of ethnic groups live in polluted areas over white people. While this is a totally different topic that opens up a whole different umbrella, we live in Farmington, Connecticut, a community without pollution or environmental racism. We are fortunate to live in a nice town, while others are not. We can actually do something instead of living in our environmental riches. If we keep the world around us healthy, we can start spreading awareness to the places around us, and therefore, start a ripple effect and actually make a difference somehow.

Although plastic mostly impacts animals, we face a lot of the impact too. So many people around the world live in harsh conditions because of all the pollution in the oceans, which results in lack of water and air that is unsafe to breathe. Half the world’s waste is produced in China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines, and Sri Lanka. Plastic pollution directly impacts people’s health, but it also impacts our economy.

95% of the plastic used annually is worth between 80-120 billion dollars. Because people continue to use plastic instead of alternatives, pollution decreases tourism in other countries which also negatively impacts our economy.

To be honest, we are lazy and we are not educated. It frustrates me to my core how people are just so careless about everything that they do, that they can’t wake up and see what they’re living in. Because of my personal experiences, I am not going to sugar coat anything.

When I bring it up on social media or in conversation that our world is in grave danger, no one wants to do anything, and no one even cares. If people cut down their use of plastics a little bit to help land and oceans we can make a small impact.

As kids, didn’t we all hear the story about the boy who threw one fish back into the ocean, because although he can’t save all lives, he saved one? We can do that ourselves. Taking out one piece of plastic out of the ocean or doing everything possible to cut down on the amount of plastic in your daily life can do so much good.

All I want from everyone is just to care. If everyone in the world picks up one piece of plastic from the ocean, we’re already off to a better start. I just don’t want everybody to live their lives in their own little bubble and pretend like there are no problems because there are.

There are so many ways to give back to the environment and decrease plastic pollution on land and in the oceans. To give you inspiration, many countries around the world have implemented solutions as a way to decrease plastic pollution.

  1. Visitors will not be able to carry single-use plastics in Peru’s 76 natural and cultural areas
  2. The Parliament voted 571-33 to a bill proposed in May, 2018 banning single-use plastics, the bill will be effective by 2021
  3. A coalition founded by multiple companies called “NextWave” employs people living by the coast to collect discarded trash within 30 miles of water before it makes it to the sea
  4. American airlines are phasing out single-use plastics in their lounges
  5. Food service company Sodexo is making 13,000 schools/workplaces/public areas plastic free
  6. Disney announces ban on straws (175 million straws and 13 million stirrers used a year)
  7. EU, UK, and India propose plastics bans

I hope you all know that starting small may not create a direct impact but it will cause a ripple effect and inspire people to make change. Personally, I have done everything possible to cut down on plastic use such as:

Every time we go shopping, we bring reusable bags to put our groceries in. So many places such as Aldi and Stop and Shop provide reusable bags that are available for everyone. Reusable bags aren’t the only things that stores provide. Many places such as Starbucks provide reusable metal cups and straws for you to bring your drinks in. Many public places are using their platform as a way to “advertise” being smart about the items you use and thinking about the impact it will have on the environment.

Every morning, when I pack my food for school, I put my snacks and my lunch in glass containers and I bring my metal utensils from home. Even if you don’t have glass containers, you can use metal containers or thick plastic containers (as long as they are reusable). Even if you can’t pack your lunch all 5 days of a school week, try to do it at least 2 of the days. Cutting down on plastic just a little bit makes a huge impact.

Another small way you can contribute is the simplest of all of these: when you’re walking, anywhere, and you see trash or plastic, figure out what to do with it to ensure a better tomorrow. I’ve found that when people around me or I pick up trash, the people around get inspired to do the same. If you don’t know what is recyclable or not, here’s a diagram to help you out.

We spend every single second of our day caring about our day and ourselves. And while that’s always crucial, we need to step back a good 17 steps and look to see the bigger picture. The world we live in isn’t just some imaginative movie that you’re watching at AMC. The world we live in is real, and it’s beneath your feet. The air, the water, land are all suffering and it’s because of us. We never got into this man-made mess until we stopped caring about our earth’s state in the future. One day, all the water in the world will run out. One day, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. Do something, anything to make us believe that the world isn’t evil and that we can care about something and make a difference to solve a really prevalent problem today.