A Plastic Ocean

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Earlier this week, we headed along to Kings College, London for an evening hosted by the Geography & Chemistry departments highlighting the ever-spreading blight on our oceans….plastics.
A presentation by Maria Acero, an artist who uses her passion for art to visualise for people the trauma we are causing the oceans, kicked us off. She described her current collaboration, called Thames Plastic & the Exploration of Future Dust. She also described some of her earlier work on the Aral Sea Crisis.
This short presentation was followed by a screening of the hard-to-watch at times documentary called A Plastic Ocean. You can view is online here. Or pretty much any other service. But you absolutely must watch it.
Heart-breaking. Mind-blowing. Depressing. All of these things or more, but absolutely essential viewing. The autopsies of dead seabirds may not be pleasant to watch, but there are few more impactful ways to highlight the stress we are putting on the marine ecosystem.
Plastic is so widely used, and so ubiquitous in our environment, that actually you can almost become blind to it. During June, the Marine Conservation Society are challenging people to go for one month without using Single-Use Plastics . On glance at the associated hashtag on twitter will tell you just how hard that is to do in modern day Britain. Because it is so accessible and affordable, developing countries use it in huge quantities, without access to the facilities to recycle or dispose of it properly. The biggest contributors to ocean plastics, China, the Philipinnes, Indonesia and Vietnam have committed to acting to stop plastic pollution, But the reality is that we all need to face up to this, and find more sustainable ways to package, better ways to recycle and reuse. Of course, the plastic you can see in the ocean is only part of the story – when it starts to break down n micro-plastic, it becomes lethal lower down the food chain, finding its way into organisms with less focus in the world of conservation….it is easier to rally people to whales or dolphins, but molluscs, bottom-feeders and forager fish are crucial to the marine ecosystem. And we haven’t even mentioned the chemicals that leech out of plastic over the course of its lifecycle. This is one of a growing cadre of ocean documentaries that focuses on our impact, rather than showing us the beauty that lives below.
We must get this problem under control. A sustained, global, co-ordinated response is the only way to bring the oceans back from the brink. Our marine animals deserve blue seas, not plastic soup. But more than this, they deserve life, not extinction.
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