I recently moved and I now live a 45 min bike ride away from my work. On the route I take I pass streams, city traffic, and canals. Typical Dutch countryside. It seems perfect, but looks can be deceiving. On the surface of the water there’s all sorts of plastics floating, wrappers are everywhere and the list goes on. The litter is everywhere and 80% of this ends up in our oceans.
Today when I came home from work I sat down and to watch “Before the Flood” a documentary by Leonardo DiCaprio on climate change. It is a great film and one that you should watch (the full film is on YouTube). What I realized while watching this film is that global warming is not just about the warming of our earth but also that it is killing our oceans. To be more acurate, it’s killing our coral reefs. Fossil fuels come various shapes and froms like oil that is being extracted from Tar Sand or Oil Sands. Beside it’s massive CO2 release, the way this is being extracted will most likely pollute our drinking water. This is the reason why more than 100 Native American tribes are protesting in North Dakota (NDPL) to stop the US government and its oil lobby. Simply because it will pollute their drinking water supply. Why the government insists on continuing has a simple reason, money. Renewable energy makes less money for the oil companies and their lobby has a big influence in the US.
Climate change thus also effect our oceans and therefore we are killing it on two fronts. The second is marine litter and to be specific, the plastic soup, which is already the biggest environmental catastrophe the world is facing. And with killing the ocean I mean killing the coral reefs.
Coral grows on average 3 m per 1000 years and due to climate change and marine litter it dies faster than it can grow. A rise in temperature by two degree Celsius will kill all the worlds coral reefs and consequently life in the seas will die. Like the rainforest are the lungs the earth, coral is does the same for all sea life.
By 2050 it is predicted that the oceans will have more plastic than fish (by weight) and in 2100 the earth’s temperature will have risen by eight degrees Celsius (if we continue down this path). It is up to us to stop that just as it is up to us to stop using so much plastics. But herein the multinationals like Unilever, Heinkenen, Coca Cola, Pepsi and others have to take their responsibility. They need stop using plastics as wrappings for our products. They have to start looking at biodegradable packing materials. Smaller companies are experimenting with this and getting results like Saltwater Brewery in Florida. They came up with edible six pack rings which are made from a byproduct when brewing their beer. This way birds and other marine life can actually eat the rings instead of just ingesting plastic one, which they usually are and in the end killing them from starvation or chocking to death.
With the Paris Climate countries have collectively agreed that they will make sure the worlds temperature won’t rise by more than two degrees Celsius. But to stop the marine litter catastrophe from ever becoming bigger we need to start looking at ourselves too. We need to teach our children that they should bin their trash instead of throwing it away: into nature, on the streets or just leaving it behind in the park.
Plastic are everywhere and used for everything. Even this keyboard I am using to write this article. Speaking of writing, I have read somewhere that the ocean floor is covered with millions of Bic pens. Everyday products, like a toothbrush, are made of plastic. Sollutions to be simple: buy a bamboo toothbrush, use a canvas bag and there are more thing you could do, use a Mizu bottle instead of plastic one. Be thoughtful of what you buy and where you throw it away. Like Leonardo DiCaprio says in “Before the Flood”: ‘we know we ‘re doing it (polluting the earth) on a large scale”. Hopefully in the future, on my way to work, the streams, streets and canals will be free of litter. Next time you throw away your wrapper on the streets, know this, it will find a way into the ocean and it will kill birds and other marine life. Sorry for the gloomy article but it is a simple truth but there is still hope in all this and it is not too late to turn the tide but we need to act now and take our responsibility.