As surfers, the sea is our sanctuary. Our happiness thrives in the ocean. We hold onto those dreamy days where our fins cut the water like slick liquid glass and time flows gently like molasses. The only sound in our heads is the hushing silence of the ethereal energy between our feet, the board, and the face of a wave that in that moment belongs to us, or we belong to it. Sometimes it is easy to forget the world when you are floating on your board in a dreamscape. We need to wake up though; our sanctuary is in grave danger.
You can’t surf a plastic sea.
A study published in the journal Science equated the amount of plastic waste that ends up in our oceans every year to 136 billion milk jugs (Engler, 2016). 50% of that plastic is plastic that we only use one time and usually for less than 12 minutes. The amount of plastic in our oceans outnumbers plankton by a ratio of 26:1 (Brighty, Jones, and Ruxton, 2015). If we don’t kick our plastic addiction, there will be more plastic than fish in our seas by the year 2050 (Monks, 2016).
Plastic doesn’t biodegrade. It continually breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces due to sun exposure. Fish, sea birds, and other marine animals consume these plastic pieces. 90% of seabirds have plastic pieces inside of their stomach and many of them will eventually die from starvation because their stomachs are completely full of plastic. Plastic also attracts toxins and other heavy metals as they circulate the sea. These toxin include BPA, phthalates, pesticides, and PCB’s, which have been linked to some cancers, as well as infertility, immune, cognitive, and behavioral disorders. As fish and crustacean consuming people, we are literally eating plastic (Brighty, Jones, and Ruxton, 2015).
As a collective society, we have become utterly dependent upon plastic products to make our lives more convenient. Plastic production is low in cost and can be easily produced in high volumes. It is lightweight, durable, and can be shaped into an endless mold of practical products. We are living in an age of plastic; however, the proliferation of plastic production and use could ironically be the end of the human era.
Fortunately, there are individuals and organizations that are putting into motion some pretty amazing initiatives and putting forth a lot of accessible and scientifically backed information that could help us make the necessary changes to enter a new age, the age of no single use plastic. One in particular is the Plastic Ocean Foundation. This January they are releasing a documentary called A Plastic Ocean. The purpose of such a grand undertaking was to document and disclose the latest scientific research and tangible evidence of the tidal wave of destruction our plastic ignorance is creating. The documentary is meant to inspire change.
Click to watch the trailer: http://www.plasticoceans.org/watch-trailer/
Sometime we aren’t aware of how heavy our footprint is until we witness firsthand the destruction our footsteps can make. This documentary will show you how detrimental our plastic addition really is. Turtle and other marine animals are getting tangled in it, birds are starving from it, we are getting sick from it, and the oceans are dying from it. Some of the most common plastic items found in the ocean and on our shorelines are straws, grocery bags, disposable cutlery, plastic bottles, and coffee lids (Engler, 2016). These are also some of the easiest items to eliminate from our lives.
The survival of the human race is contingent on the survival of the oceans. Maybe we just all need a little inspiration and motivation…or a good kick in the butt to start making some changes. A multitude of small changes will add up to something significant. We must evolve and work our way out of the plastic era, otherwise there won’t be a next era for us and our animal and plant neighbors.
“The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.” -Polar explorer Robert Swan
As surfers and ocean dependents, we should be the first to stand up and protect what we love the most. A plastic sea is good for no one. Say no to straws, bring your own coffee cup to the coffee shop, use reusable bags at the food store, and stop drinking from single use plastic bottles. This is an easy start that will fuel great waves of change in the future of our seas. We can all start here.
“You might not care, even if you know, but you can’t care if you don’t know.” -Dr. Sylvia Earle
Be in the know and take action. The Plastic Ocean Foundation is an organization that is helping people to do both with surprisingly minimal effort.
Brighty, G. C., Jones, D., & Ruxton, J. (2015, August 28). High Level Science Review for ‘A Plastic Ocean’ Film. Retrieved November 25, 2016, from http://plastic-ocean-media.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Plastic-Oceans-High-Leverl-Science-Summary-Version-4.pdf
Engler, S. (2016, January 5). 10 Ways to Reduce Plastic Pollution. Retrieved November 20, 2016, from https://www.nrdc.org/stories/10-ways-reduce-plastic-pollution
Monks, K. (2016, September 02). The Plastic Plague: Can our oceans be saved from environmental ruin? Retrieved November 20, 2016, from http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/30/world/plastic-plague-oceans/index.html