Plastic

Plastic is, probably, one of the most ingenious discoveries of our advanced, scientific and industrial era. We depend heavily on plastic to the well-functioning of our daily life – a toothpaste tube, a medicine bottle, all the pieces that compound the computer I’m now using to type this post, plastic bags we use to pack our stuff – there are so many applications to plastic-made objects that would be hard to sum up here. In a word: I can’t imagine our life without plastic.

But is well-known that plastic can be, at the same time, one of the worst enemies of nature. Plastic is difficult to degrade. And if we add to this characteristic the fact people are sometimes irresponsible in the way they throw out their no more useful plastic objects, then we can imagine the problem. Indeed, each year, tons of plastic debris are simply dumped into the ocean – the natural habitat of many species of seabirds.

One of these birds is the Laysan albatrosses. What a gracious creature!

Laysan albatross,Phoebastria immutabilis, in flight, Sand Island, Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, Northwest Hawaiian Islands. This species is listed as near threatened and decreasing.

These birds have a long wingspan, and they fly vast distances without flapping their wings. They can also spend years without touching land, living for more than half century. As if were not enough all the threats we human beings are causing to their environment (breaking the balance of their habitats), now they face a new menace: tons and tons of plastic that are dropped into the ocean every year. The problem? A recent study shows that this plastic is confused as their natural prey. This happens due to a chemical process that misleads these birds – the plastic debris generates a dimethyl sulfide signature that is the same trace these birds use to identify their ‘food.’ The result: they swallow this debris and then…. they die as a consequence. The photographer Chris Jordan has captured this tragic outcome in images like the next one.

chrisjordan1

 

I know. I know. While this is happening, you are concerned with your life. What is the value of the Albatrosses’ life? Your son is infinitely more important. The paper I’m struggling to publish right now is more important. Even what I’m going to eat next is more important. Who, in the so-called “First World” is concerned with the destiny of the plastic waste they produce? Most of the people have a shit for that. And so we in the “developing countries”.