We have all seen a birds nest. High in trees, these intricate homes are weaved with sticks, mud, and other natural items to protect a bird’s young. The height of the nest protects them from most predators, and gives mother some piece of mind as she returns to land to look for food. The tree acts almost as a temporary babysitter, shielding the babies from potential predators, including man. However, not even a strong tree or a new mother can protect her young from an extremely dangerous predator. Unlike other hunters, it does not make a sound; it poses no threat and yet to most animals is quite useful. What is it?
You see my dear readers, this predator is found in the nest, and unfortunately for us, and it is a too common sight. Enlaced in this intricate home for her young is a plastic bag. A bag that mother bird has ripped into tiny pieces with her beak, placing pieces of it to hold the nest together, to blanket her eggs, and most importantly, to feed her young. Birds do not know better, but we do! However, seeing bags in nests and watching animals interact with it is all too common.
The statistics are staggering. Millions of wildlife and fish die of plastic bag consumption a year. One of many examples includes the mighty albatross. Autopsies on Albatrosses show large amounts of plastic bags in their digestive systems. The amounts of wild animals including birds and fish that have plastic bag in their digestive systems are far beyond what we have ever thought. Animal’s lives are shortened rapidly. However, this does not exclude us from this horrible cycle, as we too are affected. If you are a meat eater for example, you eat the fish that has consumed plastic, and now it is in your digestive system as well. Vegetarians are not safe. The water we consume has tiny plastic particles in it, and though plastic breaks down into smaller parts it does not completely disappear. Some argue that it is worse that it breaks down to almost microscopic pieces, because it becomes the perfect size for food for animals and aquatic life.
Fish and animals are confused with plastic bags. Aquatic life; from the tiny shrimp to the huge whale see plastic bags (and other junk in the ocean) as food. They eat it thinking they have found a scrumptious meal, but quickly learn that this is not the case.
Consumption of plastic is not the only problem. Wild life also gets stuck in plastic products, putting their heads through holes in plastic bags and getting caught, or getting their legs snagged in plastic. Whether the plastic is tight and begins to cut off circulation, or the animal eats the plastic to free itself, the results are the same and ultimately morbid.
What can we do? The facts of plastic bag production, the BILLIONS of tons a year it is produced can make anyone trying to make a difference feel like there is no hope. Never say never! Figure out ways that you yourself can at least, cut down on plastic bag use. Encourage your local grocery stores to at least sell sturdy cloth bags for customers. Figure out creative ways you can wrap your fruit and vegetables instead of with plastic. Spread the word yourself, start a green business, support green businesses and come up with tactics that make alternative bags cheaper for the average person. Challenge your children’s school to cut back on plastic bag use. Get involved.
Theglobalwe.com, ipeace and endless other organizations seek to ban plastic bags. Segments on national television shows teach Westerners where exactly there garbage ends up, on land and in the water, in the mouths and bodies of life.
We all want to hand our children a cleaner world then what was handed to us. We want children to enjoy wildlife, have a clean water supply, and be able to continue to make environmentally conscious decisions. To do so, today is the day to make the difference. So I challenge each of you, how have you made this world a little more clean? Your stories are appreciated and I look forward to your answers. Onward together, we make the choices of what products we want for our environment.
*For further viewing, please view this three part documentary entitled Garbage Island: http://www.vbs.tv/en-ca/watch/toxic/toxic-garbage-island-1-of-3