Ride along on my train of thought. We begin with the stories of how climate change is changing the ocean and waves: rogue, freak and tsunami from the perspective of big wave surfer, boat captain and scientist in a book called The Wave, by Susan Casey. It is fascinating and for some reason I keep thinking of “Wide Sargasso Sea.” It’s a title for a novel, but does it exist as an actual place? I go to Google.
Indeed it is a sea within the Atlantic Ocean. Then I notice a link: http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4132 examining whether the tales of seaweed trapping sailors in the Sargasso Sea are likely to be true (seaweed yes, but not in such great quantities; more likely doldrums trapped boats), and whether the great Pacific Garbage Patch is a myth (yes, except that there is a lot of plastic in very small pieces floating in the Pacific).
Later that day I get in my car and drive down Watt Avenue towards Highway 50. A truck speeds past and a big clear plastic bag is floating in and out of the bed of the truck. The driver (presumably unaware of the impending litterbuggery) guns it and lets the plastic bag loose into the environment. As I ease onto the highway there are cones letting me know that CalTrans and some orange-vest crews are cleaning up the roadside. Slow for the Cone Zone, as they say. I look to the side of the road and the main trash culprit is not newspapers or papers of any kind, instead it is plastic, plastic, plastic.
I can’t help but miss New Zealand where the use of plastic is not as ubiquitous. Or Ireland where I first realized that other developed countries manage just fine with much less plastic. It hit me most forcibly in the Virgin Records store in Belfast where the CDs were not entombed in three layers of plastic. Imagine! I have a friend in PR who worked for the plastic industry when they were trying to kill legislation to limit the use of plastic. The argument was something like “Plastic doesn’t litter, people litter.”
Sound familiar to the U.S. readers? Strangely akin to the National Rifle Association’s “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Unless you are actually shot to death with a gun, in which case that distinction may be lost on you. Similarly, if I’m a fish and I eat a small piece of plastic mistaken for phytoplankton, I might (if fish had the capacity to think such thoughts) not be so forgiving of the careless truckdriver.
So what can I do to limit my plastic use? I use reusable containers whenever possible, shop at a grocery store with paper bags and use reusable grocery bags. Shall I start using cloth bags for my produce? Oh, but I need those to clean up dog poop. In fact, most of my plastic use is for the 3 or 4 times a day when I need to clean up after Radar. It is so overwhelming and I am tempted to drop the whole thing.
Instead, take a deep breath, determine to look for ways to gradually reduce plastic, thus reducing dependence on petroleum, increasing our national security, and bringing about world peace.