Plastics, Pollinators & Human Action: The Current State of Things

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A plastic bag was found in the Mariana Trench.

To most of us that doesn’t mean anything, but in reality it’s something every human should be alerted to. The Mariana Trench at 6.5 miles deep in the ocean, as low as the Himalayas are high, is the deepest trench in the ocean.

A team of scientists studying differences in creatures in the deepest ocean trenches have recently started to find alarming amounts of plastic in the amphipods there, specifically PCBs which though banned decades ago exist for much longer.

“The team found PCBs galore. Some amphipods were carrying levels 50 times higher than those seen in crabs from one of China’s most polluted rivers.”

Upon further examination, the team found plastic fibers and fragments in 72% of the amphipods.

Why does this matter?

“Until now, no one had shown that abyssal animals were actually eating those fragments, but in retrospect, it seems obvious that amphipods would. They are exceptional scavengers that excel at finding food. By deliberately pumping water over their body, they can detect the faintest plumes of odor, and with taste buds on their legs, they can forage with every footstep. When a morsel hits the ocean floor, amphipods turn up in droves.”

“Food is scarce in the deep, so amphipods can’t afford to be fussy. They’ll eat pretty much anything, which makes them particularly vulnerable to plastics. And since they sit at the bottom of the trench food webs, their catholic appetite can doom entire ecosystems. “They’re like bags of peanuts,” Jamieson says. “Everything else eats amphipods – shrimp, fish- and they’ll end up consuming plastics, too. And when the fish die, they get consumed by amphipods, and it goes round and round in circles.

“What you put in the trench, stays in the trench,” he adds. Which means that the plastic problem “is only going to get worse. Anything going in there isn’t coming back.”

(source)

I’m not sure what has led me to start investigated climate change again of late. Perhaps it’s the Green New Deal, an initiative coming out of congress or scientists saying that we are currently a part of the 6th great extinction – and our human behavior is one of the main reasons.

It’s alarming, depressing and frustrating to start the long process of educating oneself on these matters of our world. Many times, as just one human, I feel hopeless and helpless. Do the actions of one person even make a difference? Can our alternative, sustainably minded lifestyle on our Permaculture homestead make a difference?

And the stories just keep coming. Along with plastics at every level of the ocean, basically becoming part and parcel of our marine kin, we find that seabird populations are dwindling in Alaska due to rising water temperatures. This affects not only the ocean web, but also the native peoples in the area who have relied on the birds’ for food in times of need.

Is it easier for we who are buffered from these first signal fires to ignore what is happening?

It’s hard for us to purchase anything these days that isn’t wrapped in plastic, but I think we need to start being more aware of that. Many countries and recently Hawaii banned plastics at grocery stores. That seems like a no-brainer, but humans are tragically slow to adopt necessary changes. We are too self consumed and it makes us a day late and a dollar short when we need to be preemptive.

As we see, the PCBs in the ocean’s deepest trench, the Mariana trench, came from human activity from decades ago. Businessmen on Wall Street don’t give a flying fuck and Republicans in office laugh it off, as they are still contesting the existence and validity of climate change.

What is our problem? How can we save ourselves and our destruction from killing off everything else?

I am beset with these questions, and it’s not the first time.

On top of this, we read headlines like this one:

Plummeting insect numbers ‘threaten collapse of nature’

More than 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered, the analysis found. The rate of extinction is eight times faster than that of mammals, birds and reptiles. The total mass of insects is falling by a precipitous 2.5% a year, according to the best data available, suggesting they could vanish within a century.

It makes me wonder, what can we as individuals do? Youth are rising up on March 15th saying that they aren’t going to let the older generations determine things by remaining silent and inactive anymore. We need to make a change and it infuriates me that people posit this as a political issue. This is definitely not a political issue, it’s a biological issue and one that affects every lifeform on this planet.

Here are some of the cities, countries & companies stepping up to face this crisis.

These are just some of the large-scale actions that are being taken. You can read a running list here. It’s heartening to see that so many are responding to the need to curb plastic use (especially single-use!) and find alternative solutions. The time is now! Too often humans live without concern for the effects their actions will have in the future. Surely our brains have developed past that evolutionary stage?!

As a part of this research, I am putting my mind to what I can do and how I can be most effective regarding getting this information out in a good way to the most people and how I can make a change and inspire others to as well. We will only succeed if these changes take on like a movement and that means we have to work together. Do you have any ideas or inspirations for ways that we can make a shift? I have a few ideas floating around that I will share in coming articles.

I know often when we hear information like this, we want to close down and stop listening or sometimes it can feel overwhelming. I have leaned heavily on the work of Joanna Macy who invites us to instead open to our grief and overwhelm where we can find abundant reserves of energy that can help us find mobility in these current crises. The answer isn’t inaction, but going into our grief and using that energy to propel us forward. I’ve written about this before – you can find more in the following articles:

Feeling Grief for our World? Let Your Heart Break… Open

Extending the Bounds of Self | Thoughts on Deep Ecology & Anthropocentrism

Are We Listening? Are You Paying Attention? Wisdom of the California Fires

Information and quotes from Mariana Trench plastic all from this article.

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