Here’s to the oceans and new endeavours

Even if you don’t give a fuck about nature, we are destroying our own life by making this planet uninhabitable for mankind. It’s not even about saving the planet, it’s about saving ourselves — Cyrill Gutsch, founder of Parley for the Oceans 

According to Gutsch, every second breath we take is generated by the oceans. It makes sense to deduce that by continuing to pollute the oceans with plastic, marine life will continue to head towards extinction. And if the oceans become uninhabitable for marine life, then the planet becomes uninhabitable for all life.

The majority of plastic debris found in the oceans are broken bits and pieces — 1/4 of an inch or smaller — scattered over huge areas. There are five areas — which have slow-moving whirlpools or gyres — have the highest concentration of plastic, and the debris is difficult to collect and retrieve without endangering fish and other sea life. Two located in the Pacific Ocean, two in the Atlantic Ocean and one in the Indian Ocean.

The plastic you see floating on or near the surface is only a small sampling of the pollution the oceans hold. The majority of the plastic sinks to the ocean floor. And on top of that, the plastic that isn’t floating on the surface or burying themselves into the ocean floor, are washing up on beaches and shorelines. There is a lot that finds its way to land. Fortunately, that debris can be collected relatively easily without disrupting the surrounding area and wildlife.

Parley promotes a strategy that we should follow to help save the planet and ourselves. They call it the A.I.R. Strategy and you can read more about it here:

AVOID plastic wherever possible
INTERCEPT plastic waste
REDESIGN the plastic economy

The strategy is not unlike the one of ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’, the mission mantra used in local recycling programs operated by cities and towns around the world who participate in waste reduction/recycling programs.

While it’s great to think locally and act locally, I believe we need to think globally and act locally.

Now, here’s a question any good cynic worth their weight in salt would pose: Why should I care?

I hate that question, don’t you? Doesn’t matter in what situation you find yourself in, when I hear that question, I just want to bury that person six feet under. It tells me the person who asked that question is petulantly uninformed. Or just wants to be an asshole. I have my ways to dealing with assholes. Just so you know.

There is a reason Gutsch says it’s not about saving the planet, that, in fact, it’s about saving ourselves. He believes, and I tend to agree with him, the most base and basic reason humanity cares about anything at all, is self-interest.

Argue that the planet must be saved from the destructive habits on mankind, and you might get a few ears who hear your message. Argue that we all personally have something to lose by allowing the planet to die, and something to gain when we band together to fight for the planet’s survival, then the likelihood of the message spreading further than you originally thought, will be greater.

One of the biggest problems — well, it might be the biggest problem — is when one notes the different kinds of pollution we’re faced with, and must address, a person can feel overwhelmed by the situation and ask with frustration, ‘What can I do? I’m just one person.’

This is where ‘think globally, act locally’ comes into play. What you do locally can and will impact globally. Gutsch believes in collaboration. Not one person alone can fix a problem like plastics pollution. But by banding together to fight for the planet, and ultimately fight for the survival of mankind, managing the damage we’ve created and cleaning up the planet is possible.

We all know the phrase ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’ Let’s look at this as ‘it takes thousands of villages to save the planet’.

Everybody knows fixing the environmental damage we have inflicted on the planet won’t happen overnight. But, in a world where instant gratification is common place and expected, the commitment to a lifetime of being a true and sincere steward of the planet’s welfare doesn’t look rewarding. Not in the short term, at least.

How long has it taken humanity to damage this planet? Over a century, for sure. It’s probably longer than that. Maybe closer to two centuries, perhaps? So, how long do you think it will take to repair the damage we’ve done? Probably just as long.

Part of the problem with getting the skeptics, the cynics and the disbelievers to understand the importance of not destroying the planet, as we pursue our own self-interests, is the scale of time. For the most part, we understand time as it relates to, and within a human lifespan which isn’t all that long when you think about it. In a human lifespan, the effect we can have to the environment tends to occur slowly. It occurs so slowly that we don’t notice or give it much thought.

A few generations later, we start noticing something isn’t quite right but we still fail to roll up our sleeves to try to fix the problem. Collectively, this is humanity’s procrastination shuffle. Then it gets to the point where the problem seems so overwhelming that we end up hoping someone smart enough and bright enough will come along and give us a solution. Until then, we are either in varying degrees of denial or our heads are up our asses.

Aside from the scale of time, we’re failing to think about the accumulative effect we have on the planet. One person tosses a non-biodegradable piece of trash into the ocean, or into a river, or into a lake. What’s one piece of trash from one person? It’s nothing, right? Well, we all know it’s not ‘nothing.’ That person, along with thousands, millions of other people who unintentionally or deliberately pollute the creeks, rivers and larger bodies of water are participating in the destruction of the planet. Again, we default to thinking only in the period of our own lifetime and not necessarily thinking in a period of several lifetimes. Being unable to think beyond ourselves is one of the reasons we’re failing as stewards of this planet.

Everyone can implement the A.I.R. Strategy into their everyday lives. If you can follow the reduce, reuse and recycle mantra, you can follow the A.I.R. Strategy. I don’t think it’s much of a stretch.

If you’re wondering why the fuck I’m hyped-up about marine pollution, I would have to say it stems from me being a breast cancer survivor. I was fairly healthy when the shit hit the fan. I was also eating pretty healthy, too. The diagnosis made me tweak and fine-tune my food choices and altered my relationship with things that were considered convenience, i.e. plastic bottled water, anything that you could heat up in microwavable plastics. I won’t get into what I believe to be the external factors leading to the cancer diagnosis. Now is not the time nor the place to debate that.

When I started hearing and reading stories about how we were polluting and endangering marine life with plastics, it started niggling at me. It started small, at first. And I guess it was a slow build from there.

Hearing stories and seeing images of fish and animals, especially birds who died from ingesting plastic trash because they didn’t know they supposed to not eat it, started to weigh on me. Then I heard about the problem with microbeads that are used in facial cleansers. They’re problematic because they end up in the water and the fish end up digesting the microbeads. If that fish is a salmon, for example, we will end up ingesting the microbeads. Microbeads are made of plastic. I don’t know anyone who would willingly eat plastic. If we won’t eat plastic, why let a source of our food supply eat it?

Gutsch is right in saying that plastic is a design failure. Plastic isn’t something found in nature. It was created as a way to make life easier. To expect the Earth to take something inorganic and break it down into something organic is ludicrous and impossible. That is what is happening to the oceans, lakes and rivers. Whether we mean to or not, we’re asking the oceans to accept and process our non-biodegradable trash. And we’re slowly killing the marine life.

If the oceans die, we dieCaptain Paul Watson

I’ve placed my support behind Parley for the Oceans and their mission. World Oceans Day is June 8. I will be doing my part by participating in the Adidas X Parley Run for the Oceans. So far, there more than 51,000 people around the world who will be participating in the digital run.

The run takes place from June 5 – 11. Wherever you live, you run. The distance doesn’t matter. You can run a kilometre, you can five, ten kilometres or more. Whatever you feel like tackling. The distances are tracked by the Runtastic app. I’m not sure how many kilometres I will run by the time the week ends. I’m looking at a minimum of five. After that is anybody’s guess.

I’m pretty excited about doing the run. This kind of activism is new for me. I have lots to learn when it comes to the oceans and plastics pollution. It will be an interesting journey.

With all of this, I still have my writing life to consider and it will always take priority. Regardless, I have a feeling that nothing but good things can come from this latest endeavour.