I am aware of the many issues facing the planet. Over population, climate change, depletion of natural resources, endangered species, etc. Can I wave a magic wizard wand and make it better? No, I cannot. And sorry to say but praying aint gonna do it either. We need to act. So how do you get the government to put their foot down on these gigantic polluters and say, “No more. You’re done.” It seems damn near impossible. This is where I think change from the bottom on up comes into play. A wise man mentioned change happens from the bottom on up but his name conveniently slips my mind. Ok, so what kind of change? Well, why not start with consumerism? We all need to reduce our waste and you can do that by reducing your consumption. After all, it is reduce, reuse, THEN (when all else fails) recycle. We just sort of skip those first two and go straight to that third and least helpful step. And what seems to have many environmental enthusiasts freaking out about? Plastics. That sounds like a great place to start, or so I thought.
DON’T GET DISTRACTED WITH THE BIGGER FIGHT
I was feeling confident in my push to educate others and try to convince them to reconsider their plastic consumption. My husband and I have already been making an effort and it is much easier than one might think. I could tell people were becoming annoyed with my social media posts, however, which I found disheartening. If I couldn’t get those closest to me to reconsider their choices, especially after sharing my fears I have for my child, how was I going to convince an entire country? Nevertheless, I persisted. Then one day I saw “the tweet”.
“not to say plastic pollution isn’t a problem, rather there are much bigger problems facing the world we live in – specifically climate change.”
“Um. What?” I thought. Isn’t this part of the climate crisis? I mean we do know where plastics come from right? How would plastic production and manufacturing not play a role? And to have all those items just sitting there for all eternity. How is this not a problem? To help explain why this is so concerning to me, let’s consider how plastics are made. I am going to focus strictly on the biggest culprits and easiest to ditch such as cutlery, bags, to-go containers, straws, packaging for food and toiletries, etc, since they are responsible for 30% of plastic production. The plastic used for these particular items is mainly derived from polypropylene which begins as fossil fuel, the same fossil fuel your car runs on, and is then distilled and mixed with catalysts to eventually form plastic pellets. These pellets are then shipped to various manufacturers to make all kinds of wonderfully, non-biodegradable items that will be with us forever. For a more scientific explanation, check out this pdf.
FOSSIL FUELS. NOT JUST FOR YOUR AUTOMOBILE
When we consider the ways fossil fuels are extracted — drilling and mining — then transporting them and manufacturing them, one can see how dirty, damaging, and wasteful plastics are. You’re drinking water out of a vessel made from the same material your car runs on. This is the same material that helps poison your water, making you rely on water sold in a vessel made from that material that poisoned your water in the first place. It’s a horrible cycle beginning with an incredibly dirty process. Take fracking for instance, which requires an absurd amount of water and chemicals. One well takes 3 to 6 million gallons of water per well, and an additional 15,000-60,000 gallons of chemicals to extract the material. Much of the chemicals used in fracking are unregulated so the exact amount or type of chemical used is a mystery. That should piss you off. Of the known chemicals, 25% were found to be cancerous. Again, Why aren’t you pushing for change? Why are we accepting this?
It appears climate activists (not all) feel you need to push hard for clean energy now, no excuses, and forget the plastic problem. But you aren’t going to make that happen. There is still much to consider and unfortunately, politicians know that could hurt their careers if they push too hard to change industries which not only contribute to their campaigns, but also employ American citizens who could be left without jobs if a proper transition is not implemented. Why are democrats so afraid to even touch climate change? Sure they might mention it to look good, but has any one other than Bernie Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez really pushed for true change with an actual plan? Even still you have a population of Americans working for these industries who don’t feel confident they will have job training waiting for them once their coal mine is shut down. I really hope some of these politicians go speak with some of these folks. The coal miners in Kentucky, for instance, have been blocking coal from being delivered until they get their back pay. Those guys are interested in a transition to cleaner energy but they aren’t sure it will actually happen. I sympathize with people in these positions because it is their livelihood and they don’t know what else to do.
SO WHAT DO WE DO?
I don’t have all the answers and would never claim to. What I do have though, is the power of observation and a mind that won’t shut off. I see people talking about the climate crisis, but no one really doing anything. As someone who lives in the Metro Detroit area, I can tell you I don’t expect anyone in my life to ditch their cars anytime soon, or choose a job closer to home, or install solar panels on their over-sized house. What I can see is someone thinking twice about the products they purchase if they know how detrimental plastics are to the planet. I can see someone realizing recycling is becoming less helpful and is no longer a reason to feel good about your consumption, that reducing first is the more beneficial action. You can’t force people into major change. Unfortunately, you need to ease them in. Start from the bottom and work your way up. Educate. Enlighten. We may be running out of time, but we are too focused on what the Real Housewives are up to to care. Or we are convinced we are too busy or just can’t be burdened with all this devastating news while we are preoccupied with keeping up with Joneses. How do you get the government to act when the majority of their constituents don’t care? I’m sorry but I think it’s baby steps. So yes, push for major change, but offer everyday solutions to a much bigger problem. We need major energy overhaul in this world but until we get that, let’s focus on the things we can change right now.
By the way, after reading about the water wasted on fracking fuel for your disposable partyware, I don’t want hear anything about the water used to launder my infants bamboo reusable diapers.