As a scuba diver, I’ve gotten to see the devastating effects of plastic first hand. On a dive in Mexico I passed a hawksbill turtle with a plastic bag wrapped around it’s mouth. I tried to get close but the turtles in that area don’t usually approach divers and although it wasn’t too comfortable with […]
Today I am sharing a post that deeply resonated with me and how I think about plastic in relation to our oceans. I was about to write a post of my own (which I will do anyway) but wanted to share what The Rambling Mermaid has posted. And as I said in my comment to her post, I am not a diver, I am not as physically up close and personal with the plastic pollution in our oceans – but that does not mean I do not care about it deeply. We are all here because of our oceans, the fact that we can live on this hospitable planet where the conditions are just right is due to the oceans. Literally none of this, no land, no people, no animals, nothing would exist if it weren’t for the oceans.
As Silvia Earle put it so simply: “No ocean, no life. No ocean, no us”.
My earliest memories of the ocean involve more sand than water. Where I’m from only fishermen or men actually went into the ocean. Women and children would sit on the sand, gaze at the expanse of roaring water in front of them and eat ice cream or roasted peanuts. I knew fish came from in there, I loved fish, it was probably the first meat I ate in my life. But other than the fish on my plate, I didn’t know much else about the ocean.
I know a lot more now, and my greatest regret sitting here typing this today is that I did not know enough about it when I was a child. Because then I would have chosen an entirely different path in life – but since time travel hasn’t been invented yet (and even if it had been I doubt I’d be able to afford it) I will do what I can with the knowledge and ability I have today.
Have you seen the documentary “A Plastic Ocean”? If not, please watch it, it’s available on Netflix. If for some reason you are unable to watch it, I will summarise some of the points I jotted down in the first 10 minutes or so of the documentary.
63 million gallons of oil are used every year to supply the U.S. only with plastic water bottles.
More than 90% of these bottles are used only once.
The U.S. alone throws away 38 billion bottles every year, i.e. 2 million tonnes of plastic going into landfills, and that’s ONLY water bottles.
In 2016 every man, woman and child consumed about 300 pounds or 136 kilograms of single use plastic.
More than 300 million tonnes of plastic were produced in 2016.
Half of these plastics will be used only once.
By 2050, this production will have tripled, i.e. over 900 million tonnes.
Over 80% of ocean plastic comes from land based sources.
Over 8 million tonnes of plastic are dumped into the ocean every year.
Approximately 70% of plastic debris sinks to the bottom of the ocean.
My question to you is, do these numbers mean anything to you? Is the scale imaginable? Or are they just numbers, really big numbers that you are unable to visualise because you’ve never really seen anything in the millions, let alone billions? I would really appreciate you taking a minute out of your day to let me know, because it would be a vital part of my initial assessment of where to base my research.
I left you with this poster yesterday, it was, as I mentioned previously, my first inkling of the extent of the plastic problem. Look carefully at the words on the poster – 55 million years vs. 30 years.
Here’s a pie chart to visualise what those numbers look like in comparison to each other. Having to squint to see the cyan line? That’s the point. In such a trivial amount of time plastics have wreaked the most devastating kind of havoc both directly and indirectly.
I am not claiming that whales have been pushed to the brink of extinction by plastics alone. No, there are many other factors including over-fishing, whaling, warming oceans, and phenomena that cause whales to navigate incorrectly and beach themselves and die. That is not to say that we can ignore how many whales are killed because their stomachs are filled with plastics – making them feel full, stop feeding and then causing them to starve. Take a look at the chart below from WWF.
Global Warming | Climate Change – These are words you hear often these days. You should be hearing them, and using them – they need to be on every able, educated person’s mind. But the problem with these words is that they are such big ones, with so much information encompassed in them that most people push it to that section of their minds where news of yet another bombing in a far removed country is relegated. The very scale of the problem acts as a deterrent to it being understood.
I think in my work I want to break that down a little – make the scale understandable. In part, my group mates and I dealt with a bit of that in our final year capstone project, but obviously the scope was again limited to the 4 months we had to work on that from inception & research to design & deliverables.
I will end this two part post here, because in writing them, in agitating those passion points that have lain dormant since my capstone project, I think I’ve answered my question – I believe I do want to be a researcher.
Rewind 3 years and ask me if I want to be a researcher and you’d find me making gagging faces before I’d even fully heard the question. So what changed? Firstly, I missed being a student – have you been through that? Being a student is a luxury, especially if you’re an adult, and I’ll tell you why. It’s like time has been suspended, like life has been suspended for the time that you are achieving an academic milestone. You have your classes, you have your classmates, you have your (often useless) group mates, good professors, bad ones, ones you have very academic crushes on. You have assignments, you have to make observations in your visual diary, there’s just so much to do and someone has already decided when these things must be submitted. How lovely – just do the things you’re meant to do, add information to your brain, get those synapses firing and absorb all that knowledge like a sponge. Yes, you will also whinge and have nights of little to no sleep and hate everything that doesn’t resemble a cup of strong coffee. Yet, this is an environment in which I thrive, thrive, thrive.
Over the last year since I’ve finished my postgraduate degree and started looking for relevant work (still looking) I have had time to think about where I’m going, what I’m doing with my life. I feel like in these 30-something years I’ve lived, I’ve lived so many separate lives. Nothing too exciting, I assure you (regrettably). But still, stages of my life can be mapped and will represent a completely different set of variables for each stage.
Why these stages vary so much has a lot to do with geography, each of those stages have played out in a different geographical location, some merely a 12 hour journey away, some oceans apart. They all have distinct flavours, smells and feelings that they trigger. Now, in my early 30s I have started to crave something stable, something solid I know I can rely on, be it a place in a country (not my native one), or a career even. I started off professionally as an architect, hated it from year 2 of my degree onward, moderately disliked working in the profession for 3 odd years, had something external happen to me, gave up the career and took a break. Then I did my higher education with the aim of specialising in graphic design. This was the opposite of everything I knew as an architect, mainly the timeline for completion of a project. I’m impatient and like immediate results – yay! win!
Something I learned while honing my graphic design skills was about environmental sustainability – something that had skated on the periphery of my thoughts until then. I knew plastic was bad, but I hadn’t considered how bad and really how much of it there was. I am guilty of having had a takeaway cup of coffee, plastic lid and all, many many times before I found out about their devastating effects. It started with semester 1 and an assignment to design a poster for a chosen charity/awareness program. My response is seen below (no judging, please – it was literally my first blubbering steps with Adobe Illustrator). And from then on, I have read voraciously about the subject of plastics and plastic pollution and the effects this has had on our natural world. Suffice to say, it is shocking!
I will leave you with this poster and hope that if you’re new to this topic, that it has peaked your interest and that you will stick around because I will continue to provide more information in Part 2 of this post.
Welcome to my blog. Since I’m new around here I thought it only fair to begin with a brief introduction. I’m a female in my early thirties, contemplating my immediate future plans. I plan on using this blog as a sounding board to figure out what that will be. I have a little bit of time, not much, mind you, but I’d rather figure out what I want to do this time instead of setting off blind as I so repeatedly have done.
The long and short of it is this: I am in living in a country where I arrived to study, I subsequently finished my postgraduate degree and struggled to find relevant work as I do not have previous experience in this field (change of career) and am not a citizen or permanent resident of this country. Either it’s that or I’m going about this all wrong. Being faced with having to return to a country where I do not feel safe and have no hope of building a life I want, I have been looking at my options.
Side note: I have been contemplating over the course of the previous year how I can use my education not just to earn enough money to not be constantly worrying about that aspect of life but to use it for good. If I earn a decent living from that, well and good. I just find that I am no longer satisfied with surviving comfortably.
And this is how, with a nudge from someone I opened up to, the idea of researching was planted in my head. A PhD! I had reeled from the idea of any type of research previous to (and during most of) my postgraduate studies. The truth is though, I can spend hours and hours and yet more hours reading up about topics I am passionate about – in essence I do love researching, just not with the connotations of musty rooms and bespectacled, lab-coat-clad-pasty-skinned academics.
So yes, what I am going to be using this blog for, while comfortably enrobed in my flannel pyjamas, is to narrow down my research interest and throughout my, hopefully, successful attempt to become a PhD student. Offer me your opinions, encouragement or simply share your stories with me.