Over the last few decades, plastic has become one of the most commonly-found materials on the planet. This material is used to wrap or make virtually every consumer product you could think of. Single-use plastic carrier bags, packages, coffee cups, and drinking straws are seen as cheap, quick, and convenient … but once they are thrown out, we rarely give a second thought as to where they might end up.
Sadly, all of this trash is having an extremely detrimental effect on our planet and its inhabitants. Only 14 percent of plastics are recycled, and those that are not recycled take around 1,000 years to decompose. Even then, they never truly “disappear”, but simply break up into millions of microplastic fragments. There are 3,091 active landfills in the U.S. – and while they may be designed to prevent their contents from seeping into the surrounding environment, in reality, they often end up leaking a variety of toxins into the nearby soil and groundwater.
Not only that but an estimated 8.8 million tons of plastic find their way into the oceans each year. Around 700 marine species are threatened with extinction as a result, as they frequently die of suffocation or starvation after ingesting or becoming entangled in our trash. One extremely scary phenomenon has been the rise of enormous “trash islands” in our oceans. The most well-known of these, The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, is twice as large as Hawaii! A number of conservation experts fear that overfishing and plastic pollution will ensure that the oceans are empty of all life by the year 2048 … or at least, that they will contain more plastic than fish by this date.
This truly frightening prospect is made all the worse when you consider the breathtaking beauty of the oceanic lifeforms that we stand to lose forever unless we manage to kick the plastic habit. A stunning collection of entries in The Guardian’s recent Underwater Photographer of the Year competition makes this extremely clear to us. Davide Lopresti, the competition winner, chose to use his beautiful shot of a seahorse to highlight how this species has become endangered because of human activity. “Over the years the Mediterranean’s population of seahorses has drastically reduced. Their numbers have only recovered thanks to public awareness and a significant restocking campaign,” he explained, adding that he hoped his picture would convey “a sense of grace and strength simultaneously.”
Judging by the breathtaking quality of this photograph, it seems as though he certainly achieved this aim!
This photograph by Dan Bolt depicts an egg-laying ground for the smallspotted catshark, known as “mermaid’s purses” because of their sack-like appearance.
Pier Mane captured this intriguing scene of a shark swimming above three tall sea sponges. Although they’re labeled the most “dangerous” predator, 100 million sharks are pulled from the oceans every year by humans.
This incredible picture by Greg Lecour reminds us exactly how important it is for us to save the world’s sharks!
This image of a sunken tugboat by Thomas Heckmann – which is clearly being taken over by sea organisms – demonstrates that no matter how we try to dominate the oceans, nature always prevails in the end.
Helen Brierley took this beautiful picture of a pelagic octopus.
Gianni Colucci was “mesmerized” by these two seahorses as they “swam in the shallows holding each other by the tail. The scene was something majestic, a magic only enhanced by the beauty of the location, illuminate by the full moon.”
Alejandro Prieto was thrilled to capture this moment when a Hawaiian petrel briefly dived under the water to search for food. Sadly, statistics show that by 2050, 99 percent of sea birds will have ingested plastic if we don’t act.
This shot by Will Clark is titled “Shocked Shark.” Pretty apt, don’cha think?
Cathy Lewis called this picture “Safe Haven,” as it depicts two juvenile codfish swimming alongside a compass jellyfish to protect themselves from predators.
We love this photo by Paul Colley, of a duck swimming above a fish!
The idea that all of this vibrancy and life could be lost to us forever, simply because we humans value a few minutes of convenience above the health of our planet, is truly heartbreaking. We still have time to prevent this … but we need to act NOW.
“Plastic is ubiquitous in modern society and seemingly unavoidable. But is it worth risking the lives of marine species, the health of the oceans and our own future in the name of convenience? By taking steps to minimize everyday plastics in our lives, we can crush plastic at the source and give marine life a fighting chance,” says Nil Zacharias, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of One Green Planet.
As the leading organization at the forefront of the conscious consumerism movement, One Green Planet believes that reducing everyday plastics from our lives is not about giving up anything or sacrificing convenience, but rather learning to reap the maximum benefit from the items you use every day while having the minimum impact.
To find out how you can reduce your plastic footprint and help ensure that marine animals such as the ones shown above can continue to thrive into the future, check out our articles, 10 Simple Actions That Just Might Save Our World’s Oceans From Plastic, and 10 Life Hacks to Help You Cut Plastic Out of the Picture.
Let’s #CrushPlastic! Click the graphic below for more information.
All Image Source: The Guardian