Written By: - Date published: 9:33 am, January 26th, 2018 - 55 comments
Categories: capitalism, disaster, economy, Economy, Environment, International, the praiseworthy and the pitiful - Tags: plastic, pollution, reefs
I’ve noticed a fair few articles in “The Guardian” over recent months on plastic pollution. It tends to be a numbers and weights game – “x” pieces of plastic in the world’s oceans, or more tonnes of plastic than fish in the oceans by some given date, or “plastic as food” with shots of starved or starving fauna. This one adds a new angle.
Plastic carries disease, and also causes disease by compromising the vitality of organisms.
She [Joleah Lamb – lead researcher] said that once a coral is infected, disease usually spreads across the colony: “It’s like getting gangrene on your toe and watching it eat your body. There’s not much you can do to stop it. If a piece of plastic happens to entangle on a coral it has a pretty bad chance of survival.”
One third of all individual specimens of coral from across 159 reefs during a two year period of study had become ensnared by plastic debris. Corals entangled in plastic were reckoned to be 20x more likely to suffer from disease and, obviously, being less robust, less able to recover from any bleaching event.
Like global warming, plastic pollution is a systemic characterisation of capitalism – a free externalisation of costs that might otherwise impact on profits. The published paper (Science Magazine) touches on this where it reports
By 2025, the cumulative quantity of plastic waste potentially entering the marine environment from land is predicted to increase by one order of magnitude. Using this projection and assuming that the area encompassed by coral reefs remains constant, we estimate that 15.7 billion plastic items will be entangled on coral reefs across the Asia-Pacific by 2025 (the “business-as-usual” scenario for global infrastructure: 95% CI = 1.7 billion to 149.2 billion items)
Sadly, in spite of having awareness around the systemic nature of the problem, Joeah Lamb is quoted in The Guardian putting the onus back on individuals and consumers.
“The take-home message for individuals is to be more considered about the amount of single-use plastics you are using and think about where your plastic goes. These little things do matter.”
That’s akin to the sermon around AGW that runs “change the lightbulb and save the world”. It’s ineffective bullshit that allows the culprits to sidle off into shadows where they can conjure up new and wonderful ways to protect and augment their profit margins…while doing nothing in the interim that would impact on profit margins.
If you think that’s too harsh or hopeless, then take your mind back to CFCs and how hairspray became “public enemy number 1” while ICI (the principle producers of CFC) devoted their time and energy to exploring and developing unnecessary high tech solutions that would deliver them a new monopoly and continuing rising rates of profit.
That’s not to say we should all continue using plastic willy-nilly. But the problem is well beyond “the supermarket bag” and the solution lies in production, not consumer choices.
Edited: I’d written that BP was the principle producer of CFCs when it was ICI.