TODAY -

Ending Plastic Pollution - Earth Day 2018

Mayanglambam Ojit Kumar Singh *

Albatross, victim of plastic ingestion. Photo: Unknown (source: http://plastic-pollution.org/)
Albatross, victim of plastic ingestion. Photo: Unknown (source: http://plastic-pollution.org/)



The twenty seven year old Russian Yuri Gagarin who in April 12, 1961 became the first human in space said "I see Earth - it is so beautiful." Vostok, the world's first spaceship with Yuri Gagarin on board was launched into orbit from the Soviet Union on 12 April 1961. It completed the historic 108-minute flight orbiting once around Earth, an electrifying moment of the world of 1961.

And very interestingly Alexander Von Humboldt more than one hundred forty years before Gagarin described the beauty of Earth from space expressed in his Personal Narrative the grounded beauty as, "The beast of the forest retire to the thickets; birds hide themselves beneath the foliage of the trees, or in the crevices of the rocks. Yet amid this apparent silence, when we lend an attentive ear to the feeblest sounds transmitted by the air, we hear a dull vibration, a continual murmur, a hum of insects that fill, if we may use the expression, all the lower strata of the air.

Nothing is better fitted to make man feel the extent and power of organic life. Myriads of insects creep upon the soil, and flutter around the plants parched by the ardour of the Sun. A confused noise issues from every bush, from the decayed trunks of trees, from the clefts of the rocks, and from the ground undermined by the lizards, millipedes, and cecilias. There are so many voices proclaiming to us, that all nature breathes; and that, under a thousand different forms, life is diffused throughout the cracked and dusty soil, as well as in the bosom of the waters, and in the air that circulates around us."

Everywhere on our planet is full of life. Infinite variety of domicile which the earth offers is amazingly bewildering .Our Earth is full of beautiful creatures and colours fill every nock and corner. Abundant varieties of beautiful and overwhelmingly useful species of plants , animals and microbes adorn every inch of the earth. Indeed to many the smell of the freshly cut harvest , the breeze that brought wavy movements among the paddy fields are more refreshing than the development goals which countries today aspire.

However, never did we realize that our efforts to make ourselves more comfortable, richer, longer and healthier have all the means to make this beautiful Earth less beautiful and inhospitable for many a loving creatures. Understanding that our environment is important and at the same time it is fragile is environmental awareness. And this awareness is one of the most seriously needed issues that need to be mainstreamed today.

April 22 every year is celebrated as the Earth Day since 1970. This day is always accompanied by various events held to demonstrate support for environmental protection. Earth Day events in more than 193 countries are now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network. The genesis of this annual event was the dreadful incident of January 28th, 1969 when a well drilled by Union Oil Platform A off the coast of Santa Barbara, California blew out.

It is reported that three million gallons of oil or more than that spewed, killing over 10,000 seabirds, dolphins, seals, and sea lions. This disaster mobilized activists to create environmental regulation, environmental education, and Earth Day. Selma Rubin, Marc McGinnes, and Bud Bottoms, founder of Get Oil Out were some of the important proponents of Earth Day.

Earth day and its relevance today:

"Our cosmic oasis, cosmic blue pearl
the most beautiful planet in the universe
all the continents and the oceans of the world
united we stand as flora and fauna
united we stand as species of one earth
black, brown, white, different colours
we are humans, the earth is our home.
Our cosmic oasis, cosmic blue pearl
the most beautiful planet in the universe
all the people and the nations of the world
all for one and one for all
united we unfurl the blue marble flag
black, brown, white, different colours we are humans, the earth is our home.
"

The above poem-song penned by Indian poet and diplomat Abhay K is "Earth Anthem".

Among the environmental events celebrated across the globe, the Earth Day is becoming one of the most widely celebrated one. The day is taking a major role of giving awareness, understanding and appreciation of the uniqueness and the importance of the natural environment.

The uniqueness of the incredible biodiversity of the planet Earth lies in its life giving property. The Earth Day is celebrated with activities to help understand the biodiversity, how to protect the components of the environment to sustain the relationships that every creature has with its environment. It's a platform for mainstreaming the issues of environment in politics, scientific development, livelihood programs and to support the environmental protection activities.

The Earth Day 2018 is focusing on mobilising the world to End Plastic Pollution, including creating support for a global effort to eliminate single-use plastics along with global regulation for the disposal of plastics. The related activities will educate millions of people about the health and other risks associated with the use and disposal of plastics, including pollution of our oceans, water, and wildlife, and about the growing body of evidence that decomposing plastics are creating serious global problems.

According to Edward O Wilson popularly known as the father of Biodiversity, the totality of life, known as the biosphere to scientists and creation to theologians, is a membrane of organisms wrapped around earth so thin it cannot be seen edgewise from a space shuttle, yet so internally complex that most species composing it remain undiscovered.

From the highest peak of the world to the floor of the deepest ocean, creature of one kind or the other inhabit virtually every inch of the planetary space. They are known to obey the fundamental principle of biological geography, that wherever there is liquid water, organic molecules, and an energy source, there is life. What is worrying today is that the ever presence of the polluting plastic in the sources of water.

Water, the elixir of life, is heavily polluted by the plastics. The demand for plastics is alarmingly increasing for manufacturing range of products. From poisoning and injuring marine life to the ubiquitous presence of plastics in our food to disrupting human hormones and causing major life-threatening diseases and early puberty, the exponential growth of plastics is threatening our planet's survival.

Earth Day Network, the organization that leads Earth Day worldwide, has built a multi-year campaign to End Plastic Pollution.

The End Plastic Pollution campaign of EDN consists of components such as leading a grassroots movement to support the adoption of a global framework to regulate plastic pollution; educating, mobilizing and activating citizens across the globe to demand that governments and corporations control and clean up plastic pollution; educating people worldwide to take personal responsibility for plastic pollution by choosing to reject, reduce, reuse and recycle plastics, and promoting local government regulatory and other efforts to tackle plastic pollution.

The Plastic waste management rule, 2016 of our country needs to be more focused and evolving. Responsibility of the local bodies as well as the locals as regards to the plastics and plastic wastes must be properly rational and scientific.

Setting up of the infrastructure for segregation, collection, storage, transportation, processing and disposal of the plastic waste either on its own or by engaging properly equipped and knowledgeable agencies or producers are strongly needed instead of dumping in the dumping grounds and informal recycling units.

It is becoming increasingly clear that plastic in our oceans and many aquatic ecosystems is a core threat to marine or aquatic life in the decades to come. Some of the recent studies indicate that approximately 5 trillion pieces of plastic are estimated to be floating around the world's oceans. To make matters worse, marine experts believe the total weight of plastic in our oceans could outweigh fish in the world's oceans by 2050.

According to a report from the National Geographic, people throw away roughly four million tons of trash every day—that's enough to fill 350,000 garbage trucks or 10 Empire State Buildings. About 12.8 percent of that waste is plastic, which causes big problems for wildlife because some animals consider plastic products as food, while others can become entangled in the trash. With an increasing amount of plastic discarded in oceans, deaths of marine animals is becoming so common.

Animals are dying not because of empty stomachs but due to full stomachs, stomachs full of toxic plastics. Plastic products are affecting the wildlife, habitats for myriads of species including humans. Plastics are inexpensive and durable but too slow to degrade. Hence increase use leads to uncontrolled accumulation and expensive management procedures. Plastic pollution pollutes people, economies, lives and makes the future really very tense.

Ecological crisis due mainly to man made products is becoming a new norm today. Awareness, understanding, and relationships that are there in the nature or in our surrounding environment are small steps but if implemented and respected will surely lead to a sustainable solution for a sustainable future. Let's retain the Earth and keep it still as an oasis for all the lives big and small.

Hope the Earth will still be beautiful from the space or still be thrilling and mesmerizing for thousand Gagarins and Hamboldts to come in the future.


* Mayanglambam Ojit Kumar Singh wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer is Assistant Professor, Zoology Department, Ramjas College, Delhi University and Research Scholar at School of Human Ecology, Ambedkar University Delhi
The writer can be contacted at ojit102005(AT)yahoo(DOT)co(DOT)in
This article was webcasted on April 23 , 2018.



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