Lately we talk about numbers constantly. Our life is a number: telephone, Tax Payer ID, IP address, online friends, social network followers, even our dreams and our needs become number sequences in a list.
I read somewhere that the only difference between us and animals is they don’t know how to count.. It may be true, but sometimes we also pretend not to be able to do it. For example, when we read statistics: we’re not counting, we’re just observing with detachment some numbers as if they were abstract entities without relation with us. Also this article talks about numbers. Too many numbers, I realize, but we must begin to understand that in those numbers there are also us. We are right inside. And we must do something, because animals don’t know to count, it’s true, but they suffer because of us in an unequal struggle for the conquest of a planet that we are bringing to exhaustion.
On October 31, a baby girl was born , but she was a special child: with her, humans have come to the impressive sum of 7 billion. A digit of nine zeros, difficult to imagine except as a series of abstract numbers. Like those about the estimates of the energy used every day by this huge, heavy, teeming mass of humanity, that occupies more and more space, consumes more and more resources, eats more and more and, at the end, produces more and more waste. By reading them with some attention, you can’t avoid thinking that we are heading with a proud, fast pace towards a global suicide.
One of the factors that should worry the most is, in fact, pollution, a topic widely discussed for years, feared by some, simply ignored by others. The problem is that there is so much pollution that in some areas of the Oceans have been formed five floating garbage islands that rotate lazily on themselves, growing day by day, enlarging under the sun and under the eyes of marine animals incapable of defending themselves in the place where they always lived, generation after generation.There are two in the Pacific, two in the Atlantic and one in the Indian Ocean: they are called “Trash Vortex“, the gyres of garbage, and are composed of 90% plastic, a material never completely biodegradable. The floating waste of biological origin, in fact, are spontaneously subjected to biodegradation while the plastic is photodegradable, disintegrating into smaller and smaller pieces until to the size of the polymers that compose it, whose biodegradation is very difficult. For example, the Indian Ocean Trash Vortex consists mostly of white plastic pellets of 3-5 mm in diameter. These five islands appear as a kind of soup of billions of crumbs of plastic, inside of which can not survive neither fish or plankton; furthermore, the plastics act as a sort of chemical sponge containing Persistent Organic Pollutants, or POPs, chemicals with toxic properties, very resistant to decomposition.
The largest gyre in the world is that in the north Pacific, called “Pacific Trash Vortex”, or also Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Its extension is not precisely known: estimates range from 700,000 km² to more than 10 million km² (from an area larger than of the Iberian Peninsula to a wider area of the surface of the United States), with a depth of 30 meters and a total amount of only plastics in a total of 3.5 million of tons. The accumulation has been formed since the 50′s, due to the action of ocean current called the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, with a particular movement in a clockwise spiral, which allows to floating waste to congregate with each other.
Plastic pollution affects more than 300 animal species in the world; in the seas of Planet, there are three kilos of plastic for every kilo of algae and 61% of the plastic measures less than a mm. The flotation of such particles, which apparently look like zooplankton, tricks the jellyfish that eat them, causing the introduction into the food chain. Also marine mammals, from whales to dolphins, eat those little plastic pieces mistaking them for squid, remaining poisoned to death. Even the sea turtles are cheated: recently, in Hawaii, researchers found one with over 1000 pieces of plastics in its stomach. Every year 1 million of sea birds and 100.000 mammals and sea turtles die from plastic pollution.
As if all this isn’t enough, the sea creatures fall victim also of the nets abandoned at sea: no animal that ends up trapped, manages to survive.
20% of plastic that ends up in the sea is from big cruise ships, which produce in a single week 8 tons of solid waste. The remaining is a sad merit of our society. We need to start thinking before using something and, especially, before throwing it away. It’s a duty of us all, as human species, in respect of other species that live on the planet, to move from a culture of waste to a culture of reasonable use. It should be obvious for anyone that throwing something in the sea or on the ground is deeply harmful and wrong. It isn’t difficult to always carry a cloth bag instead of buying a plastic bag every time. Or reducing the use of disposable products, so convenient but so dangerous, and prefering biodegradable objects. You just have to think about what will happen to that plate, that glass or that bag, that you have used only once and now don’t need anymore. It’s a duty we have towards the Earth that every day trample, towards other animals who don’t know how much damage we are doing, and towards ourselves.
How long does rubbish take to dispose in the environment?
· Plastic Bottles: 400 to 500 years, but they never completely degrade
· Plastic bags: 1 to 20 years
· Glass Bottles: more than 600 years
· Food Packing: 1 to 5 months
· Cans: 200 to 400 years
· Paper bags: 6 weeks to 5 months
· Fishing nets: from 450 to 600 years
· Paper towels: 3 months
· Chewingum: 5 years
· Cigarette butts: 1 to 3 years