I just got back from a working vacation on the north side of the island of Jamaica. It was my first trip there, and since snorkeling and exploring the many reefs in the area was a top priority, it rained everyday, making visibility near zero. So I ended up spending some time walking along the beach, exploring tide pools and watching the myriad of critters on the shoreline do their thing.
And one thing I quickly realized: those critters had to do their business among plastic bottles, bits of netting and an assortment of other plastic detritus that honestly, brought out the raging conservationist.
From a distance the shoreline was beautiful but up close nearly every square foot had some piece of plastic in it. Biologically plastic in the ocean is very similar to asbestos on land. It breaks down into tiny pieces that lodge in the flesh of filter-feeding organisms, many of which are then consumed by higher life forms, poisoning them. Worse it directly kills larger fish and birds. “According to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, plastic debris kills an estimated 100,000 marine mammals annually, as well as millions of birds and fishes.” (link) It can even be found at the bottom of our deepest oceans.
One doesn’t have to be a bleeding heart liberal in order to care about this pollution. Here we have a problem that should united tree huggers on the Left with crunchy conservatives on the Right. It is a problem that exists today, not one like global warming that may or may not impact future generations.
So why haven’t Greens flipped their collective lids like they have over global warming? The Huffington Post had a series of articles on the subject and concluded somewhat anti-climatically that the long term solution comes to the “3 R’s”: reduce, reuse and recycle. There is no need for huge global initiatives, numerous UN conferences that everyone needs to jet to, and trillions of dollars that the developed world has to redistribute to the developing world. It’s hard to believe but oceans smothering in plastics don’t require knee-jerk Big Government solutions I suppose, although given the scope of the problem I’m not so sure about that.
Regardless walking along the shoreline of Jamaica made me realize that there are environmental topics that liberals and conservatives should be able to agree on and work together to solve. For the sake of those critters I hope we start soon.