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Deadline Looms to Fund Critical Ocean Plastic-Trash Film

To this day, a mere 2 percent of all ocean ways are shielded from over-fishing, dredging, mining, drilling, dumping and oil spills.

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That’s the cheerful, future-based promise: now for the harsher complexity called reality and history. Imagine our wizardry to fabricate the perfect, industrial container: cheap, from accessible oil and chemicals, infinitely malleable and durable (yes, its environmental Achilles heal). Because plastic is polymerized (with chemicals) and wholly artificial, such foreign, non-biodegradable substances aren’t digestible by Nature’s evolved animals, even apparently oceanic bacteria. With heart-stopping irony, an easily-fabricated, instantly disposable material has no measurable lifespan, enduring for hundreds, maybe thousands of years, perhaps forever.

Imagine something with the endurance of a rock that gets tossed seconds after use into instant pollution. Because plastic “photodegrades,” disintegrating into tiny micro-plastics, ocean recycling large or small is a non-starter. Because petroleum smithereens mimic zooplankton, even squid or fish fry, being indigestible doesn’t mean hungry ocean-dwellers (fish, reptiles, mammals, and birds) aren’t fooled, tragically swallowing literal junk food. One humpback whale died from painful clogging of the gut where 400 lbs. of trashed plastic was found.  

So, this ubiquitous, water-impenetrable marvel chokes ocean wildlife, from the minuscule to the mammoth, and/or pollutes oceanic systems from sea to not so shining sea. Talk about “externalities” meeting “internalities.” Further, when plastic fragments, noxious chemicals break down, even outgas and float in the ocean, they can be absorbed, like mercury, by the harvested fish we eat. Hold that shrimp roll or fish cake: the plastic bag you discarded years ago could surface as toxic molecules in your next bite. That will sober fish sales and consumption (a good idea) – were oil-chemical residues in fish confirmed and publicized (research underway).

Like climate change, or air pollution, ocean degradation comes from everywhere and impacts everyone, making global solutions essential but all the more daunting. That means unimpeachable knowledge must come in an accessible package, like film transportable in digital formats. Who better than talented filmmakers, tracking the latest science, to educate thousands, if not millions, of potential “plastic eaters” that micro-plastics are today’s real version of the mythic sea monsters that rattled early sailors? There be dragons, indeed, but mystifying and life-threatening only when we never know them “in the flesh;” or with pollution, in their perpetual plasticity.   

“Without the ocean, life on earth could not exist,” to return to Dr. Earle’s wisdom: “With every drop of water you drink, every breath you take, you're connected to the sea. No matter where on Earth you live.”  Or, her most compact gold nugget, “No water, no life, no blue, no green.” To this day, a mere 2% of all ocean ways are shielded from over-fishing, dredging, mining, drilling, dumping and oil spills. Thus, to her TED audience, Earle sounded the alarm and her basic, life-on-earth agenda:

I wish you would use all means at your disposal – films, expeditions, the web, new submarines – and campaigns to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas – hope-spots large enough to save and restore the ocean, the blue heart of the planet.

You can help by pitching in a few bucks, both to help two committed environmentalist-filmmakers and increase in-depth knowledge about the Sargasso Sea, a critical life-fountain feeding “life-support systems” on our battered planet.

 

Robert S. Becker writes on politics and culture.

 
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