Sunday 17 March 2013

Plastic, oh how I despise thee

To call myself Mr Conservationist would be a little bit much. Pretty much the sum total of my efforts to help the environment consist of not driving all that much and separating my garbage for recycling.

Like everyone else I'm sure, I'm constantly bombarded by "save-the-world" type messages on Facebook, by internet do-gooders whose only effort to help the world they spend their time criticising is forwarding on other people's pictures and messages.

I usually read these messages and look at these pictures and think the same as I always do, that I ought to make more effort to help the environment, but I usually don't do anything.

Then the other day I saw this video (BE WARNED, it's harrowing - I balled my eyes out).

If that doesn't shove home the need to make a little more effort to clean up our world, then I don't know what does. So, rather than just forward the video on and sitting behind my computer berating the state of the world, I decided to do something about it.

I'm no great hero and I wouldn't ever pretend to be. I've written a few environmentally themed stories (The Cold Pools, The Tree, etc) that hardly anyone ever reads but I wanted to do something on the ground which I could actually see the results from.

Near my house is a river. I took a couple of plastic trash bags down there to see what I could find. Here's a couple of pictures of my haul.

The plastic thing is a broken kendo sword.

I didn't weigh my total haul but it was heavy. I'd estimate about 15 - 20kg, and that's what I picked up in just over an hour. The sign, incidentally, says don't litter ...

The stretch I litter picked is from where I'm standing to that bridge you can see, a distance of about 50m. The thing on the right is my school's baseball ground, although I won't go blaming my students because 99% of what I found had clearly been washed down the river and had been there a while.

I admit it felt good to do it, and it was easy to motivate myself. I figured that if it took say 100 grams of plastic to kill a sea bird then in one hour I potentially saved 150+ birds from a horrible death. That's simplifying it of course, but I'm sure you understand what I mean. What really makes me feel bad though is that this is just a tiny stretch of a pretty small river, and to find so much trash in so short a time the total volume worldwide getting gradually washed down to the sea must be horrific. If only more people would take a little bit of time away from their TVs and their Internets to do a bit of litter picking, the world would be a cleaner, nicer place.

While I write to entertain, my books do carry undertones of serious issues. Tube Riders, for example, has hints of the plight of the people of North Korea, while Head of Words is basically about mental illness. I write about these things partly to examine them for myself and partly to educate, but at times it's necessary to pull on a pair of gloves and do some dirty work. Not everyone can storm a castle and save a princess, but we can all pick up trash or separate garbage or generally give a shit about the world enough to actually make an effort. We created the problems, so it's up to us to fix them. If we stop expecting someone else to do it for us and all make an effort together, the world will be a better place.

Okay, that's all.  Sermon over!

Chris Ward
March 17th 2013

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