A consequences of the materials we use on

A plastic bottle is being thrown in the trash. It’s going to the dump right? What harm could one bottle do? This mindset ends up injuring and killing thousands of innocent wildlife every single year. We as a species need to reevaluate the materials we use and think about the consequences of the materials we use on the Earth as a forethought, not an afterthought when making products for our own benefit.

The production of man-made products leads to endangerment, extinction, starvation, and other health problems in the Earth’s wildlife. Litter from our daily lives can have fatal effects on wild animals. This trash does not necessarily have to come from the streets from rain, but also from ships during storms and blown from landfills. As told by Ruthanne Johnson’s The Deadly Truth About Trash, 250 tons of refuse thrown away by Americans and dumped into landfills. Some of that trash will always work its way into the environment.

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Renata Schneider, a veterinarian from the SPCA Wildlife Care Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, told about a time when a raccoon had its paws stuck in beer cans. Apparently the cans had been on the poor animal’s paws for such a long time that his paws, “were nothing but raw flesh anymore; there was no fur, no skin, and he was alive and getting around, but thin.”(Johnson) The raccoon was put out of its misery. Those cans could have been in a sorting center being used to make something else, but instead took the life of an animal (Johnson).  Another raccoon in Mount Olive Township, New Jersey had to be put down as a result of an infection received from being ensnared in a beer can (Garber). This litter also collects in the ocean, which has turned into the Earth’s garbage can. World Wildlife states that the litter puts chemicals into the ocean, tear coral, and brings harm to animals that may mistake it for food.

A grey whale washed up on a beach in the Netherlands with a stomach filled with plastic (PETA). According to the Ocean Conservancy Coastal Cleanup in 2008, they cleaned up 3.7 million pounds of debris in one day along 9,000 miles of United States Coastline. Garbage collects in the middle of ocean gyres, causing multiple patches of non-biodegradable debris (“Pollution”). One of the greatest tragedies for our environment was the popularization and mass production of plastic. Polyethylene is one of the most used plastics on Earth, but is also one of the most persistent.

Plastic has major effects on both land and in the ocean. Animals will often get their heads stuck in plastic containers, which will lead to dehydration, starvation, strangulation, and death (Macklin). They also mistake plastic for food, and die from intestinal blockages. Birds get rings from aluminum soda cans stuck around their wings and are unable to fly. A professor from Mississippi State University’s friend saw a buck with its antlers entangled with twine used for hay, and two weeks after the sighting he found the same buck dead with the plastic ensnared in another buck’s antlers (Macklin).

Of all seabird species on earth, 44% of them have been found to have consumed plastic (D’Alessandro).Arguably, plastic does more damage in the ocean than it does on land. Tens of billions of pounds of plastic make their way to the ocean. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, ten tons of plastic float onto the Pacific Ocean daily from Los Angeles and its surrounding areas. The EPA states that, “Every bit of plastic ever made still exists.

” It can take anywhere from five hundred to one thousand years to degenerate (D’Alessandro). The Center for Biological Diversity also states, “there are 15-1 trillion pieces of plastic in the world’s oceans.” From 2000 to 2010 alone, humans have made more plastic than in all of the years leading up to 2000, and this is due to the fact that plastic is in almost everything we use (“Ocean Plastics Pollution”). During the plastic’s seemingly immortal existence in the ocean it absorbs chemical pollutants such as dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), and polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), increasing the saturation of the chemicals in those areas.

    As a result of this ocean pollution, many species of wildlife have suffered. 60% of all seabirds have eaten plastic (Ocean Plastics Pollution). Endangered species like the Pacific Loggerhead sea turtle and the Hawaiian monk seal are two of roughly three hundred that get caught in plastic. In the North Pole, fish consume twelve thousand to twenty thousand pounds of plastic each year (Ocean Plastics Pollution). It’s not only plastic that causes problems. Sea turtles eat fish hook and surgery needed to remove them is challenging.

Birds also have their eyes poked out by these fish hooks (Johnson).Inorganic fertilizers may be beneficial for us humans, but detrimental to the health of the environment and its other inhabitants. DDT and other organochlorine pesticides are hazardous to wildlife because they are very persistent, meaning they take a very long time to break down. DDt from the 1970s is still in the environment. It leaches onto the tissues of organisms and accumulates to dangerously high amounts. Traces have even been found in humans. The eggshells of a variety of birds, including the California Brown pelican, have thinned and break easily (Moyle).

Additionally, it pollutes the ocean as runoff and causes the growth of algal blooms that kill other marine life. These algal blooms need nitrogen and phosphorus to thrive, which are common components of inorganic fertilizers (Harmful Algal Blooms).Factory fumes have taken their toll on both the planet and its inhabitants. Since they emit greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, the global warming it has caused destroys entire habitats and leaves animals homeless and in environments that they may not be able to tolerate.

The destruction of the ozone layer by chlorofluorocarbons raise the amount of ultraviolet radiation that animals and their food sources receive. Acid rain, as a result of these factory fumes, has devastating effects on fish. Hundreds of populations of fish have disappeared across the northeastern United States and Scandinavia. In Southern Norway alone, seven hundred lakes are fishless as a result of acid rain.

In the Adirondack Mountains of New York, one hundred lakes are fishless, having lost at least 98 brook trout populations. Furthermore, these fish also gradually lose the ability to reproduce and survive (Moyle). 25% of fish in California markets had consumed other fish, and through bioaccumulation these chemicals can make their way up the food chain to humans (“Ocean Plastics Pollution”).  A prime example of the blindness of humans to environmental problems that they cause is the Midway Atoll.

It was a military base during World War II, but now is a wildlife refuge. Lead-based paint from abandoned and decaying building are poisoning the Laysan Albatrosses. These birds are building nests in the abandoned building and eating the paint chips, which leads to the lead poisoning.  The University of California Santa Cruz found a strong correlation between the isotope signatures in the chicks’ blood and the paint in their nests. Laysan Albatross chicks eat the paint chips because they constantly clean the nest while they are sitting there for months at a time. The lead that they consume damages their peripheral nervous systems and cause a condition in chicks called “droopwing”, which causes them to not be able to lift their wings to their body, dragging them instead (Stileo, Fefer). They can survive with the parents feeding them, but once they are abandoned they will starve due to the inability to fly (Stephens).

The lead poisoning of birds is not the only concern at Midway Atoll. In photographer Chris Jordan’s video “Midway”, he documented the effects of plastic washing up on its shores because of the ocean’s currents. He showed the carcasses of the Albatrosses with plastic in their stomachs that led to their deaths (Jordan). Seventy one percent of the Laysan Albatross species lives on Midway (Walsh). The plastic cuts their stomachs and chicks do not yet have the ability to expel what they have swallowed. 97% of the chicks have consumed plastic because their parents feed it to them (Ocean Plastics Pollution). This ingestion of plastics also results in ulcers, blockages, internal perforation, and death from the complications. It also results in starvation because the indigestible plastic makes them feel full when they are actually malnourished (Ocean Plastics Pollution).

In recent years people have been taking more steps to prevent even more damage being done to the environment. More methods can be put to use Government funding helps researchers discover and attempt to solve problems, like how the University of California Santa Cruz received funding to do tests at Midway Atoll. Professor of environmental toxicology Donald Smith from the University of California Santa Cruz stated that building maintenance, cleanup, and hazard control are needed for the sight (Stephens). For crops, the use of pesticides has been reduced. On sorghum it has reduced by 41%, on peanuts by 81%, and on cotton by 75%. Planting in patterns instead of monocropping interferes with a pest’s life cycle, thus reducing the need for pesticides. Genetic engineering is able to be used to crrae pest resistant crops (Moyle).

The Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency, asking the government to regulate plastics as a pollutant under the Clean Water Act. The Environmental Protection Agency vowed to decrease ocean pollution and declared Tern Island a superfund site (Ocean Plastics Diversity), but decreasing the production and use of plastic and using more reusable products will help save wildlife and save us the trouble of having trillions of tons of pollution to clean up (Macklin). As stewards of this planet, we should be nurturing the planet, not trying to kill it. Ever since industrialization began to take place, we have created filthy air, murky water, and heaps of garbage that has nowhere to go.

While disregarding the lives of other creatures for “economic growth”, we have injured, killed, and driven many species to extinction. This damage does not have to be permanent. Organizations like the EPA are taking a stand against such acts of ignorance.

In the words of Sharon Young, “We have this silent epidemic in terrestrial and marine life, and this stuff doesn’t just go away.”


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