A Yellow Plastic Duck

I guess you have no interest in my bathing habits but, I am sorry, you are just going to have to read a little before you get to the meat in today’s sandwich.

I shower and never take a bath. It is a preference and nothing to do with saving water. I just prefer standing under a hot waterfall rather than sitting in a bath which is forever getting colder. And when Sasha reads this let me just say that sharing a hot tub is a whole different matter, and we can always share a shower. But she already knows that.

If I had a bath, just like the mighty Bertie, I would definitely float a yellow plastic duck in it, but he has an excuse. He is just one year old. Actually, Bertie has more than a single plastic duck in his bath. He has a whole flotilla of floating toys for distraction, while Lucinda washes him.

Perverse maybe, but these were my thoughts when I read this week’s news.

We have always polluted our home, our planet, but only since the industrial revolution have we successfully polluted it faster than the planet can cope and regenerate.

Did you know it rains more at weekends? That seems strange because a seven-day week is a human construct, yet it does rain more at weekends. It is because our work patterns change once every five days. We don’t commute, and factories shut down. At weekends, we shop and laze around our homes.

Our behaviour changes the weather. We impact our world.

Now, there is something far more serious than last year’s giant fat ball blocking up the London sewers. It was all over the news, but this extract is taken from CNet.

A team of scientists from The Ocean Cleanup Foundation, six universities and an aerial sensor company worked together on the ambitious study. They published the startling results Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports. 

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the name given to an area of the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii where plastics of all kinds have been accumulating into one big watery junk pile. It contains everything from plastic buckets to discarded fishing nets. A new study shows the patch is bigger than previously thought and is also growing at an astounding rate.

It is now three times the size of France.

The problems with plastic have been growing and last year David Attenborough presented Blue Planet 2 to an unbelieving British audience highlighting the scale of the problem, and they listened. Causes have been espoused and after plastic shopping bags, the focus is now on those takeaway plastic cups from the likes of Costa and Starbucks but, while that is worthy it attacks the tip of the problem and is not a solution to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

That requires far more extensive change.

Can I live without plastic? I can forgo take away coffee cups, but I have just had a look around the house to see how much plastic I use. Look in your fridge. Everything is wrapped in plastic. My toothbrush is plastic, the toothpaste is stored in plastic, my shampoo is in a plastic bottle etc, etc, etc. The answer to my hypothetical questions is, no.

Then another theoretical question. What would happen if I had to store all my own plastic waste and keep it for my lifetime? The probability is that I would be sleeping in the garden next to a house full of rubbish.

I am no eco-warrior, but I do try and sort the household waste, but I have little understanding of what happens to it. I am happy to put it into the right bin and watch the dustbin men take it away once a week. When I throw out old clothes I don’t think about the landfills forever growing. When I dispose of plastic I assume that it doesn’t get thrown into the sea.

I hope someone, if not me, is being responsible.

I hold up my hand and admit that my generation is the worst of the sinners and it is inappropriate for me to now shout foul and then ask everyone else to clean up my mess. But, like it or not that is exactly where we are, and we need to do something quickly. Our planet’s natural ability to regenerate and provide a climate that allows human life to exist is dependent on the oceans and is being tested to the limits.

After killing ourselves in pointless wars, polluting everywhere we go is possibly our second greatest natural ability. If we are so clever then we need to change and recognise our failings, otherwise, there may be no long-term future.

Imagine Bertie’s bath time fleet so large that he is crowded out of his own bath. Imagine that there was no room for him. That could be our future.