We live in a dynamic, incredible, wonderful world. With air and sky, land and sea, plants and animals, all living alongside each other and coexisting. We also live with everything we could possibly imagine and think-up, and we've used our brilliant minds to create these 'unnatural' things, as ways to improve our daily lives, often making things simpler for us in some regards. All of this is here together working magnificently as one whole entire ecosystem. But, is this system truly whole?
So far, everything has been functioning together, both of these sides, man and nature coexisting harmoniously. At least it has been that way for the last 200,000 years. But we're suddenly at a crossroads where this formula of togetherness is no longer working. Suddenly we're at a point in time where what we've been able to create with our minds is clashing and damaging the beautiful world around us that was offered to us as a gift from the universe.
Somehow, we've taken it all for granted. We've forgotten that life and nature are precious gifts to be cherished and taken care of. And instead of giving back love and compassion in return, we've given the world our garbage, our waste, our unwanted, our disposable, our refuse, and our used leftovers. Frankly, we've treated our planet and our environment just like the garbage we're creating. According to an article by Packaging Digest, as of last year, we as a global civilization are "manufacturing approximately 300 million tons of plastics across the world every year," and the number is continuing to grow. They went on to say, "The scope of the world’s plastic problem goes beyond straining Earth’s finite resources; it is also a waste management issue. It is estimated that up to 129 million tons (43%) of the plastic used per year is disposed of by landfill or incineration, and approximately 10 to 20 million tons of plastic ends up in the oceans."
If you were looking at our arrangement as a relationship or a marriage, you'd have to agree that it's been pretty one sided (with us taking a lot and not giving much) and it's been pretty dysfunctional. It's no wonder that our ecosystem is now looking to take 'the messy divorce road' out of this marriage in order to get rid of our abhorrent, disrespectful behavior.
Now I know all of this sounds depressing and like we're already past the point of no return. But, the exciting thing is, we actually have an opportunity right here and right now, to make a choice, that would create a huge shift and a change in how we've been doing things so far. Some people have already received this message and really 'get it' and are embracing the possibilities of a new world order. Beautiful, ingenious, creative people are finding ways to take the plastics from our oceans and are turning this discarded waste it into all kinds of practical things. If you want shoes, check out Adidas and their new Parley shoes, if you want jeans, go to G-Star Raw and Pharrel Williams' new line of denim as part of Bionic Yarn on Raw for the Oceans, if you want clothing, go to SoulFace Apparel or DGrade's Dirtball or Spiked clothing collections. You've probably seen the advertisements on social media for 4Ocean, where you purchase a bracelet made from recycled materials, and every bracelet purchased funds the removal of one pound of trash from the ocean and coastlines. There are also ingenious beautiful people at Conserveindia.org who are taking the endless numbers of plastic bags that end up on the shores of India and they're turning them into everyday products that people can use. Here's a great article on Treehuger.com to learn more about their efforts. What I think is truly inspiring, is for every example I've just named, I'm sure there are hundreds more that are starting and doing the same thing with whatever wasted material they've come across. Because it's all cyclical. It's all part of the whole. At one point it came from the earth and one day it will return in one form or another, but we get to choose how it's being returned - either as something that is compostable and will breakdown in our lifetime, or as something that will take multiple generations to breakdown, if ever.
So, why haven't we as the consumers of all this stuff made a bigger shift and a bigger change in our own lives? Isn't it time for us to step up and make a difference in our buying habits and spending? Haven't we moved past the idea of selfishness and "I'm gonna do whatever I wanna do because this is my right and it's what makes me happy?" Haven't we as a human species evolved past ideas of only looking out for ourselves? Can't we share, the same way our parents taught us to do as little squabbling children with our siblings?
Not too long ago, we finished the Christmas holiday season and according to the National Retail Federation, Americans spent $691.9 billion during the 2017 season. That's a HUGE number! How much of that money do you think went to products that were sustainable or environmentally friendly or produced in conditions safe for those who produced the product? I think it's time for us to really start asking ourselves these questions and to wake up to the world we're contributing to. For decades we've been allowed to be mindless, lazy and numb to what we're doing to our planet and how our choices affect other people. But we can no longer afford (and I don't mean monetarily) to continue living this way. If the current environmental shifts don't scare you enough to make a change in your personal life, I don't know what will. It's time for us to wake up and to make better choices.
So, the next time you decide to make a cup of coffee from that "so effortlessly easy to use" single serve coffee pod machine, ask yourself, "Is this one cup of coffee, that I'm probably only going to drink half of, worth the number of years and millennia it will take for the plastic cup in which it came from to sit upon the earth waiting to decompose, really worth it?"
I also challenge the large corporations producing all this plastic to ask themselves, 'how can we contribute to helping us as a civilization and also help the planet?' For instance, what if, in addition to calorie content information listed on packaging, companies were required to print the number of years it would take for that container to decompose? Would you still want to get that latte from your corner coffee shop or that styrofoam take away container from your favorite restaurant or use that toothbrush you so easily discard every three months? Because many of these items will take 500+ years to decompose, if they ever decompose at all.
I know there's got to be a better way to be here as contributors to this incredible magestic planet without having to throw it all away. Let's choose to make a difference now so that we've left something as beautiful and majestic behind for future generations of whoever will be here to inhabit all this.