04 July 2009

Plastic in the water

As I've been reading Alan Weisman's book The World Without Us I've stopped several times to sit and wonder just what it is we think we're doing to the planet - most of what we're doing doesn't seem to be keeping within any kind of previously existing ecological balance. I stopped to question our behavior once again when I read about exfoliants.

"Can you believe it?" Richard Thompson demands of no one in particular, loud enough that faces bent over microscopes rise to look at him. "They're selling plastic meant to go right down the drain, into the sewers, into the rivers, right into the ocean. Bite-sized pieces of plastic to be swallowed by sea creatures."

Weisman certainly plays on the theatricality of this experience, but I have to say that the issue might merit some dramatic emphasis. For the past year and a half I've been using and enjoying a particular body wash. Today I checked the ingredients and found near the top of the list "polyethylene." I don't know where that plastic is going now that I'm in the eastern United States, but I have to believe that when I was in Southeast Asia I was contributing to the island of plastic floating around in the North Pacific Gyre.

The question for me becomes "what do we now do with all this plastic that we have and how do we live without it?"

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