by W.R. Weiland
I recently received a story contribution to The Marsh from Jackie Kurtz highlighting the increasingly popular environmental issue that is plastic. Though I have developed The Marsh to facilitate a philosophy that encourages readers to better acquaint themselves with the Nature which we find ourselves surrounded by through deep thought, outdoor adventure seeking, and the arts, I believe that Jackie’s piece is worth bringing to the stage. Her piece describes the environmental and health issues surrounding plastics and advocates for lifestyle habits that resonate with many of the points I strive to communicate through not just The Marsh, but also through the Trash Free Assateague program I founded, almost accidentally, in February 2018 for Assateague Coastal Trust.
The “plastic crisis” which, I’ll argue, has become a mainstream environmental issue in the most recent decade has been a crisis since plastic was first introduced into our world back in the earlier part of the 20th century with the discovery and production of what was then referred to as bakelite. If you’re not familiar with the birth of bakelite and its history, Dr. Google will certainly fill you in on its origins, chemistry, and production. In the early 1900’s we were naïve to the ill effects which plastic causes to our land, our bodies, and our lifestyle’s. Today, we are now learning that the convenience we once thought significantly improved our everyday lives has secretly been deteriorating it and the natural environments upon which we depend. The problem our society now faces is how to wean the population off of a material that has significantly changed how we live our lives. It is this challenge that necessitates bringing the plastic issue to The Marsh, and some of the hidden, underlying messages surrounding plastic.
It would surprise many, or maybe not those that know me on a more personal level, to hear me say that plastic as an environmental issue is petty compared to some of the much more complex and devastating issues our planet is currently facing. But plastic is intriguing, and perhaps, dare I say, the issues it’s causing and the publicity it’s receiving was supposed to happen. I see plastic as a white flag, with Mother Earth holding the pole desperately waiting for us to see her wave. In relation to other environmental issues, plastic is probably the easiest to understand, and therefore it resides as the white flag that everyone can see. Plastic is testament to the out of balance lifestyles which we as individuals of society have unintentionally adopted. Plastic is representative of the sacrifice we’ve made for convenience over a more organic, albeit more physically demanding life, and hence my decision to write this piece for The Marsh. Plastic is a parley between ourselves and the planet with which we depend. Plastic is a symbol of the kind of society we have become, but I believe it’s implications have the ability to nudge us back toward a more with the land approach to life.
We have to ask ourselves, how convenient is too convenient, because there is nothing convenient about cancer and a loss of natural resources.