Despite the senselessness of this tragedy, it also may serve to open the eyes of those around us who remain ignorant, either willfully or consequentially, of the effects of plastic waste on our modern world.
Plastic does not go away. Not human, nor animal, nor insect, nor the very Earth itself can digest plastic. Even a creature so large and impressive as a whale cannot survive its toxic grip, and now we've literally witnessed such a scenario play out before our very eyes.
A young male pilot whale has died in the Thai canal. He was found faintly clinging to life on May 28, 2018, where a veterinary team there attempted to rescue the obviously ill cetacean. This remarkable mammal struggled for 5 days as the team worked to stabilize his condition. Before his death, he had vomited up at least 5 plastic bags, giving a strong indication as to the cause of his demise. He had swallowed plastic waste, but the full scope of the atrocity would not be revealed until a full autopsy could be conducted.
The autopsy results: 80 plastic bags
After he expired on June 2, 2018, he was found to have 80 plastic bags in his stomach. Mistaking plastic waste for food is a common occurrence among marine creatures, but this whale consumed over 8kg of plastic bags (that's 80lb)! This mass had a painful, toxic effect on the whale's health and essentially made it impossible for him to "eat any nutritional food".
For the first time, in 2015, it was shown that many species of dolphin and whale (including pilot whales) have more neocortical neurons than any mammal studied to date (including humans). Simply put, this means that sea dwelling mammals like the pilot whale are extremely capable of higher order brain functions. It must be reiterated that this whale's death was not a swift expiration, and in all likelihood he suffered immensely. Unfortunately, his plight has not been a singular one.
Hundreds of fish, sharks, turtles, and varied marine life die every year in the waters of Thailand alone. The relatively small Tai nation is one of the largest users of plastic bags on earth. However, they are far from being the only (unintentional) perpetrator of plastic waste. While the near entirety of Asia accounts for a huge global portion, so does most of Europe and North America. The region of oceania is also accountable, as are South America and even Africa to a lesser extent. While some countries have taken measures to reduce or eliminate plastic production and waste, we can all count ourselves as guilty in the end. More needs to be done, and it needs to start happening today!
World Oceans Day takes place this year on June 8. "People around our blue planet celebrate and honour the ocean, which connects us all. Get together with your family, friends, community, and the planet to start creating a better future. Working together, we can and will protect our shared ocean." <- Visit those links to find out how you can get involved in this growing, global celebration.
"What Else Can I Do?"
If you choose to use plastic, try your best to ensure that it is reusable, recyclable, or both (and don’t forget to actually recycle it!). Bring your reusable grocery bags to the store, ditch single-use plastic (such as straws) completely, use compostable garbage bags, and encourage others around you to do the same. You can also support local initiatives to combat plastic waste by voting for politicians who recognize and fight for the no-plastic movement.
Here’s something else you can do today: The Best Deodorant in The World is a completely zero plastic/zero waste company, and to date we have helped to eliminate 600,000 plastic water bottles from the earth. The average deodorant container is made up of the equivalent of about 3 plastic water bottles; our deodorant and packaging contains none.
Together we can survive plastic, but only together.
Author: Taylor Nason