What do I mean by ‘a new era’? I imagine a new era as a time of drastic change, where both people and animals must adapt to new living conditions. The invention and subsequent widespread use of plastic marked the first phase of this new era. From my perspective, this was the initial stage of The New Era. Now, with the extensive use of plastic, followed by its disposal, we find ourselves in the second phase of The New Era. This is how I perceive the evolution of our world into distinct eras.
The first phase of The New Era is relatively straightforward to comprehend. Humans introduced plastic, a material that is inexpensive and highly manageable. Plastic took the place of more costly materials like glass, metal, clay, and paper.
The second phase of The New Era is somewhat more complex. Once plastic items broke or became unusable, humans discarded them, opting to replace them with new plastic products. This pattern soon became a continuous cycle.
Did I say ‘occur’? Apologies, I meant to say ‘is occurring.’
The discarded plastic wasn’t recycled; instead, it was dumped in wastelands, lakes, rivers, and seas, largely out of sight. However, this changed when scientists and meteorologists realized a significant problem – one that would emerge as a major concern of the 21st century.
In 1896, Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius published a groundbreaking paper predicting that changes in atmospheric CO2 levels could substantially impact surface temperatures through the greenhouse effect. Notably, this was before the advent of plastic. At that time, CO2 emissions primarily resulted from factories producing other objects and materials.
In my view, The New Era began in 1907 when Belgian chemist and astute marketer Leo Baekeland created the first fully synthetic plastic. Fast forward to 1938, 42 years after Arrhenius’ prediction, when Guy Callendar linked CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere to global warming.
As I mentioned two paragraphs earlier, people were carelessly discarding plastic until scientists and meteorologists uncovered the alarming acceleration of Earth’s surface warming – and its underlying cause. Once this issue gained global attention, groups and communities formed to reduce plastic waste through reusing, recycling, and minimizing plastic usage.
Let’s delve into more recent facts. Al Gore, America’s Vice President from 1993 to 2001, delivered a thought-provoking speech about global warming. He noted, “We know how to fix this… We can stop the global temperature rise within as little as three years by reaching net zero.” While this prediction presents a potential solution, it might also give rise to challenges. What are your thoughts?
Now, onto the numbers. Were you aware that approximately 8 million pieces of plastic find their way into our oceans daily? Furthermore, we generate a staggering 381 million tonnes of plastic waste each year. Consequently, The Great Pacific Garbage Patch sprawls over 1.6 million square km, roughly equivalent to 617,763.5 square miles. That’s almost the size of Texas! This immense floating mass of debris impacts 1 million seabirds and 100,000 sea mammals annually, along with numerous other species. Can you fathom it?
Of course, it’s hard to truly grasp.
The numbers are indeed daunting.
Now that you’ve engaged with yet another article on plastic pollution and gained fresh insights, a few questions emerge. How can we mitigate the issue of plastic pollution? How can we redirect the trajectory of the Train of Life onto a different path before it crashes? After all, we are the ones who swiftly switched this metaphorical train onto a dead-end track.
Hence, it’s incumbent upon us to endeavor to steer this metaphorical train toward an alternate route, one that might not lead to an irreversible outcome.