Recently a poem that my son Leo wrote 10 years ago resurfaced in my Facebook Memories. He was a senior in high school and students were asked to write poetry about the islands of trash accumulating in the Pacific Ocean. I was blown away by his poem when he first showed it to us, and still impressed to reread it 10 years later. He uses potent language and imagery to call attention to this important and often-ignored issue. And I love the term “iLand,” as if Apple has taken over the world.
The iLand by Leo Alberti
Lo and behold,
a monument to our Suicide Society,
the Apple iLand.
A plastic monolith.
A testament to our consumer lives.
Flesh of my flesh,
I give you my poison.
For you eat the fish,
which I plagued with my waste.
Milk jugs, plastic wrap, styrofoam cups.
This system is a vicious cycle.
An unnatural disease,
brought about by the avoidance of our responsibilities.
Bit by bit,
we build a treasure trove of toxins,
this pestilent sky,
these virulent waters.
won’t you join me for this man-made apocalypse?
Limited: While supplies last.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the largest of five floating accumulations of plastic in the ocean, with an area twice the size of Texas. (Yes, there are five of these currently!) It’s a mind-boggling concept and pretty horrifying to contemplate, but it’s also very removed from our everyday lives. In fact, most environmental issues are distant grim realities that are easy to forget about as we live our day-to-day existence. We can go through our weeks without ever considering much beyond “Paper or plastic?”
And yet, changes ARE happening. I’ve thought about climate change this summer as we here in the Twin Cities have had some unusually violent storms that quickly overwhelm the storm drains and flood the streets. I’ve seen it rain sideways a few times too, which is new. Isn’t this more of a hurricane-type storm? Is this a new normal, a part of things getting worse?
I could list so many examples of the extreme weather that many parts of the U.S. have been experienced in recent years, from record snowfalls (even in states that don’t usually get much snow) to blistering heatwaves, massive tornadoes and devastating droughts or floods. The temperature of our planet is going up, the ice caps are melting, sea levels rising.
Research studies show that plastics exposed to the elements release methane and ethylene, gasses that exacerbate climate change. The type of plastic used to make grocery bags and other single-use items release the most methane and ethylene– plastics that easily float on the surface of the ocean.
Think about it: aren’t plastic bags one of the most easy kind of plastic to avoid? Plastic bags made of high-density polyethylene (the kind we use today) weren’t invented until 1953. Before that, people somehow survived. Of course, there are paper grocery bags, but those contribute to pollution in their own way.
It takes some practice to get into the habit of bringing cloth bags along when you shop, but it’s doable and painless.
Only a handful of states and cities have banned plastic bags, and there are organizations and coalitions that actively fight plastic bag-banning legislation. In 2017, Minneapolis was all set for a ban when legislators blocked the ordinance at the last minute because of pressure from businesses. Disappointing and pointless, except for those who profit from the continuation of the system.
Of course, banning plastic bags alone won’t solve our world’s pollution and climate change crisis, but it’s a start. And we have to start somewhere. It’s going to take a concerted effort from individuals but even more importantly, CORPORATIONS, to change this “treasure trove of toxins,” this lifestyle of convenience, the pace of consumption we’ve grown used to.
So when will we vote ourselves off this iLand? Our world is truly Limited. While supplies last.
[Photos courtesy of Dustan Woodhouse, ab-stvq5xr68yM, Jon-Tyson, Hermes Rivera and Sylvie Tittel at Unsplash.com, and thanks to Leo for letting me share his great poem!]