June 30, 2017
A few years ago, the most commonly recognised symbol of humankind’s impact on the environment was the image of a solitary polar bear, adrift on a rapidly shrinking ice floe. Google a term like ‘melting ice caps’ even now, and you’ll still derive a host of variations of the same meme. More recently a new and even more unpleasant series of symbols has emerged for a similarly environmentally catastrophic phenomenon, carried worldwide on the tide of social media. This time, they are not about the way we pollute the atmosphere but also the land and seas, particularly with plastic. Social media feeds are packed with images of the corpses of seabirds, their flesh rotted away to expose the amount of plastic they have consumed. This is the new face of environmental disaster. This is not just an issue that affects birds, however. Barely a day passes when we cannot see a new image of turtles malformed after getting caught up in plastic netting or six pack rings, whales beached after choking on dozens of discarded plastic bags they’ve mistaken for food, clogged waterways and oceans, piles of rubbish and beaches that consist in large part of plastic eroded to the size of sand grains. Most recently Sky ran a heartbreaking documentary about a whale that had died with a stomach full of plastic rubbish.