Swimming in Seas of Plastic

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By Olanna Summers

This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 10 of VARSITY News.


Gone are the days when talking about the weather was just small talk. Now, talking about the temperature is opening up a whole can of worms, guilt trips and opportune moments for our friends to point at us, fingers wagging, whilst standing on soap boxes. The climate crisis has made us (despite what the unbelievers say,) wake up to the reality that our planet is slowly, violently, dying. But if you’re like me, you’ll wonder what your role is in all of this.


I recently travelled to Bloubergstrand on a whim to escape the pressure and stress of university. It was a hot day and I was looking forward to submerging myself in the cool water. I dipped my feet in and felt something like a hard shell pierce my skin. There lay a flattened 500ml, Energade bottle. And inside it, the remains of what looked like a small sea crab.


It is predicted that there will be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050. Plastic, being one of the most common causes of pollution. At least 8 million tons of plastic leak into the ocean – which is equivalent to dumping the contents of one garbage truck into the ocean every minute. One then wonders why we’re so hell bent on using it.



Plastic offers us a world of possibility. Anything and everything can be made of plastic.

It’s just so cheap. Which is why we produce 448 million tons of it every year. And this is just an estimate. I admit, there’s not much I can do about large corporations and conglomerates who produce plastic at this rate – mass consumerism, consumption and capitalism may very well be the death of us. What I can control is my own use of plastic – even if it’s minimising the amount of single-use plastic I use on a daily basis.


The ocean is tied to our economy. Gunter Pauli coined the term, Blue Economy (also referred to as the Ocean Economy) which is the sustainable development of the ocean and marine life in order to stimulate economic growth whilst protecting the environment. South Africa’s economy could drastically improve if the ocean is protected. According to a study conducted by the World Wide Fund for Nature, the value of the Ocean Economy is 24 trillion USD (US Dollars.) Pollution in the ocean jeopardises this opportunity.


We’ve inherited a sick planet. Like the plastic bottle that made its way back to shore, the effects of the advent of ‘human progress’ has found its way back to us. It’s not only at an individual level that drastic change needs to occur but at the level of large corporations, the wealthy and our governments. We can put pressure on these institutions to minimise their contribution to the degradation of the earth and its resources. Something needs to change, before we find ourselves drowning in seas of plastic.


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