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Be the change

Posted June 8th, 2018, 10:47 AM IST

Be the change

While reading this, just glance through your premises and you’ll find at least 10 items made of plastic. From the comb to the bag we use, it is everywhere. Obviously, the focus of this year’s Environment Day has been this — preventing plastic pollution. World Oceans Day that falls on June 8 too stress on the same. The question is how can we bring a change? It can be achieved through exhorting people to join various ventures that work towards a clean and green planet. And, the virtual world plays a key role in spreading the word through hashtag campaigns like #beatplasticpollution, #nostrawchallenge and #saveourocean. The videos and photographs surfacing online tell us how the earth, especially marine life, is choked due to plastic waste. The voices ripple through online and offline, inspiring more people, especially youngsters. “It is a good sign that campaigns make at least a small section think," says Shano Shaji, a student. “Not everyone may take up the challenge but it surely generates a concern among people,” he feels.

Why is plastic pollution so huge? Mainly because we have become over reliant on single-use or disposable plastic. For instance, the plastic straw or bottle we purchase is used just once. Reports say, around the world 1 million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute, later polluting our environment. And every year, tonnes of plastic go into oceans, threatening marine life and it can stay there for years. What can we do to reduce it or perhaps put an end to it in future? 'Reuse or refuse' is the answer.





“I avoid plastic bags, straws and bottles. In restaurants, I tell waiters not to give straws while ordering juice. Also, I carry a steel bottle with me always,” adds Shano, who made it a lifestyle during his college days. “I have been part of NSS activities. Every little thing I have done then to conserve nature and articles I have read about plastic pollution urged me to take this step,” he says. “I refuse plastic carry bags and straws. I bring home plastic spoons, wash them and try to reuse them. I carry my own cloth bag to the market or shops,” says Abhijith Muralidharan, a PhD Scholar at the Department of Marine Biology, Microbiology & Biochemistry, CUSAT. In connection with World Environment Day, the staff and students of the Department’s Lakeside Campus took a pledge to reduce the usage of single use plastics like straws/spoons and educate others about it.

“As a member of the Society of Marine Biologists, we reach out to fishing communities living on the coasts to educate them about the dangers of plastic pollution, for the oceans are the dumping grounds of plastic. They very badly affect marine organisms, many of which die after mistakenly consuming broken down plastic, called microplastic, as food,” he explains. The change cannot be brought about all of a sudden. “It will take time. But if we impart such values at a very young age, it will get ingrained in the mind and become a part of lifestyle,” says Shano. The motto should be ‘you be the change, so that the next generation will follow you.’ That is what the authorities of St Teresa’s College, Ernakulam, try to do. They have recently won the state government’s award for its anti-plastic activities. “Fifty per cent of our students use cloth bags and we have replaced plastic cups at the coffee counters with steel ones,” says Dr Nirmala, a teacher, who believes such small steps are the harbingers of a big change. This chain goes on. Like these representatives, there are many who follow suit. They are all hopeful. They believe everyone will realise the harm of plastic and work towards eliminating it from the face of the earth.

Threats

80% of ocean is polluted by humans
Every year, 8 million tonnes of plastic reaches the ocean affecting marine life and tourism
1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals are affected by plastic pollution per year
We eat fish that eat plastic

Solutions

Reduce/ avoid use of single-use plastics like straw and bottles or replace them with eco-friendly and reusuable products such as bamboo or steel straws and cups.
Eat sustainable sea food.
Buy ocean-friendly products
Keep the beaches clean
Use hashtags such as #WorldOceansDay, #SaveOurOcean to spread the word

“As an occupant of the only plant known to sustain life, I am committed to the preservation of its environment. I recognise the rich diversity of life forms, their equal rights to subsistence on this planet, and the dangers posed to them through my actions. I recognise that small actions and changes in our life, home and community, will make a big difference for the health and well-being of the environment. I solemnly pledge to reduce and avoid the use of plastics and preserve Mother Nature for future generations. I shall endeavour to educate my brethren and make this planet a better place to live.”
(The pledge students of the Dept of Marine Biology, Microbiology & Biochemistry, CUSAT, took on Environment Day)

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