Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The World Without Us

It's been a while since my last post, but I just ran across something pretty interesting, and frightening.

There's a book out called The World Without Us that looks at the impact of humans on the environment. It takes as its premise the immediate removal of humans from the world, and extrapolates forward what might happen.

I haven't read the book, but if you follow the link above you'll get to a page where there's another link to an excerpt about plastics. Now, I'd known that plastics don't biodegrade. Anyone who is environmentally conscious knows that. So we recycle, in the hopes that we can at least change the form of the plastics into something new and useful.

But the sheer scope of the problem, as put forth in the excerpt, astounded me. Plastic does not biodegrade, but it does break into smaller pieces. Plastic bags get washed down storm drains, and carried out to sea. Tiny pellets of plastic in many areas of the ocean outnumber the plankton that forms the basis of marine ecosystems.

We're in a situation where we have a very real chance of totally destroying many marine species, and there really isn't anything we can do about it. Plastics don't biodegrade in any reasonable time frame...the first plastic that washed into the ocean decades ago is still there. Even if we stopped using and producing plastic immediately, the effects of what we've already done will be severe.

I'm not sure if I can bear to read the full book or not.