Planet vs. Plastics
Will We Survive the Plastic Apocalypse?
November 1, 2023
Sitting down to watch TV is a luxury Emily is rarely allowed. After all, there is a hazardous heat wave sweeping her state but citizens must refrain from using air conditioning so that the grid isn’t more stressed than it already is. Forget the grid, Emily is stressed. 104 degrees, no air conditioning, and ‘TV time’ can only last 30 minutes — there is no escape from this unbearable world.
She hopes, but knows deep down, that even 30 minutes of escapism watching TV won’t allow her to forget her current state. When news reports aren’t informing viewers of the latest hurricanes pounding the East Coast, at the same time as the largest wildfire on record rages on the West Coast, ads run reminding Emily how messed up her world is. They offer affordable tornado bunkers and tropical storm proof window casings.
Flipping through channels only results in more dire news programs, some terrible dance competition, and a cooking show where chefs cook pasta with crickets. This is possibly worse than the news because she knows that crickets are in her future. Crickets are a tried-and-true protein alternative that disgruntled Westerners are going to have to accept as penance for the climate crisis they have largely manufactured.
When the cooking competition cuts to a commercial, Emily is assaulted by images even the news wouldn’t dare put up. These adverts are getting more and more common and she knows this means a new wave of messaging is being rolled out, exposing the dark reality of their world. It has been hard to accept it. Governments still refuse to acknowledge this epoch, this age of plastic…the plastic apocalypse.
The narrator begins, “You were lied to when your recycling bins were delivered, you are lied to everytime they are picked up and driven away to an imaginary recycling plant. You are lied to when you are told there’s nothing to worry about. The government is only postponing the inevitable.” The narration continues, “The plastic you use is being disposed of in landfills, foreign and domestic, or it is being incinerated. The world burns and reeks of your plastic.”
As Emily listens, she sees images of polar bears sifting through plastic at dumps for food, their only prize will be a poorly washed out take-out container. Contamination of recyclables is a moment of relief for the polar bears, not so much for Emily. People can’t even recycle. Emily feels the way the ad wants her to: hopeless and angry, why were the signs of the plastic apocalypse ignored for so long?
Emily has seen these types of ads before. The one that came out before this lurid polar bear presentation told everyone that almost all plastics are made from fossil fuels. The plastic addiction of Emily and everyone else on the planet is threatening any hope. No goals can be achieved when the world is wrapped up in single use plastics, damaging the environment and making people ill.
TV time is over but there is nowhere for Emily to go. She can lay on the couch sweltering or she can go outside and swelter even worse. No matter where she goes, Emily will always be thinking of those starved polar bears that probably wish they were eating crickets.
This isn’t the distant future. Welcome to reality.
In 2023 power grids are strained across America. The plastic we produce doesn’t degrade and instead breaks down into toxic microplastics, damaging not just us but the very organisms that are critical to absorbing carbon from the oceans. Plastic has overtaken our world. Emily is a child of today and is living with the reality of temperatures rising across the world, a chaotic and unpredictable weather system that can change from day to day, and the knowledge that her favorite zoo animals may be extinct in the next 25 years.
Despite all of these dire examples, there is still time to make a difference. Sign the Global Plastics Treaty which calls for countries to ban the export of plastic waste, finance education campaigns, and support the innovation of viable plastic alternatives. Feel empowered to participate in environmental events your local community hosts. Join the social squad to share information about the climate crisis. Reject single use plastics and ask your friends and family to do the same. Avoid plastic fast fashion, reject plastic utensils in your fast food orders, and join a Great Global Cleanup event.
Small changes make a difference. We don’t have to live in the plastic apocalypse forever, but we do have to come together to avoid it.