Can You Live Without Plastic Bags?

watching A Plastic Ocean

My aim is to live completely without disposable plastic bags, but it’s a thorny issue and lot harder than I realised. If you read my post from a new weeks ago you’ll know that I’m committed to sharing my progress as well as my best tips to encourage others to do the same. I’m actually here in Australia and found this blog I’d written up in draft from a week of so back listing my tip number 2 for living without plastic bags: get educated, and learn more about what is really happening to our environment.

Teaching Jerry about Environmental Issues

This morning Jerry lost 20 pesos on the way back from the shop. Every morning he walks up to the local bread shop and buys hot bread for our morning breakfast or his school lunch. I’ve been giving him the rice colander and a tea towel to hold the little bread rolls but this morning the shop owner insisted on putting them into a plastic bag. Determined little Jerry while transferring the rolls into colander and while handing back the plastic bag lost the change and was very upset.

Tonight while we ate our dinner I was thinking about how I had just told him we weren’t using plastic bags anymore but never really explained why. I had never really sat down with Jerry and talked with him about pollution or recycling or deforestation. I suppose because of his delayed development I mistakenly discounted his understanding. All Jerry really understood I guess was ‘if I put the bread in a plastic bag I’ll get into trouble from Tita Mel’.

So we watched A Plastic Ocean on Netflix together. Jerry normally prefers Disney movies and cartoons but he watched the film all the way through mesmerised, and now totally understanding why we are trying not to use plastic bags.

We have so many plastic bags Tita Mel … [yeh we still have a large plastic bag filled with plastic bags]

That is so sad Tita Mel … [when he saw a bird cut open and what was inside]

The sea is beautiful Tita Mel [seeing bright coloured fish and corals]

Getting educated about the human effects and impact of pollution on our planet is essential if I am to correctly teach Jerry how to care for our environment. Like all children, Jerry has a curious mind and has reached a stage of development now where he is asking complex questions and has a greater awareness of the world around him.

But it’s not just about Jerry. Knowing that every year 8 million tonnes of plastic is dumped into the ocean; or that our “disposable” lifestyle means that around 50% of plastic is used just once and thrown away; or that more than one million bags are used every minute makes my ‘Why am I doing this?’ so much stronger. Knowing more about the problem also keeps me focused because (let’s face it) the reason plastic bags are such a big problem is they are so damned convenient. I’m certainly guilty of mindlessly moving through my day and taking that easy option plastic bag, promising myself that ‘next time I’ll say no’. And so another day passes and another and another, and my bag of plastic bags hanging near the plates grows fatter and fatter. Watching a hard-hitting documentary from time arrests me out of my complacency.

Contributing to a Global Solution

Getting educated about the human impact on our planet is not about despairing, though that is entirely possible to become overwhelmed. Getting educated is about knowing the facts, taking responsibility and being part of a global solution. For me, a “global solution” means that every single human being on the planet contributes to pollution and deforestation. Watching a reputable documentary highlights (on a global scale) the impact of our individual actions. Knowing that I contributed to the problem means that I can definitely contribute to a solution (we all can).

Five Environmental Documentaries to Activate Change

So after watching A Plastic Ocean last night with Jerry I went looking for some other educational material and have these all on “watch (or watch again) list”.

An Inconvenient Sequel

A decade after AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH brought climate change into the heart of popular culture, comes the riveting and rousing follow-up that shows just how close we are to a real energy revolution. Vice President Al Gore continues his tireless fight traveling around the world training an army of climate champions and influencing international climate policy. Cameras follow him behind the scenes – in moments both private and public, funny and poignant – as he pursues the inspirational idea that while the stakes have never been higher, the perils of climate change can be overcome with human ingenuity and passion.

A Plastic Ocean

If it was happening in one gyre, they suspected it was happening in all of them. But the filmmakers needed experts to prove it.
Scientists were brought in at each stage to analyze the findings from one part of the story to add their data to the overall report on the five gyres.
In the center of the Pacific Ocean gyre our researchers found more plastic than plankton. A Plastic Ocean documents the newest science, proving how plastics, once they enter the oceans, break up into small particulates that enter the food chain where they attract toxins like a magnet. These toxins are stored in seafood’s fatty tissues, and eventually consumed by us.

Chasing Coral

Coral reefs around the world are vanishing at an unprecedented rate. A team of divers, photographers and scientists set out on a thrilling ocean adventure to discover why and to reveal the underwater mystery to the world.
Chasing Coral was directed by Jeff Orlowski and produced by Larissa Rhodes. The film took more than three years to shoot, and is the result of 500+ hours underwater, submissions of footage from volunteers from 30 countries, as well as support from more than 500 people from various locations around the world.
The imagery is an ominous warning of the planet’s future along the current course; at the same time, it is a celebration of the most biodiverse ecosystem on the planet.

To the Ends of the Earth

“To the Ends of the Earth” follows concerned citizens living at the frontiers of extreme oil and gas extraction, bearing witness to a global crossroads. They call for human ingenuity to rebuild society at the end of the fossil fuel era.

The people we meet are uniquely positioned to watch this global crossroads unfold. For example, the mayor of an Inuit village in Canada’s high Arctic who is concerned that seismic testing for oil in the ocean is blowing up the eardrums of the animals that the Inuit hunt to survive. Or the environmental lawyer who goes on a journey to areas that produce energy for the tar sands of Alberta — he learns of the massive inputs of energy that have to be put into this resource — and the reasons why the second largest oil project in the world is economically unsustainable. Or the river conservationist in Utah who fights to protect the Colorado River from oil shale projects that would disturb its headwaters.

“To the Ends of the Earth” brings forward the voices of those who not only denounce the rise of extreme energy, but also envision the new world that is taking shape in its stead: a future beyond the resource pyramid, a post-growth economy.

Before the Flood

If you could know the truth about the threat of climate change — would you want to know? Before the Flood, presented by National Geographic, features Leonardo DiCaprio on a journey as a United Nations Messenger of Peace, traveling to five continents and the Arctic to witness climate change firsthand. He goes on expeditions with scientists uncovering the reality of climate change and meets with political leaders fighting against inaction. He also discovers a calculated disinformation campaign orchestrated by powerful special interests working to confuse the public about the urgency of the growing climate crisis. With unprecedented access to thought leaders around the world, DiCaprio searches for hope in a rising tide of catastrophic news.

© 2017 Melinda J. Irvine

One response to “Can You Live Without Plastic Bags?”

  1. […] have to take stronger action, set a living example and use my voice to draw attention to this critical issue. By all means continue recycling plastic, […]