Living on a small island, I have the luxury of taking myself out for a walk along the beach whenever I need to clear my head.
That is exactly what I was planning to do today and it started off how I had pictured it: the waves were crashing, the breeze was blowing and I was enjoying breathing in the salty air. Unfortunately this bliss only lasted a few minutes before I was distracted by the scattering of bright colours I could see in the sand, looking very out of place among the muted tones of the cloudy sky and grey sea.
You guessed it: plastic.
The windy weather has washed up an unusual amount of trash onto our beautiful beaches so I started picking up what I could as a made my way along the shoreline.
It wasn’t long before I had more than I could carry and I felt heartbroken. Before living here I never would have called myself a “bird person”, but with birds being our main companions on the island I have grown fond of our native shorebirds in particular.
The reason I felt so devastated was because I imagined how much of this plastic was being eaten by our unsuspecting bird life.
There would have been a time when I would only have bothered to pick something up if it was a large piece of rubbish. Thanks to documentaries such as A Plastic Ocean and Blue Planet, I now know that it is those teeny tiny, seemingly breaking down pieces of plastic that do the most damage to marine and bird life.
The thought of our NZ Dotterels and Oyster Catchers having their tummies full of plastic makes me feel so helpless. They haven’t done anything to deserve to be poisoned by our desire for convenience. They don’t insist on drinking through a plastic tube or blowing up sacks of plastic on their birthday.
It blew my mind today thinking about how the veganism movement is growing and how people are starting to wake up to making choices that have less of an impact on the environment and other animals. But whether we are eating animals or drinking a takeaway green smoothie with a straw, we need to take responsibility for the consequences of those habits.
The environmental damage of humans is widespread and deeply ingrained in our culture. The irony is that everything we do that negatively impacts on our wildlife, is hurting us too. We all live in this world together and in claiming the title of the ‘superior species’ we must own our actions.
I am in no way perfect. I am at the stage where I rejoice if my drink comes without a straw but I still forget to ask for one without it a lot of the time. This results in a lot of face-palming and cursing but I will keep trying. If there is a plastic free option at the supermarket I will always choose it but there are still some things I buy that only come in plastic that I have not given up.
I am not perfect.
But not being perfect should not get in the way of trying to be better.