Please join us for a virtual screening of The Story of Plastic
By Olivia Rose
As we plunge into this fairly odd September, and welcome in Coastal Cleanup Month, I’d like to take a moment to congratulate you, dear reader, for surviving six whole months of shelter in place. You have spent over half of a year dealing with a global pandemic and all that it comes with; please as always be gentle with yourself as we learn and unlearn day by day. For myself, and I’m sure I’m not alone, quarantine has been a dichotomous time of turbulence and tranquility like never before. I can’t help but feel like the entire world has been told to go to our room and think about what we’ve done. Right now, however, is not the time to rest, but the time to reflect, acknowledge, and take action against the injustices that have put us in our room in the first place.
While we sit at home using less gas for our vehicles and overall less electricity, guess who isn’t resting: the fossil fuel and plastics industry. It should come as no surprise that the fossil fuel and plastics industries are looking to expand, with Big Plastic requesting a $1 billion bailout, and our current administration clearly has no qualms with lending a helping hand even in the face of climate change and human health impacts. THIS NEEDS TO STOP. We cannot sit idle while our government continues to put the so-called needs of corporations above the needs of the people.
Quite frankly, we need all the help we can get. The fight against plastic is one that requires strength and persistence. If you are reading this, I know you have these qualities within you. Call them out, light them ablaze, and let’s get to work. Collectively, we need to understand that plastic pollution means more than just trash in the ocean. With 80% of the world’s oil being used for plastic, pollution starts at the point of fossil fuel extraction. Throughout every stage in the life cycle of plastic greenhouse gases are emitted, and we’re not just talking a little bit, but in the billions of metric tons annually on a global scale. The United States is the proud owner of 1.3 million oil and gas facilities. These facilities expose over 12.6 million people to air toxins, such as the delightful methane, benzene, formaldehyde, and ethylbenzene, increasing rates of asthma and cancer in the surrounding areas. Not to mention the 150 oil refineries spread across the country (5 right here in the east bay area) impacting over 7 million people living in fenceline communities (those within a ½ mile radius of the facility) as they are exposed to vinyl chloride, a known carcinogen, as well as mercury and arsenic, just to name a few. It continues to plastic production, which impacts a whole other set of fenceline communities by contaminating air, water and soil.
It’s so much more than just trash in the ocean, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. A 2016 study from the Center for Effective Government found that “People of color make up nearly half the population in fenceline zones (11.4 million)”. I encourage you to take a deep breath and think about what COVID-19, a respiratory disease, means for these fenceline communities exposed to toxic air pollution. Everything is connected. Our planet and its people can no longer wait for us to break free from our toxic relationship with plastic. We have to act now. Please join The Watershed Project as we dare to dream of a plastic free world by participating in Coastal Cleanup month.
We also invite you to keep that flame of strength and persistence going and join us for a virtual screening and discussion of The Story of Plastic, a film directed and produced by Deia Schlosberg, which exposes the global, grossly tangled web of injustice being spun by the plastic and fossil fuel industry. Throughout the film we are encouraged to re-evaluate the systems and impacts behind the simple plastic items we handle every day, and recognize our collective power in holding the producers of plastic products accountable. Please visit our website, here, to register and gain access to the film link. Watch the film when you can and join us on September 13th from 3-4pm, for what should be a spicy discussion of strategies for fighting single-use plastic waste and production in our communities. We hope to see you there as we reaffirm our commitment to the fight against plastic pollution!
A closer look at air pollution in Houston:
Living in the shadow of danger:
Air pollution linked with higher covid-19 death rates: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/hsph-in-the-news/air-pollution-linked-with-higher-covid-19-death-rates/