The Plastic Age

January 12, 2010

by — Posted in Blog, Ideas, Politics

This is a guest post by Dennis Teall-Fleming:

We look back on historical epochs and give them names, usually described by the things we humans make during that period. Bronze Age, Iron Age, Industrial Age, Nuclear Age … Guess what they’ll call the past hundred years in a millennia or two? The Plastic Age!

Yea, I’m convinced of this. The oil-based polymer plastic that we generally use today had its 100th anniversary last year. What a wonderful invention … until five billion people ended up using it at the same time! Now, we have to deal with all the excess, most of which will last 100,000 years before decomposing. What a wonderful gift to give our descendants! Archaeologists will really have no problem being able to identify the 20th and 21st (and maybe future?) centuries, ‘cuz they’ll just have to start with the layer(s?) of plastic in the geological evidence.

It’s gotten so bad that it’s now the #1 source of our garbage footprint. We now have landfills full of plastics: Some that you can see from space, like Fresh Kills outside of NYC, which, ironically, is also where most of the WTC debris was put after the 9-11 attacks (including countless remains of victims). Others that have become the tallest piece of land in the local area (my favorite is “Mount Rumpke”, outside of Cincinnati, actually named after the waste company that created it, 1,045 ft. tall, the highest point in the county. We now also have “plastic patches” floating on our oceans, some that are bigger than U.S. states (e.g., Great Pacific Garbage Patch, twice the size of Texas!).

Read and weep, my friends. Sadly, this is one of the most prevalent legacies we give to the future …

Action Item: Take a look at the picture (above). This is one of the myriad of problems with our excess plastic these days—it’s going to be responsible for the extinction of countless of species. Baby albatross, such as the one in this pic, are fed the plastic by their mothers, because the plastic is mistaken for food. In pictures such as this one, you can see how this baby bird simply choked to death on the colorful “decoys.” I’ll leave it to you to decide what to do about this, if anything.

Dennis Teall-Fleming is Director of Faith Formation at Queen of the Apostles Catholic Church, Belmont, NC, and part-time Religion Instructor at Gaston College, Dallas, NC.

One thought on “The Plastic Age

  1. “And the wind shall say: ‘These were decent
    people. Their only monument the asphalt road and a thousand lost golf balls,” T.S. Eliot

    The estimate is that over 300 million of them (golf balls) are lost every year!

    We certainly are leaving a legacy and turning god’s wonderful creation into a celestial junk yard!

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