Big Corporations Are Killing The Planet, Not Your Drinking Straws

Big Corporations Are Killing The Planet, Not Your Drinking Straws

Please recycle, but don't think that you are going to single-handedly save the world.

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We've been hearing that straws are killing the environment on every form of media for almost a year now. Some of us have given up straws as if our lives depended on it. Others, like myself, have gotten cynical and wondered why our straws winding up in the ocean is our fault. Let's be honest, neither outlook is entirely wrong, and most people fall somewhere between the two perspectives.

The reality is, one person cannot make up for a world of pollution. People are calling wins when companies decide to ban drinking straws, but what does that really mean? Yes, Starbucks did say they would be completely switched over from straws to sipping lids by 2020, but doesn't that mean that much more plastic?

To be fair, the reason Starbucks' switch to lids over straws is a win for the environment is that the plastic used to make those lids is recyclable, while the plastic used in drinking straws is not. I get that. However, if everyone in the world recycled every cup from Starbucks and other businesses following suit, we would still live in a very polluted world. In fact, pollution may very well still rise!

At this point in the conversation, it is easy to get cynical. "If my recycling won't do enough good to be noticeable, why should I bother?" is the attitude that comes to mind. Or we find ourselves with my original and even more cynical attitude, "I am not responsible for the fact that the straw is not able to be recycled or that our trash is being thrown into the ocean, so why are you making me feel bad for using straws?"

The answer to that last question is simple. It is called the individualization of responsibility. Most of our pollution comes from corporations, most of whom spend more time, money, and energy greenwashing than actually correcting the behaviors that are destroying our planet. We, as a society, do not help matters because we let capitalism come before mindful consumerism.

We carry around cellphones, which are basically designed to be toxic bricks within a few years, and we get new ones every couple of years. Yet no one pushes those corporations, like Apple, Google, and Samsung, to make them so that they won't pollute the environment- or to have more efficient ways to collect and reuse these devices.

Gas companies actively lobby against and try to stop pushes for green energy, while providing us fossil fuels to burn, which does not help our environment. They promote fracking, which has been proven to pollute groundwater and cause more earth tremors in the areas they do this in. Also, oil spills are a huge issue, and for some reason, they keep happening because it is cheaper to pay for cleanup and fines and crisis management resources than to look into safer ways to transport oil or to invest in greener energy sources.

Many large companies that use factories dump their waste, which is often toxic, into the environment where it harms plants and animals alike, let alone what it can do to the water.

Some of these companies find it cheaper to pay fines for not regulating what comes out of their smokestacks with the hydro-carbon based smoke instead of investing to find more efficient ways to filter this, so extra chemicals enter the atmosphere along with the extra carbon that is already leading to more global warming.

The U.S. government, for its part, leaves its involvement up to its legislature. Did I mention all of these companies pay for these people's campaigns to stay on the said legislature? Our House of Representative has committees committed to science and the environment both, and yet our government does not recognize global warming. It's no wonder they side with the corporations and decide to try to ban plastic straws instead of getting to the heart of the pollution matter (of which over 71% is caused by corporations).

None of this is the fault of you or me specifically. Your everyday consumer is not directly to blame for the state of our planet. However, our society as a whole values capitalism over mindful consumerism. We choose what is cheap and easily accessible over what is sustainably made. We choose Amazon Prime and its two day delivery over mom and pop shops, craftsman, etc. Mostly though, we are complacent.

I do not mean you are complacent. We all form a very complacent society. We as a whole do not vote on the side of the planet we call home. We do not hold the companies we work for and buy from accountable. A lot of that lack of accountability comes from a lack of know-how and a lack of conversation.

Petitions mean nothing; as my dad says, they aren't worth the paper they're printed on. But our votes matter, if we can make them large scale enough to impact. So we need to start a conversation. Talk about how you want to do your part by recycling what you can and shopping mindfully. Encourage others to do the same. Create a conversation about how we can push for change, and make that conversation large enough that people in power, from mayors to senators, start noticing. And that's when you utilize your vote, and call upon others to do the same.

We are not going to change this in a day. All the straws in the world disappearing wouldn't save all the marine life — there is too much garbage already. But we can push for understanding. We know one individual will not change the world, but when we push society to care and convince large-scale action to be taken, suddenly we've got a fighting chance at saving this place.

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Are Plastic Straws Really Killing Sea Turtles?

It's no secret that plastic isn't great for the environment, but how sensationalized is this topic actually becoming?

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When I first saw a video of a sea turtle getting a plastic drinking straw removed from its nostril, I was obviously upset like any other viewer would be. I care a lot about the environment and about animal life and it was upsetting to see that a product of human consumption and ignorant waste was destroying precious parts of our world. I wholeheartedly jumped on the bandwagon of "plastic straws kill sea turtles!!!" but only knew about the issue from this video and what I heard from people or saw on social media. The whole topic of plastic waste into the ocean remained in the back of my mind until the recent pledge of Starbucks to stop using plastic straws in stores by 2020 reminded me of the issue.

As the topic of plastics and their pollution of the environment (largely the oceans) has become so recently powerful I decided to do some research of my own. If I was going to tell people to stop using plastic straws because they were killing sea turtles, I wanted to be sure that I wasn't just repeating everything I heard from social media.

Turns out, plastic straws are hurting sea turtles and other marine life, but a lot of what I thought about plastic waste was exaggerated (at least from what I had heard from others). Sea birds are the most impacted creature by plastic straws, not sea turtles. About 1 million or more seabirds die every year from ingesting plastic straws and choking on them. In research from recent scientific studies, 80-90% of seabirds have some kind of plastic inside of their stomachs. Also, the ecological footprint that plastic straws alone leave on the planet is actually pretty small compared to food waste or fossil fuels.

However, all the buzz about sea turtles may come from the fact that globally 86% of sea turtle species are known to be affected by plastic debris. Overwhelming amounts of plastic garbage in the ocean have caused a steady decline of the leatherback sea turtle over the past several years, so much that they have been placed on the endangered species list. Plastics can hinder eating and consumption, breathing abilities, and even reproductive capabilities of all kinds of sea turtles.

So while plastic straws may not be killing sea turtles in hordes, they are killing sea birds, and plastic overall have caused huge and deadly effects to many sealife species. We have known that plastic is bad for the environment and the oceans for quite a while, given the fact that the Great Garbage Patch was discovered almost 20 years ago, so it's more than time to start caring about the problem. If we can eliminate single-use plastic straws that aren't biodegradable, we can stop using other single-use plastics and make a better effort to reduce our harmful impacts on the oceans. Individually, we can move towards small changes, which can move our society to a more sustainable and healthy place. If you are more interested in this topic, I would suggest reading about how you can make a change or looking at this article and checking out this scientific journal.

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Vinicius Amano

@viniciusamano

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Deep Ocean Exploration Technology Capabilities

Autonomous underwater vehicles lead the path of hope to discovery, but we need your help.

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The United States' federal government should substantially increase its non-military exploration and/or development of the Earth's oceans. There are many benefits to doing so: reducing overfishing, limiting ocean acidification, conducting disease research, restricting invasive species and decreasing ocean dumping. Other affirmatives could deal with changes in Arctic shipping routes or opportunities for oil and natural gas exploration, according to ihsa.org. Oceans holding 99% of all living life on Earth and 97% of our water hints at, we have to take care of our home.

Nonetheless, conservation efforts will not be enough at this point. It helps to have common sense in our fishery management. It helps to clean our beaches. That being said, we have to take advantage of our incredible opportunity advances in technology has given us. Improvements in underwater navigation sensor technology and underwater navigation algorithms are enabling novel underwater vehicles and novel underwater vehicle missions. These missions remind us of Obama's implementation plan drafted in 2012 for the stewardship of the ocean. We have to hold ourselves accountable for taking care of our planet, and there is nothing wrong with taking the extra step with our curiosity. Let's dive into S. Harris abstract regarding ARGO, an example of our ocean-exploration technology and what we can do with this power. From the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA, USA, ieeexplore.ieee.org.

"Developed by the Deep Submergence Laboratory of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, ARGO is an unmanned instrument platform designed for deep ocean search and survey. Integrating both visual and acoustic imaging techniques for real-time viewing, ARGO is a system which provides continuous, around-the-clock operation for seafloor exploration. With a design depth of 6,000 meters, it is towed on a steel-armored coaxial cable which supports several channels of frequency-multiplexed signals. In addition, surface support is highly integrated, bringing together ship control, navigation, and vehicle operation into a transportable control center. In our expedition that found the TITANIC, this system was tested for the first time and proved itself by delivering the exciting pictures of the famous shipwreck lying on the bottom of the ocean. This paper will briefly describe ARGO and the reasons for its development. Examples of ARGO imaging from our first year of operation will demonstrate how modern oceanographers remotely sense the ocean floor."

Deep ocean exploration is such an important focus on our kid's livelihood. We have plans, technology, but we need more. We need more awareness and funding regarding this research-based, non-military exploration of marine life. Donate to oceanexploration.org.

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