You look over as your friend calls you over to go play some volleyball. You set your book down and finish the remaining drops in your Sprite soda can. You look over. They’re ushering you to come over, but you needed to throw your can away. The nearest trash can was a good 150 feet away. When you think no one’s looking, you toss the can toward the ocean and run over to join your friends.

Unfortunately this is the mindset that many beachgoers have today. Their laziness will take over them, and cause them to carelessly make a mess. As the number of residents who annually visit the beach begins to rise, so does the level of garbage, leaving sea creatures subject to early death and disastrous effects to the aura of the beach which negatively influences the mood of beachgoers.

What You Need to Know

Currently in the Dominican Republic, waves of murky garbage are washing shore on the coastline. The shocking images that have now gone viral suggest that tons of garbage has washed ashore the beach. To combat the issue, numerous volunteers have arrived on site to begin cleaning up the hefty amount of garbage. Several tons have already been cleaned, but the menacing task still remains.

Quick Facts

According to “Plastic Ain’t so Fantastic”, there is estimated to be 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic circulating in the ocean. An estimated 100,000 sea creatures die while close to 1 million sea birds die from plastic. Also, scientists have determined around 200 dead zones in the ocean, where no organisms can grow. These heartbreaking stats show that humans are deadly when contributing to the ocean pollution problem. Plastic takes many years to degrade, so this allows for many sea animals to become affected by the same plastic bag that someone was just too lazy to throw away. By polluting the sea, we are inevitably causing harm to various creatures who thrive in the sea. The levels of trash that are now being seen sadly continue to rise.

The Animals

While plastic pollution harms all, certain animals are more susceptible to greater harm and injury than others. Sea turtles, seabirds, and whales/dolphins are among the most at risk to ocean pollution. In the case of sea turtles, they often mistake debris for food and by ingesting it, create an obstruction to their digestive system. As they continue to mistakenly eat plastic at an uncontrolled rate, this only marks their painful, slow deaths. As for seabirds, when they dive down to catch fish, they sometimes accidentally pick up plastic among other scrap. According to One Green Planet, “an estimated 98 percent of albatross studied are found having ingested some kind of plastic debris.” This also causes further obstruction as well as possible puncture to internal organs. Whales and dolphins find themselves caught up in fish netting, and as a result become trapped and unable to move. Also, because whales mouth’s are significantly bigger, they are at more risk to swallow smaller pieces of rubbish, and a lot more of it. Human pollution that can be easily avoided is now altering the lives of sea mammals and leading them to untimely deaths.

Effects On Humans

When carelessly polluting the environment, this not only takes a toll on sea animals but on humans as well. “Too much rubbish ruins the calming effect of the beach,” says Jason Goldman. In a carefully thought out experiment, psychologist Kayleigh Wyles strategically placed pieces of trash around the beach and then took photographs which she later showed to her testing group. Using the attention restoration theory, “the theory suggests that coastlines, as with other idyllic environments, make people happier, calmer, and more refreshed” (Goldman). But when these calm environments are significantly trashed with evidence of human loitering, it can drastically diminish the naturally tranquil aura of the beach. [She found through her experiment that people were more accepting of fish netting which they presumed must have accidentally fallen from someone’s boat out at sea. Whereas compared to soda cans, plastic bags and left over utensils, people felt more offended. “Wyles says that’s probably because people try to infer the litterer’s intentions,” rather than hold everyone accountable. Regardless, the trash that people continue to leave simply pulls us deeper into a dangerous circle. By destroying mother nature, we are inevitably putting ourselves at much greater harm.

Spreading Awareness

There are several ways to take action against environmental aquatic pollution. By minimizing your use of plastic bags, this saves hundreds of animals from becoming trapped into the vicious cycle of ingesting plastic. You can also inform your local politician of the dangers of ocean pollution and get them to sign a petition. You can even arrange a clean up! Gather a few friends and spend a day at the beach while making sure to clean up whatever trash you can find. Join or start an organization that brings awareness to the dangers of ocean pollution. The possibilities are endless, and it can all begin with you!

Image Attribute: Pixabay

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and/or student and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of United 4 Social Change Inc., its board members, or officers.
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