Okay, I had to write this. No, seriously, I had to write it. It’s an assignment for my B2 Deutsch class.

So, highlights in Deutsch:

Es gab eine Periode der Geschichte, die Karbonperiode genannt wurde. Es war vor etwa 360-300 Millionen Jahren. Während dieser Zeit gab es nicht genug Bakterien, um alle Pflanzenschlachtkörper zu fressen. Wir sehen das Ergebnis als Kohle und Öl.

Vor kurzem (vor 100 Jahren, +/-) hat der Mensch Plastiks ergrunden.

Nichts auf der Welt wusste, wie man es isst. Es wird Millionen von Jahren dauern, bis etwas lernt wie.

Plastiks sind in unserer Umwelt so verbreitet, dass Sie und ich ungefähr fünf Gramm Plastiks pro Woche in unserer Nahrung zu sich nehmen.

Dies ware nicht schlecht, außer dass einige Platiks vom Körper als Hormone angesehen werden. Dies kann schwerwiegende gesundheitliche Probleme verursachen. Aus demselben Grund schädigen sie auch die Ökologie erheblich.

Und sie häufen sich. So sehr, dass zukünftige Zivilisationen in Millionen Jahren vielleicht sehen können, dass wir aus der von uns aufgebrachten Plastik schicht hier sind.

Was konnen wir tun?

Kaufen Sie keine Einweg-produkte aus Plastik mehr.

Ersetzen Sie Ihren Plastik kauf durch Papier.

Stimmen Sie für Politiker, die die Umwelt reform unterstützen.

Sprechen Sie mit anderen über das Problem. Erhöhte Aufmerksamkeit. Und wenn Sie mit Leuten über das Problem sprechen, erwähnen Sie, dass sie letzte Woche genug Plastik gegessen haben, um eine Kreditkarte zu machen.

Unterstützen Sie die Erforschung von Platik ersatzs toffen oder erforschen Sie, wie Plastik abfälle zerstört werden können.

Endlich müssen wir, ähnlich wie bei fossilen Brenns toffen, den Einsatz von Plastiks schränken ein. Oder ändern Sie die Art der verwendeten Plastiks.

Was ist das Schlimmste, was passieren kann? Eine Welt ohne 100 Milliarden Zigarettenkippen, die jeden Monat in die Lebensmittelkette gelangen? Meeresschildkröten verschlucken sich nicht an Taschen? Vögel verschlucken sich nicht an Bierdosen ringen?

Ich denke, ich kann mit einer Welt ohne diese leben.

Zuruck nach English…

Okay, let’s be real about this.

I know it is only supposed to be a few sentences, but this topic is too important for me to just gloss over.  Even if it is just an assignment for a Deutsch class.

Plastics.  Recycling them.  Doing away with them.

Let’s begin with some history. 

About 360 million years ago, plants pushed the atmosphere into an oxygen-heavy state.  So much oxygen, that it enabled insects like the dragonfly to reach the size of a large hawk.

This had the effect of reducing bacterial levels to such a low level that there weren’t enough of them to eat the plants as they died naturally.

So the dead plants piled up.  Really, they just piled up.  They eventually became peat beds.  After that, they were compressed (by geology) into coal.  This took place over a period of about sixty million years.  Piling up.  Like a teenager’s laundry gone crazy.

That period of time is called the “Carboniferous” period.

The key here is that those bodies didn’t get eaten.  And they were buried into the layers of rock and mud.  We call this “geologic subduction.” 

So today, when you talk about coal and oil, you are actually talking about humans digging up sixty million years’ worth of carbon.  Digging it up and burning it. 

Which is a problem orders of magnitude greater than plastics.

But we can walk and chew gum at the same time, can’t we?

So, plastics. 

Here’s the news on plastics:

In 1907, a fellow from New York named Leo Baekeland created a substance called “Bakelite.”   


This stuff was useful for a lot of things, such as electric and heat insulation.  It was made into a number of different things.  Radio and phone cases.  Kitchenware.  Jewelry.  Pipe stems.  Children’s toys.  Even firearms. 

But what it was really useful for was showing the world how to create totally artificial materials.  Materials that were very easily shaped and extremely durable.  Oh, and cheap.  Let’s not forget cheap.

Over the next century, humans got very busy manufacturing stuff from various plastics.  It would be a challenge for any of you reading this right now to look around and not see something made with plastics.

This was all really cool.  Lots of people got rich, lots of things got cheap.  It seemed like a win-win.

But no one really gave a thought to biology.

Practically everything natural has something that eats it.  Dust has mites.  Poop has beetles.  Humans have big cats and sharks. 

But nothing on earth knows how to eat plastic. 

This is primarily because plastic has a unique shape to its molecules.  There aren’t any natural enzymes shaped right to grip plastic and rip it up to eat it. 

So, what we see today is something like the beginning of the Carboniferous period.  Plastics are piling up because there’s nothing that knows how to eat it.  And they are piling up in the ocean.  When a plastic bag from Rewe or Kroger hits the ground in the parking lot, it will eventually be bleached by the sun and shredded by wind, feet, tires, and so on. 

Those little shreds end up being washed into a sewer, or a stream. 

Those feed into rivers.

Which feed into the sea.

And little bits of plastic look like the traditional food that plankton eats. 

So those little creatures called plankton eat it.

And fish eat the plankton. 

And bigger fish eat those fish.

And eventually, bigger animals eat those fish.  Animals like us. 

In fact, there is so much plastic in the food chain, that we people eat about five grams per week of “micro” plastic.  That’s like eating a credit card or a pen every week.  In a month, it’s 21 grams.  That’s about as much as a comb, or a clothes hangar. 

Now, that normally would pass right through us, since we can’t digest the stuff any better than other creatures.

But plastic has some hidden problems.  For example, some plastics are shaped just right, or emit chemicals that are shaped just right.  Just right for what?  They’re shaped like natural hormones.  And our bodies react to them like normal hormones.  Which can throw a child’s growth out of whack.  Or induce thyroid disease.  Or cause a man to grow boobs. 

I think I might have given you enough now to react.  Perhaps your reaction is “Holy shit, what do I do?”

Well, a few things.

For starters – stop buying one-use plastics.  Use paper sacks at the supermarket.  Don’t buy plastic straws.  Recycle everything.  Use glass.  Use paper.  Use wood.  When you have to use plastic, make sure it will last you.  Get wax paper instead of cling-film. 

Vote.  Vote for candidates who recognize the problem for what it is.  Vote against candidates who deny there is a problem.  Viciously mock people who pretend there isn’t a problem. 

Vote for candidates who support scientific research into bio-plastics.  Like the research recently completed by a Mexican scientist who made plastic out of cactus.  That plastic degrades in a month, and people can eat it safely. 

Support research on biological plastic destruction.  Just because nothing knows how to eat it today doesn’t mean there won’t be something next year.  Researchers can invent microbes that eat practically anything.  Who says there isn’t a possible digestive path for plastics to be found? 

Speak to others about the problem.  Don’t bother talking about the Carboniferous era when you do.  Just tell them nothing on earth knows how to eat that stuff.  Tell them that Porsche automobiles are long-lasting: two out of every three ever built are still out there.  Then tell them plastic has that beat: every piece of plastic ever made, except for the ones that were incinerated, is still out there. 

And tell them how much of it they ate last week. 

In the end, much like fossil fuels, we have to curb our use of plastics.  Or change what kind of plastics we use.

What’s the worst that can happen?  A world without a 100-billion cigarette butts entering the food chain every month?

A world where sea turtles aren’t choked to death on plastic sacks? Where birds don’t die caught in beer-can rings?

I think I can live in a world without those things.

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