Oceans of Plastic: Inspiring change-makers with Tracey Gray
We use plastic every day. It is woven into our clothes and wrapped around our food. We play on plastic and we tie our shoelaces with plastic. There is no question that plastic is a part of our lives. Plastic can be useful in many ways, but it is also true that it is negatively impacting our planet. Tiny pieces of plastic are now found in the air, water, and oceans.
Tracey Gray is an aquatic scientist and environmental science teacher. She cares deeply about the ocean, beaches and living creatures, and hopes to inspire future ocean change-makers in her book Oceans of Plastic: Understanding and Solving a Pollution Problem.
In the following blog post Tracey shares some of her concerns about this plastic problem.
Imagine a fragment of plastic, a toothbrush or bread tag, a simple everyday object, drifting in the open ocean, far away from where it was once useful. In fact there are more floating pieces of ocean plastic than there are visible stars in the Milky Way! If these plastic pieces glowed, it would mirror the night sky above. It is estimated there are over five trillion pieces of plastic in one of our largest ocean gyres, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Plastic is not only a part of our world, it’s creating a world of its own – the ‘Plastisphere’. This is a place where microbes live on the surface of plastics, populating the plastic, creating the rise and fall of their own plastic planet floating in the ocean. Until finally the plastic breaks up into the smallest of fragments, is eaten by fish and other marine life, or sinks to the depths below.
Marine scientists agree, it’s a soup out there. A massive swirling soup of plastic fragments! That’s just the tip of the plastic-burg. Plastic is found in the deepest trenches of the ocean, flowing down the rivers, thrown overboard, washing up on our beaches and floating in the icy waters of Antarctica and the Arctic.
By 2050 scientists estimate that plastic fragments will outweigh the fish in the ocean. While it is important to highlight these problems, it can be overwhelming to hear facts like this on their own. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to write a book – to help readers, and especially kids, make connections with oceans and marine life.
While plastics are a big problem it’s also important to hear about the wonderful research and innovations that are being undertaken, and how each and every one of us can be ocean change-makers each day, no matter where we live, we can act for oceans!
My work in education is about positive solutions to big problems. I want to encourage the reader to think of oceans, to feel powerful with the choices they make, and to join in actions – pick up litter next time you are at the beach, or refuse a straw next time you order a drink. Most importantly I hope this book inspires imaginations and lets kids know that they can be ocean change-makers too!