How to Join The Plastic Cult of Death

disposable plasic water bottlePhoto via iStockphoto.

Every sip you take out of that clear, disposable water bottle makes you a little less human. It’s been proven again and again that the plastic containers that hold our food, drinks, cosmetics, and just about everything else leaves a little of itself in us every single time. And yet, the stuff still touches every single aspect of our lives, hands, mouths, and stomachs. There’s only one possible conclusion to this: We’re all participants in a slow-motion plastic suicide cult. Let’s make up some track suits.

Nevermind that using single-serving plastic rivals only texting-while-driving as the most selfish thing that’s done on a day-to-day basis. That’s human-to-human contact, and we’re all in the death cult, anyway. Also in the cult: everything else.

Part of the reason we love plastic as a society is it’s so versatile, says artist/activist Dianna Cohen of the Plastic Pollution Coalition. Cohen is in town today for a talk at the New England Aquarium called “Plastic in the Oceans, Plastic in You.” Because if we’re having a death party, we’re having it at the beach.

Partly due to it’s floaty, aerodynamic nature, plastic bags and bottles end up in the sea where they stay almost forever. And yeah, yeah, we know the sea turtles eat it and seals get entangled in it, and the nets that are made from it continue to fish for 600 years. But when it breaks down, plastic pellets absorb all the toxins in the surrounding water. Which is really sweet because then those toxins enter the food chain, and the toxins accumulate in sophisticated predators until they end up, yep, right back in us.

Kathleen Frith, director of Center for Health and the Global Environment’s Healthy and Sustainable Food Program at Harvard Medical School, who is also speaking at the NE Aquarium event, says all those ocean toxins will eventually choke out the biodiversity in the ocean. And we’ll be left with the aquatic versions of chickens, cows, and pigs in captivity while the rest of the ocean fills back up with jelly fish. Which basically means that humans will so pollute the ocean that we’ll set evolution back millions and millions of years. Take that, Intelligent Design!

Dianna Cohen, who has a stronger stomach for this stuff than most of us, told me about camels who end up starving to death because their ruminant was packed with plastic bags. Yes, those are stupid animals, but they’re not alone. “Those animals are a metaphor for us,” Cohen says. “We’re stuffing ourselves with plastic, and we don’t even know what we’re doing.”

I’ll disagree with Cohen. We know exactly what we’re doing. We’re making our present just a tiny bit more convenient, profitable, and easy — at the expense of the future. And that’s fine, because, you know, that’s human.