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Plastic Soup, Deformed Turtles, and Getting Over Ourselves
I saw the picture below yesterday and my heart sank. I found it here, and while the article was powerful in relation to what's going on with the large plastic dumps on either side of Hawaii, the turtle is what broke me.
I've been trying to figure out why. Maybe because I had turtles as a kid? Maybe because they're iconic to me for peaceful, laid-back creatures.1 Who knows, and who cares: the fact is that the turtle moved me to action.
Think about it for a second: That poor turtle has lived the majority of its life constricted by the plastic band. Its entire skeleton has had to restructure itself to keep the being alive. Also think about it as a metaphor of how we've altered the planet as a whole.
After being heartbroken from seeing and thinking about the turtle, another one of my frustrations and disappointments with myself came up: my omnivorism. What's the connection?
I'm starting to become more activistic about our need to be more mindful of the environment in our everyday actions. I feel torn in being a true advocate, however, when I'm aware of the toll that eating meat has on the environment. I'm not trying to leverage facts and present an argument here - I'm just drawing loose connections and may present an argument later. (Here's a start, though.)
So, while my first reaction was indignation and wanting to pick up the torch to raise awareness about this plastic dump and the turtles - by God, the turtles! - the part of me that hates cognitive dissonance and hypocrites rightly pointed out that it's inconsistent to champion the preservation of the environment while my habits are part of the problem.
Here's the deal, though: we have to start somewhere. Yes, I eat meat, and I'm working on that, for more reasons than the turtles. But it doesn't need to stop me from spreading the word about this plastic soup in our lovely oceans. Or about the plight of the turtles, birds, fish, and other assortment of animals that are living painful lives and dying painful deaths because it was just too damned inconvenient for ships to haul their trash with them.
Of course, while the plastic soup and turtle serve as the context for this particular problem, the larger issue is how much we let our personal frustrations, disappointments, and fear of being flawed beings hold us back from spreading value throughout the world. Rather than acknowledging that we have some areas to work on while we're helping others, we allow ourselves to bottle up, hide behind our perceived failings, and fret while other beings suffer.
We're not perfect, and we never will be. We have to fix this plane while we're flying it. And maybe we can save some turtles while we're at it.
: Yes, I know about alligator snapping turtles, but let's save them for another conversation involving shovels, good will, and golf courses.