To Whom It May Concern: A Letter to The Masses
Eden Prairie, Minnesota
2017, High School, Prose
To Whom It May Concern:
Those very five words that you have just read has appeared many times at the top of my letters and emails, and I will be the first to admit that I hold a certain affection towards them. I have always thought that they showed a sign of respect, of professionalism, and of sophistication. To Whom It May Concern. Just the fact that the word “whom” is present brings a certain polish to the letter that no other word does. It’s not simply an outdated and stiff Dear Sir or Madam, or a casual Greetings, but instead To Whom It May Concern. A salutation tailored specifically to when the sender does not know the name of the person whom he or she is writing. I had never stopped to wonder, though, what those five words actually meant.
Why do I use it? Simple—ambiguity. It can be used to address all sorts of people in all sorts of situations—young and old, casual or professional, interviewer or Congressman, and even friends and family. But when would one need ambiguity? When would one need to address all sorts of people? When the issue at hand affects all sorts of people—global problems such as poverty and starvation. But poverty and starvation, while horrific, do not affect all humans; we must look further, past the countries or even continents, but instead at the entire planet. There are very few issues that affect every single organism on this planet, but the pollution of our oceans is unfortunately one such problem.
Our oceans are the lifeblood of our planet and mankind (Protect Planet). Our oceans are what makes Earth, Earth. They cover nearly 75% of our planet. They hold 97% of the precious water on our planet. They contain the phytoplankton that produces half of the oxygen we breathe. They absorb nearly half of the carbon dioxide produced by humans, acting as a buffer against climate change. They distribute heat around the world and regulate weather (Open Ocean). Economically, they are the shipping highways that fuel 90% of the trade in our global economy. They are the bases of businesses which contribute $500 billion to the world economy (Protect Planet). They are the homes of the billions of fish that thousands of organisms call dinner; of the friendly dolphins and porpoises that capture the attention of children around the world; of majestic whales; of killer sharks; of hardy crustaceans; and of 3.7 billion people all over the world.
Oceans are not an essential element of life on Earth, but the essential element that makes life on Earth possible. It begs the question, then, why we would willfully destroy the ecosystems on which our very own survival depends on.
Every year, we produce 300 million tons of plastic, 150 million tons of which is only used once. Eight million tons of this plastic is deposited into our oceans every year (Plastic Oceans). Eight million tons—the weight of four million cars, of all the adults on the planet, or of 22 102-story tall Empire State buildings. This plastic drifts around the ocean for years, remaining hazardous for centuries or even millennia to come as the plastic refuses to degrade. The plastic is broken into pieces so ubiquitous that the plastic from just a one-liter bottle can disperse to every single mile of beach and coastline in the world. The result of these millions of tons of plastic pollution? Five large garbage patches circulating in our oceans, with the largest and most infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch covering an area twice the size of Texas and containing enough plastic to outnumber sea life six to one (22 Facts). This plastic then enters the food web as aquatic organisms ingest it. In fact, fish in the North Pacific ingest between 12,000 and 14,000 tons of plastic a year (Plastic Oceans). Now this may sound appalling and it should—but unless you live in the middle of the ocean, then you would think that there is no way this plastic can affect you. But here, my friend, is where plastic rears its truly ugly head. Plastic, since it does not degrade, moves its way up the food chain, increasing in concentration as it reaches the top. As humans, we reside at the top of this food chain, which means the fish we eat on a daily basis ingest plastic on a daily basis. A recent study conducted by the United States Centers for Disease Control found that nearly 93% of those tested aged six or older tested positive for bisphenol A (BPA), a common chemical found in plastic that alters human hormones as well as leads to an increase in neurobehavioral problems such as ADHD and autism (National GeographicMagazine).
If the future seems bleak, then take comfort in the fact that there are several cleanup efforts implemented at this moment. One such cleanup is run by The Ocean Cleanup, a crowd-funded campaign founded in 2013 that utilizes one to two kilometer-long floating barriers and screens to capture plastic by following the ocean’s currents (The Ocean Cleanup). However, such a technology is still in its trial phase and small-scale cleanup is not scheduled to start until 2018.
If the above solution does not appeal to you, then fear not, for there is a straightforward, sure-fire, and scientifically proven solution to preventing our azure oceans from becoming a garbage soup.
Use less plastic.
In the likely case that you are recovering from the shocking knowledge that has just been bestowed upon you, then allow me to repeat myself.
Use less plastic.
It really is that simple. The policymakers can keep on arguing on laws banning plastic, but that will take years to pass. The large corporations themselves can commit to stop polluting the oceans, but only a few will do so. The scientists and engineers can keep on inventing new methods of containment or strains of bacterium that can degrade plastic, but that is only a temporary solution. To truly stop polluting our oceans, we must attack the source of the pollution directly.
How is it possible to pollute our oceans when there is nothing to pollute them with? It is not.
Although it may seem difficult to wean ourselves off of this plastic addiction—and an addiction it is—I assure you it is more doable than you would think. The first step on the road to recovery is the ability to recognize that there is a problem—education on the harmful effects of plastic pollution is the key. The next step is consideration. Look beyond ourselves and understand that our oceans are a communal space, shared by 2.2 million marine species (How Many), but the actions of one species—our species—places the other 2,199,999 species in danger. Step three is where the recovery really begins, where action starts to take place. Replace disposable plastic water bottles, cutlery, straws, coffee cup lips, and grocery bags with their reusable counterparts. Switch from beauty products containing microbeads to those containing natural exfoliants such as salt. Purchase items, especially toys or electronic gadgets, secondhand—making not only the planet happy, but also your wallet. Recycle when possible—the majority of curbside recycling companies accept most plastics, including PET, HDPE, and PP plastics (10 Ways). The hardest step, though, is the last—maintenance. At this point, remarkable progress has been made, but we are still in danger of relapsing. We must stay active and continue the actions in step three to ensure that we keep the progress we labored for.
So let’s stop fighting. Stop arguing about which side is right and which side is wrong. Stop the ignorance and turning the blind eye. Stop making laws and policies just for the sole purpose of saying that said laws and policies were made. And most importantly— stop polluting our oceans and start down the path of recovery together.
You could be male or female; young or old; cisgender or transgender; Democrat or Republican; communist or anarchist, Bolshevik or fascist; “gif” or “jif”; crunchy or smooth peanut butter; cats or dogs—none of it matters! None of it matters because in the end, we are all still Homo sapiens , seven-and-a-half billion strong and living on this dazzling, delightful, yet delicate planet we call home. And in the end, we can choose to either continuously be responsible for the hundreds, the thousands, and the millions of tons of plastic we dump into the beautiful, blue heart of our home, or instead be responsible for the hundreds, the thousands, and the millions of tons of plastic we used to dump and keep the heart of our home beautiful and blue.
So To Whom It May Concern: this concerns you, this concerns me, this concerns your brothers, your sisters, your family, your pets, your friends, your enemies, your coworkers, your idols, your beloved and your hated—this concerns every single living organism on this planet.
Now, what are you going to do about it?
A Concerned Friend
Cleanup, Www.theoceancleanup.com The Ocean. “Www.theoceancleanup.com.” The Ocean Cleanup . N.p., n.d. Web. 19 June 2017.
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January 05, 2016 Sarah Engler. “10 Ways to Reduce Plastic Pollution.” NRDC . N.p., 21 Mar. 2017. Web. 19 June 2017.
“Plastics in the Ocean Affecting Human Health.” Case Studies . N.p., 14 Nov. 2016. Web. 19 June 2017.
“When The Mermaids Cry: The Great Plastic Tide.” Plastic Pollution . N.p., n.d. Web. 19 June 2017.
“How Many Species on Earth? About 8.7 Million, New Estimate Says.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 Aug. 2011. Web. 19 June 2017.
D’Alessandro, Nicole. “22 Facts About Plastic Pollution.” EcoWatch. EcoWatch, 7 Apr. 2014. Web. 19 June 2017.
“Protect Planet Ocean is About Marine Conservation.” Why Are Oceans Important? ProtectPlanetOcean, n.d. Web. 19 June 2017.
“Open Ocean: Importance.” WWF. WWF, n.d. Web. 19 June 2017.
Musson, Stephen. “Bisphenol A.” National Geographic Magazine – NGM.com. National Geographic Magazine, 21 July 2008. Web. 19 June 2017.
In the fourth grade, I made a decision that would arguably change my life—for better or for worse. I joined the swim team. For the past seven years, I have spent six to eight hours every week in the water, swimming lap after lap. While swimming in a chlorinated pool may be fun to some, I always preferred the open water. There are no walls there to stop you and no lane lines to run into. But, in the handful of times that I have visited the ocean, I always find myself returning to the chlorinated pool—not because I do not want to swim in the open water, but that the water has been polluted beyond belief. Perhaps it was due to my love for the water, or perhaps it was due to my infamous hatred towards plastic water bottles, but nonetheless, I wanted to inspire others to protect our one and only home planet. In writing this slightly sadistic letter, I hope to convey just how important oceans are to our existence and how our plastic pollution places that very existence in danger. I also wanted to present a solution, however obvious it was, to this issue so that the future generations will not have to wonder how just years before people could swim in the oceans, but instead swim in them themselves.