Bearing Witness and Feeling Hopeful as the Plastic Pollution Crisis Finds Solutions
April 14, 2022

Featured image: ‘Untitled’ by Jonathan Barrera

Bow Seat has examined and followed the immense issue of plastic pollution for over a decade. By now, most folks know that plastic pollution is a global menace. To give some perspective, there are 5.2 trillion pieces of plastic discarded in our oceans, which kill over a million seabirds annually. Hundreds of thousands of other marine species also ingest the plastic or become entangled in it.

My inspiration for this piece came when I was surfing through the Internet, and I came upon a Pinterest picture, which illustrated plastic pollution by Julia Ebert

‘What Goes In The Ocean, Goes In You’ by Julia Ebert

Plastic harms people, too. Because it never goes away–it just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces—it infiltrates our food chains and waterways. Plastic debris is now clogging our storm drains, which is compounding the severe flooding brought on by climate change. In March, plastic debris was discovered in human blood, which can lead to organ damage and an increased risk of cancer. The list of impacts goes on and on, and we know that plastic pollution is unsightly, dangerous, and that our world is drowning in it.

For nearly five years, Bow Seat shone a spotlight on plastic pollution by teaching and engaging students about this critical issue through our Ocean Awareness Contest. From 2014-2017, the Contest covered themes like Making Meaning out of Plastic Pollution and Ocean Pollution: Challenges and Solutions to inform young people about the dangers of plastic pollution as well as the solutions that were beginning to emerge. Thousands of students from around the world responded to our call for art and submitted incredible creative works to raise awareness about this global threat.

Untitled Art by Katharine Wu. A sea turtle made of plastics emerges from a fishing net.

‘Untitled’ by Katharine Wu

In those years, we did not see much news or attention paid to the plastic pollution crisis. It is hugely encouraging to see all that has transpired in this last decade in regards to plastic pollution awareness. Everywhere now, we see advocacy and action integrated in classes, infographics, articles, films, videos, and on social media. Grassroots organizations, NGOs, local communities, states, and countries are all working on this problem and making significant inroads—and in many cases, youth are helping to lead the effort.

'Your Choice. Their Future.' by Anais Beninger features many marine animals (whales, sharks, octopuses) hanging in a bag that would be used at a pet store to transport fish.

‘Your Choice. Their Future.’ by Anais Beninger

Of course, there is much work still to do, but it is important to take notice and appreciate all that has been accomplished. Although change is often slow, we should not be discouraged. The bell has been rung, and folks are responding. It has been powerful to witness this movement take meaningful shape.

In March of this year, the United Nations proposed the first-ever plastic pollution treaty, and nearly 200 countries agreed on a resolution that in two years’ time will “address the full lifecycle of plastic, including production, design and disposal.” This is huge news! Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the U.N. Environment Program, said that the breakthrough is “a triumph by planet Earth over single-use plastics.”

sea turtle plastic bag pollution art

‘Anyone Can Save The Ocean’ by Becky Ni

Good change does happen, and at Bow Seat, we believe in the power of the arts to raise awareness about important environmental issues. We also understand that raising consciousness has a significant place in movement-building and change-making.

Keep on fighting – everyone has a chance to make a difference. Like small waves rippling out, change emerges and grows.


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Bearing Witness and Feeling Hopeful as the Plastic Pollution Crisis Finds Solutions

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