There Are Bigger And Deadlier Problems Facing Our World’s Oceans – Is The Fight Against Plastic Distracting Us?

Source: Fast Company/Adele Peters

Photo: AU UN IST PHOTO/Tobin Jones


When Seattle became the first major American city to ban plastic straws last summer, the anti-plastic straw movement was well underway. Alaska Airlines announced a plan to ditch plastic straws in May, followed by the food service company Bon Appétit, American Airlines,and Starbucks. It’s one facet of the growing public awareness of ocean plastic pollution, which has led to more companies touting alternative packaging and soaring sales of reusable water bottles.

A recent paper in the science journal Marine Policy asks if the current focus on plastic pollution is distracting society from even larger challenges facing the ocean, and if a focus on changing bottles or straws is distracting us from making more fundamental changes to the economy. As humans have pumped greenhouses gases into the atmosphere, almost all of the resulting heat has ended up in the ocean; as water gets hotter, that’s killing fish and coral reefs. The heat also leads to sea level rise and melts polar ice sheets, leading to even more sea level rise. Hurricanes are becoming more intense.

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Photo: AU UN IST PHOTO/Tobin Jones

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