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Farewell to Plastic Straws

Are you one of those who loves clean sand and ocean waters; who loves and cares about fish, birds, and the interconnected web of life (of which we are an integral part); and who appreciates the centuries required to create healthy ecosystems — not to mention the billions of years of preparation? If so, you must be deeply concerned about the harm plastic and plastic straws cause our precious Earth. 

You probably took special action on Earth Day to care for our common home. Whether or not your action concerned plastic straws, I hope that what follows will be enlightening and motivating.

The theme of the 2018 Earth Day was to focus on ending plastic pollution by 2020. Researchers estimate that 90 percent of seabirds and many whales, dolphins, and other fish have ingested plastics, including straws. According to the World Economic Forum, without action the amount of plastics in oceans will exceed the amount of fish, pound for pound, by 2050. Many forms of plastic pollution need attention, but ending the use of plastic straws is both easy and important.

Every day in the U.S. alone about 500,000,000 plastic straws are used once and thrown “away” — but there is no “away”! Where do they go? They wind up in landfills where the toxins can seep into water supplies; they add to the estimated annual 8.5 million metric tons of plastic debris in oceans; they are on beaches and in the ocean, causing serious harm to fish and birds and ecosystems and spoiling recreation time for sun- and water-lovers. They also expose us to unhealthy toxic chemicals.

Educated by films, news reports and movements, more and more individuals, businesses and even countries have pledged to stop using plastic straws. Efforts to curb plastic use increased after British naturalist Sir David Attenborough presented his 2017 BBC series Blue Planet II. The series, which called particular attention to the issue of ocean plastics, even prompted Queen Elizabeth II to ban plastic straws and bottles on all royal properties, including public cafes.

The UK government’s Environment Secretary Michael Gove explains why his government will end the sale of plastic straws, drink stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton swabs in England: “Single-use plastics are a scourge on our seas and lethal to our precious environment and wildlife so it is vital we act now.” 

McDonald’s in the UK will start a trial in May to use paper straws instead of the normal plastic ones. It will also try out a scheme where straws are kept behind the counter, and only given out to customers on request. McDonald’s chief executive Paul Pomroy said: “Customers have told us that they don’t want to be given a straw and that they want to have to ask for one, so we’re acting on that.

This proves that contacting restaurants can be effective. Restaurants in Edgewater, Chicago, have pledged not to use plastic straws. You might know of other places that have taken action. The movement grows as people learn about it and take action!

In February 2018, Scotland announced intentions to ban plastic straws by the end of 2019. Toronto and other cities have also taken action. As part of an initiative of the Shedd Aquarium, Chicago, to eliminate plastic straws from stadiums, Chicago’s White Sox baseball team will no longer serve plastic straws with drinks. Fans can request a biodegradable straw instead.

I encourage readers to learn all they can about plastic straw pollution (see sites below) so that they will be ready to educate others and to encourage businesses — in person or by mail — not to offer them. Those who need straws can ask for biodegradable ones. It’s easy to say “No plastic straw, please” when ordering drinks. 

Some sites with information about plastic straws: 

thelastplasticstraw.org 

2.37 min. trailer for strawsfilm.com.

‘A Scourge on Our Seas’: UK Government Takes Aim at Single-Use Plastics

Plastics Don’t Disappear, But They Do End Up In Seabirds …

Last Straw crusade gets Toronto bars, restaurants to ditch plastic straws for …

See also https://ecospiritualityresources.com/2017/06/14/eight-reasons-pl…ic-water-bottles/

Earth Day 2018

Earth Day Reflection

It’s no secret that Mother Earth is fighting for her life amidst attitudes and policies that misunderstand and threaten her. As we look towards Earth Day 2018, it might help to remember her 4.5-billion-year life story. It proves that our current situation is not the first major challenge Mother Earth has faced and solved. Over the billions of years of her lifetime, Earth has shown the creativity she needed for her survival.

Evolutionary examples

More than 2.3 billion years ago, Earth’s multicellular forms began producing oxygen by photosynthesis. After about 200 million years, the overproduction of oxygen in her atmosphere resulted in severe extinctions of organisms. But, lo!, Earth evolved aerobic organisms that consumed oxygen and thus created a positive equilibrium. Earth survived to face new challenges and new solutions.

By 1970, pollution in the United States was so severe that environmental activists, students and legislators initiated Earth Day. Resulting regulations, laws, awareness and organizations brought relief to the planet and life within it. Earth Day is now celebrated in over 190 countries, and concerted actions are taken to protect our Mother Earth.

Contemporary evolution

Perhaps her current threats are just what’s needed to birth what Thomas Berry called the new human — an evolutionary stage of life where we develop an awareness of our “gravitational bonding with the universe itself and within each of its components, and the intimate presence of each component of the universe with other components, a mystical attraction, you might say.” The threats of our time urgently call us “to carry out the transition from a period of human devastation of the Earth to a period when humans would be present to the planet in a mutually beneficial manner.”

No small task, that! Berry writes: “Such a transition has no historical parallel since the geobiological [and astro-biologiocal] transition that took place 67 million years ago….” Regenerations followed disaster.

Pope Francis sees signs that this is happening — what he calls “authentic humanity” dwelling “in the midst of our technological culture, almost unnoticed, like a mist seeping gently beneath a closed door.” (Laudato Si’, par. 112) There is a growing awareness that everything is interrelated and sacred.  Millions of people gather in multiple countries to support policies based on respect and concern for all life, knowing we are part of a communion of subjects rather than of a collection of isolated objects. This never happened, never could have happened, on Earth before our time.

Because of the way evolution works, it is impossible to predict how we will respond to current challenges. But, being part of the human species, we can deepen our ability to see in wholes and tap into the Love that lives and acts in us and in all creation.

Earth Day Prayer

Pause for several minutes’ quiet reflection on the wonder, earth_from_space_5_1920x1080variety, individuality and “interbeing” of Earth’s existence in our solar system and universe.

Litany: Let us join in thanking for the gift of Earth. Take turns reading the following litany.
Response:  … 
we give thanks.

–  for the creative love active from the first flaring forth, when Earth’s 13.8-billion-year story begins, … we give thanks.

–  for Mother Earth’s continuing evolution from stardust through its 4.5-billion-year story so far, … we give thanks.

–  for Earth’s ability to create, to heal, to diversify, to adapt, to be intrinsically interconnected, … we give thanks. 

–  for the gifts of water, soil, air, climate, flora and fauna, and the bioregions that developed over millennia, … we give thanks.

Unknown-1–  for the colorful and nurturing gifts that developed in our era: flowers and trees, fish and mammals, human beings who collaborated and bonded to further their species, … we give thanks.

–  for the creative ways that Earth developed to heal the challenges that Earth has encountered during her long story, … we give thanks.

–  for the people celebrating Earth Day in nearly 200 countries, … we give thanks.

–  for Pope Francis, whose commitment to care for our common home inspires people and organizations throughout the world, … we give thanks.

– for the leaders and legislators who have provided direction and laws that assist our planet to flourish, … we give thanks.

–  Add as you wish.

Share one image or experience that brought you awe or wonder this week.

Litany: Let us deepen our commitment to care for Earth. Take turns reading the following litany.
Response:  may we take action.

Water-Drought – Because stockpiles of nuclear weapons threaten all life whether or not they are ever used, may we take action.

– Because climate change already causes massive damage to all life on Earth, may we take action.

– Because multiple causes are resulting in a Sixth Major Extinction of life on Earth, may we take action.

–  Because mono-crops and farming with harmful chemicals result in inferior food and spoiled soil and water, may we take action. 

greenpeace31–  Because pollution, especially from plastics, is trashing so much of our planet including our oceans, may we take action.

– Because deforestation ruins soil, water, air, and all life, may we take action.

–  Because human greed and consumerism exploit humans and other species and resources, may we take action.

–  Because so many suffer from problems caused by environmental damage, may we take action.

Pause for a few moments’ quiet reflection. Share if you wish: What will we do, alone and/or with others, to enhance Earth’s future?

Sing: “Holy Now” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KiypaURysz4) or similar song/hymn of praise for creation

You ate WHAT?

Pick a food. Let’s say pancakes. Basic ingredients include flour, baking powder, salt, eggs, milk. You want sustainably sourced and fresh ingredients, yet each component has an ancient history.

Like human life, each of those ingredients dates to the beginning of the Cosmos 13.8 billion years ago, the star-bursts that resulted in our solar system, and the 4.5 billion years since our home planet, Mother Earth, started evolving! Like humans and all life, each has an approximate time frame woven within the story of Earth. Amazing, no? Over the centuries, humans created many religious ceremonies that require, and celebrate, food — both consecrated and not.

Here’s an overview of the stories of pancake ingredients:

Wheat is the result of several grass species that date to about 10,000 B.C.E. – 12,000 years ago. However, plant life first appeared on land between 495 and 443 million years B.C.E. Some research even dates it to about 700 million years ago. As Robin Wall Kimmerer reminds us in Braiding Sweetgrass, “Plants were here first and have had a long time to figure things out. … Not only do they feed themselves, but they make enough to sustain the lives of all the rest of us.”

Baking powder is a dry chemical leavening agent, a mixture of a carbonate or bicarbonate and a weak acid.  Use of modern baking powder began in the mid-nineteenth century, but a sodium bicarbonate and sodium chloride solution was used over a thousand years ago in Ancient Egypt.

Salt was in general use long before the beginning of recorded history. The earliest known treatise on pharmacology was published in China around 2700 B.C.E.  All life has evolved to depend on its chemical properties to survive.

Eggs commonly  come from chickens — but some dinosaurs laid eggs, as do ostriches! Whether the egg or the chicken came first will remain a puzzle, as will the certain date of which one was first consumed as food. Chickens were eaten in China about 10,000 years ago, and in Europe in the first century B.C.E. Jungle fowl were domesticated in India by 3200 B.C.E. Records from China and Egypt show that fowl were laying eggs for human consumption around 1400 B.C.E., and there is archaeological evidence for egg consumption dating back to the Neolithic age.

Milk in the U.S. usually comes from cows that trace their beginnings to about 8000 B.C.E. People began drinking milk about 7,500 years ago.

 Recent history

Each of these components is threatened in our times. Among the problems are toxic pesticides and fertilizers, genetically modified crops, factory farmed crops and animals, land and water pollution, climate damages (droughts, floods, fires), mono cropping, and damage from mining.

Yet, even a poisoned and misunderstood Mother Earth tries to feed us, and many Earth-lovers respond by lobbying for better laws to protect her, by purchasing organic and fair trade food, by composting, by trying to save the bees and the butterflies, the soil and the water.

Care might increase if everyone better understood and valued the history of our food, the fact that everything we eat was living before it unknowingly “gave its life” for us, and our complete interdependence and “inter-being” with what we eat. The following poem, by Melissa Studdard, helped me do those three things:

I Ate the Cosmos for Breakfast

—After Thich Nhat Hanh

It looked like a pancake,
but it was creation flattened out —
the fist of God on a head of wheat,
milk, the unborn child of an unsuspecting
chicken — all beaten to batter and drizzled into a pan.
I brewed my tea and closed my eyes
while I ate the sun, the air, the rain,
photosynthesis on a plate.
I ate the time it took that chicken
to bear and lay her egg
and the energy it takes a cow to lactate a cup of milk.
I thought of the farmers, the truck drivers,
the grocers, the people who made the bag that stored the wheat,
and my labor over the stove seemed short,
and the pancake tasted good,
and I was thankful.

 

I (Terri) add a grateful: Amen.