In the last 2 blog posts, we talked about how plastics affect the environment and our health. Now, we are turning to how the issue of plastic, and in a broader sense Climate Change, affects our own societies. Climate change will not affect us all equally - the severity of its effects depends on our socioeconomic status, the places we live, governmental policies, the conditions we work in, and many other factors - and it’s up to us to not only recognize these factors but also as a society call upon our leaders to use our power represent the best interests of those who cannot.
The first type of plastic was invented by John Wesely Hyatt in 1869. Hyatt’s motivation was prize money from a firm that wanted an alternative to ivory - a trade that was destroying elephant populations. So with the introduction of plastic, the environment was now “saved” with less reliance on bones, tusks, wood, etc. As well all know at this point, nature is limited, but plastic brought new possibilities. Now, it was possible to buy goods at a much cheaper and affordable price and this was brought to the luxury of poorer classes.
Despite how great this all sounds, our relationship with plastic would only lead to further problems. Single-use plastics took off in the 1950’s after World War II all across the world - with the term “Throwaway Living” coined in the US, since then they’ve made life so much more convenient... and disposable. Plastic has made significant contributions to medicine and science research, the shelf-life of our foods, and in general the items we use everyday. The only problem is that it won’t go away, and from the first blog post on the environment, that fact that is has reached deep into our oceans and in an unexplored land, harms our health, and contributes to Climate Change is a huge problem.
According to Srishti Singh from the Center for Environmental Education (CEE), Climate Change will be a heavy burden upon India’s Urban Poor in 4 ways - “Heat Stress, Water Security, Waterborne illnesses, and Inland flooding.” It doesn’t make sense that the part of society that contributes the least to Climate Change is the most affected and is also responsible for picking through waste that isn’t theirs. It’s not just in India, plastic is as big a problem in China and the Philippines. For example, the poor in the Philippines can only afford to buy container-based products like toothpaste, coffee, and condiments in mini plastic packages called sachets - which unfortunately cannot be recycled.
It’s up to us, those of us with the means to pave the way for a society that won’t face any harsher conditions of Climate Change. Srishti was quick to mention the middle class in all of this. “It’s much harder to teach them because they will fare better with Climate Change. The habits and lifestyle are much harder to change as well.” We can change and we can afford to. Saathi is based on the idea of giving all of us a choice. We can choose to contribute to an already struggling world or working towards improving the health of the environment and women. What will you choose?