Tag Archives: life on earth

Documentary Review: Seaspiracy

By Mia Currie

Seaspiracy is a new Netflix documentary that sheds light on the issues contaminating oceans. Seaspiracy attempts to uncover what is really going on beneath the surface with regards to “dolphin-safe tuna”, “sustainable fishing”, and the “MSC” stamp. 

Overfishing has been an issue for many years, and the mass killings which are happening in the ocean are unparalleled to those on land. When fishing boats go out to catch fish, they additionally catch sharks, turtles, and even dolphins which end up being killed and discarded back into the ocean. This problem has caused the desolation of the shark population as well as the increased bribing of observers on fishing boats. These observers are hired to make sure that the “bycatch” isn’t killed and are rather put back into the ocean. But this does not usually happen. When people buy “dolphin-safe tuna” there is actually no guarantee the fish they bought is actually clean. One of the biggest appeals to eating fish is the omega-3 fatty acids which are extremely good for our health. In reality, these nutrients come from the algae which fish eat and are absorbed into their muscles. Therefore, there is no need to actually eat fish. In addition, fish are full of toxins such as mercury, PCBs, PBDEs, dioxins, and pesticides. According to research, there is no such thing as “clean fish” anymore because of how dirty our oceans are. Fish are not only filled with toxins but also with micro-plastics which are plastic particles that have been broken down by the sun and are consumed by fish.

The documentary also brings up the reality of “sustainable fishing,” which doesn’t actually exist. The main researcher in Seaspiracy went to various government officials as well as environmental protection organizations and asked them for their definition of “sustainable fishing” (which they were unable to provide). According to the documentary, the best thing you can do to save the oceans is stop eating what’s in it. There’s no such thing as “sustainable fishing” because the lack of regulations and enforcement make it so it cannot exist.  

This documentary was really eye-opening as it also touched upon the issue of forced labor and the inaccuracy of what we’ve been told we need to do to save the environment. For example, plastic straws only make up 0.03 percent of plastic in the ocean, while fishing gear makes up for over 46 percent for plastic in trash island.

Column: Life on Earth

This week’s topic: Food waste

By Mia Currie

Food waste is a far-reaching problem which has financial, ethical and environmental costs. There are a couple questions which need to be answered to understand this topic better. For example, what is food waste? 

Society has uttered the words “food waste” and “food loss” interchangeably for many years, but the words actually have different meanings.
1. Food waste are items that are fit for human consumption but are discarded
2. Food loss refers to resources which were lost in early stages of production 

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), high- and low-income countries discard respectively 670 and 630 million tons of food per annum. Although the numbers may be similar, the sources of waste vary greatly. In low-income countries, food loss is more common than food waste. As stated by the website RESET, in Sub-Saharan Africa, 83 percent of food is lost during production while five percent is wasted by consumers. Contrasting this system, in North America, 32 percent of food is lost, and 61 percent is wasted by consumers. These numbers are shocking due to the fact that one of the biggest problems in the world today is starvation.     

Why has food waste increased so drastically in the past couple of decades?

According to the FAO, an estimated 1.3 billion tons of food is wasted globally each year. To put this into perspective, that is one third of all food produced by human consumption. Food waste is very closely linked to globalization. Similarly, supply chains are getting longer than ever before, and everything is available everywhere. There is nothing natural about being able to eat Indian mangoes in America or American apples in Indonesia year-round.

How we can help

There are many things we can do to help decrease food waste around the world. The two main ways are to share your surplus by donating it to your local food bank and ensuring that your fresh fruits and vegetables are eaten promptly. The second way is to turn waste into worth. There are many ways for us to recycle leftovers and ensure it does not simply get disposed of in the garbage. Find new recipes that incorporate miscellaneous products you find in your pantry and try something new. It is so important for people to become aware of this problem and try to minimize their impact on this already massive piling of uneaten food.

Column: Life on Earth

This week’s topic: Fast Fashion

By Elle Storoe

We all love shopping for clothes, especially when we find websites where the clothes are inexpensive. It is an easy way to look fashionable at such an affordable cost. There is a name for this kind of business, it’s called “Fast Fashion.” Fast Fashion is a franchise that uses cheap materials, labor, and lots of water to make clothing at quick pace. This is great for people who want to be fashionable at an affordable price, however, the price is much greater considering the effects it has on our planet. Fashion is ranked within the top five most polluting industries, considering it takes more than 700 gallons of water to make one cotton shirt. Fast Fashion is also ranked within the top five of being one of the largest polluters of clean water, by using cheap and toxic chemicals to make the clothing. Another reason that Fast Fashion is bad for the environment is because, well, it’s fast. These businesses create and sell clothes at a high and fast rate, meaning that people are buying new clothes and discarding other clothes at a fast rate. Discarding clothes is bad for the environment. It can take up to 80 years for clothing to break down, and with the average American throwing away around 80 pounds annually, this does not go over well for our planet. 

How to Help

Now that we know that Fast Fashion is not good for our planet for many reasons, here are a couple of ways we can help. First, we can do research. Doing research on the brand before buying can help us know whether it is a good brand or not, how the company makes its clothes and whether the company is eco-friendly. Next, we can also thrift. Thrifting is a wonderful way to get great secondhand clothes at cheap prices. Third, we can buy less. Buying only what we need is a fantastic way to reduce our clothing footprint. Lastly, donating clothes to thrift stores, or giving clothes that do not fit to friends or family is another way to help save the planet. Reusing clothes helps save the items from going into the landfill every year. 

Column: Life on Earth

This week’s topic: Household cleaners

By Elle Storoe

Most of us clean our house by using cleaning products. But do we know what is in those cleaning products? We like to assume that the cleaners we use for our home are safe, however most are not. Inhaling, ingesting, and touching some of these toxic chemicals can cause severe injury, and even death. When choosing cleaning products for your home, we can look for these toxic chemicals on the packages of cleaning products. Chemicals such as bleach, ethylene glycol, ammonia, Phthalates, Sodium Hydroxide, phosphorous, and others, can be extremely toxic. 

Knowing what chemicals to look for can help us avoid harmful cleaning products. Not only are toxic chemicals in the cleaning products bad for us as humans, but they are even worse for our pets. Chemicals such as bleach, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, chemical compounds with the word “phenol”, and products with strong odors, are toxic to your pets. 

What is even worse is that all these toxic chemicals can end up in the ocean. We use chemicals to clean toilets, sinks, and other appliances, and the chemicals are eventually washed down the drain and, not all, but some end up in our oceans. This can be harmful to marine life, and even affect our beaches. 

The plastic bottles that the cleaning products are packaged in are also bad for the environment. Once the bottle is empty, it gets thrown away. We then buy another plastic bottle, to once again throw away when it’s empty; it’s a vicious cycle. Even though companies that create the cleaners designed some of the bottles to be disposable and recyclable, most are just thrown away.

We all probably know that the cleaning products we use are made by major manufacturers. The chemical plants could be thousands of miles away from our nearest grocery store. Just getting your household cleaning products to our nearest grocery store can impact the environment greatly. The transportation methods used, such as boats, plains and trains, can greatly affect the environment. (Check out my other column entry on travel, which can be found here

How to help:

Now that we know what the toxic chemicals are, we can avoid it when choosing our next cleaning products. When we are done with the bottle, instead of just throwing it away we can put it in the recycle bin. We can also look for cleaning solutions in better packaging that is biodegradable, or more easily recycled. We can also choose to create our own cleaning products, without using all the toxic chemicals. 

Column: Life on Earth

This week’s topic: Microfibers

By Elle Storoe

While washing clothes keep us clean, it’s also very harmful to the environment. Microfibers are micro-plastics that clothing, towels, and other fabrics release every time it is washed. The microfibers are exceedingly small particles of synthetic fabric that come from fabric while the items are in the washing machine. These tiny fibers travel from the clothes, towels, etc. through water pipes, and into oceans and rivers, thus creating pollution. Since the fibers are so small, it is consumed by marine animals. Not only are microfibers bad for marine life it is bad for humans as well. We often drink water polluted with microfibers and eat marine animals with microfibers in them. BBC researchers found that one article of clothing can produce more than 1,900 microfibers in just one cycle. Considering that 60 percent of clothing is made with the synthetic materials that produce the microfibers, it is easy to say that we are letting thousands of microfibers into the oceans every week. 

How we can help:

There are a few ways we can prevent thousands of microfibers from entering the oceans and rivers. One way we can help is buy getting a device that collects the microfibers before it leaves the washing machine (like the Cora Ball). Another way we can prevent microfibers from going into the ocean is to wash clothing less often. Lastly, we can avoid fast fashion products, cheaply made products have a higher chance of producing microfibers.