While browsing the Michigan Library website, I came across their upcoming events and exhibits page. Of particular interest to me was a screening of the documentary “A Plastic Ocean.” I had seen this film advertised on Netflix, but I had never gotten around to watching it. All I knew was that its topic was sustainability. I arrived at Hatcher Graduate Library on a cold evening, excited to start the film. There were even vegan cupcakes to try, which is always attractive to students.
“A Plastic Ocean” is a documentary about the devastating effects of plastic on the environment, especially in our oceans. The film begins by describing a breathtaking adventure to film the blue whale. However, the researchers soon come upon a sheet of debris floating in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Plastic is detrimental to marine life because it is so durable; it does not break down naturally. Plastics do break down into smaller pieces called microplastics, and these are easily ingestible by marine animals. Toxins cling to microplastics, so when sea animals eat the plastics, the toxins enter the bloodstream. Eventually, these toxins travel up the food chain and can end up in our own food. Unfortunately, consumption of the contaminated food can cause many adverse health effects for humans.
While there is no quick solution to the plastic problem, there are some everyday actions that everyone can take to mitigate its effects. The film recommends that people avoid all single-use plastics. In addition, everyone needs to recycle and reuse more. Finally, the fate of unrecyclable plastics has recently become more promising, as some of these plastics can now be converted into fuel.
The documentary was really interesting, and I am glad that I attended. However, I wish that more students had come. After the showing, there was a panel discussion with a U-M student leader in sustainability and a professional sustainability director at the University. While I wish that the student voice had been larger at the event, it just goes to show how many untapped resources there are for students within the U-M Library System.