Save the Turtles

Picture by Jahnnina Alegre

By Ola Elmahdi, Opinion Editor

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Among the youth of today’s world, society is witnessing a phenomenon that is quite simple in essence and yet controversial in its very simplicity: the conversion to plastic straw removal. One may wonder why the use of metal straws, which seems to be mere minutiae, could be controversial, and they would find that the perceived issue lies in the questionable efficiency of this change’s ability to protect the environment. However, despite this growing skepticism regarding the effectiveness, the truth is that this change is effective precisely because of its simplicity.
Before understanding the importance of the movement towards the increased usage of metal straws, it is imperative that one comprehends the magnitude of the harmful effects of such straws. Such a small object can seem harmless, but when that small object is multiplied by millions around the world, it causes serious destruction of marine ecosystems. In 2015, Australian scientists Denise Hardesty and Chris Wilcox published a study in which they revealed that over 5 years, they had discovered over 7.5 million straws on the coastlines of the U.S. Furthermore, the United Nations Environment Programme released data in 2016 that demonstrated the negative effects of plastic on over 800 animal species as well as the millions of dollars lost from economies as a result of this plastic pollution of the oceans. When the Great British Beach Clean took place in 2017, the seventh top collected plastic item was the plastic straw. These studies make it clear that plastic straws cause significant damage on the environment, which is precisely why ceasing their production and encouraging the use of metal straws would have a positive impact of great magnitude.

Skeptics of the movement toward metal straws frequently claim that changing such a small habit would not have any effect on the environment, and people ought to take more drastic measures toward environmental health if they truly wish to prevent damage to marine ecosystems. However, throughout recent history, society has seen the slow rise and sudden fall of a number of environmentalist movements. What these skeptics do not realize is that the reason for the fall of these movements is that they asked too much of the general public. The average citizen will not be willing to change their whole lifestyle to be more eco-friendly, but when they are told that a simple change in the material of their straws could help the environment, they are more likely to cooperate. This is due to the unobtrusive nature of such a change in one’s lifestyle — one can gain a sense of satisfaction from taking this small step to help the Earth without making much of an effort. Change happens most efficiently when the maximum number of people cooperate, and the simpler the change, the more popular it will be. 

This is the reason why the conversion from plastic to metal straws has the potential to be incredibly effective — rather than a few people taking huge leaps towards a cleaner Earth, it is more effective for millions to make a small change for the better. 

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