The Final Straw

Picture this –– It’s a vibrant, summer day. A perfect 72 degree temperature with a brisk, light breeze. You’re enjoying the beautiful weather and spontaneously decide to embark on a vacation with a group of your closest friends to your favorite beach destination. For me, I’ve always loved visiting Panama City Beach, especially since I’ve spent two years of my life living on PCB. What is considered to be “The World’s Most Beautiful Beaches,” PCB is home to white-sand shorelines with a sugary consistency that stretch roughly nine-miles across the Gulf of Mexico. Once a fan-favorite tourist destination for families and especially college students planning a Spring Break vacation, PCB has recently been in the worst state it has ever been in. Why? Well, the extravagant spring break “celebrations” attract hundreds of thousands of college students, meaning thousands of pounds of trash is accumulated throughout the springtime. This contributes to the pollution of the ocean and ultimately global warming. Now, you are probably wondering how ocean pollution corresponds to deforestation. In short, it is not immediately connected, but when looking at the full picture and the lifecycle of a product, the ocean is mainly affected throughout the manufacturing processes. When a product is being manufactured, or even during the construction phase of a building, water is used in excessive amounts. As a result of the water-usage, companies must dispose of this water somehow, and with their “out-of-sight-out-of-mind” thought process, the ocean is unfortunately often times the final destination for the wastewater. Consequently, many species of aquatic plants and animals are suffering due to the improper disposal methods of wastewater. As a result, coral is constantly suffering by becoming bleached and it’s happening because of the constant dumping of contaminated water into the ocean. Annie Leonard once said that “there is no such thing as ‘away.’ When we throw anything away, it must go somewhere.”

Ocean pollution and coral bleaching could be considered wicked problems due to the fact that each ocean is unique in its pollution patterns, and there are no major solutions other than “ocean clean-up crews” spearheaded or endorsed by many celebrities you see online such as Cameron Dallas and Chrissy Teigen.

As part of a solution to the immense ocean-pollution, I feel as though city-workers in charge of cleaning up trash, not only on the beach but in all communities, should begin collecting, sorting, and recycling different recyclable materials similar to the process Oklahoma State University employs through the sustainability office. During our visit to the sustainability office, I was able to learn about the different methods used to ensure there is a more sustainable future for our campus. First, we toured the main facility where the upholstery shop, paint shop, and A-frame signs are created. We learned about the disposal process of furniture that belongs to OSU and how each item is repurposed and goes to be resold before parts are disassembled into scraps. We finished the tour with an in-depth explanation of how waste is sorted and compacted through multiple compactors provided by the university. After seeing how we are able to process waste efficiently for our campus, I instantly thought about the impact we could have on reversing global warming if we were to implement these practices around the nation. By doing so, we could keep the plastic out of the ocean and regulate wastewater disposal laws for the betterment of the world’s environment. All it takes is to actually implement these practices rather than constantly spew out ideas and theories without acting upon them. My question to you is, what would be the final straw that would get you to act upon and implement these practices in your daily life? Afterall, a journey of a thousand miles requires you to begin with a single step.

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