Human ingenuity is really a remarkable thing. Lately I’ve been watching episodes of the new “Cosmos” series hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson, and I’ve marveled at the human discoveries described on the show that have led us to where we are today.
Discoveries of sound waves and planetary movements and radioactivity—it makes me feel a quiet murmuring of pride. Humans are equipped with such magnificent curiosity, and we’re hard-wired towards progress. We love to build, to advance, to design and then to redesign. An example—my wallet can’t keep up with the evolutions of the iPhone.
Our strong will is a juggernaut that has shaped this world so profoundly that our presence is seen everywhere—from space, our cities glitter with beads of light; in the ocean, our unwanted plastics swirl in the wake of fish. As long as we are on this planet, as long as this planet can sustain us, we will keep studying it and we will keep altering it.
Right now, our footprint on Earth is mainly a negative one. But we have just as much power and imagination to wipe our own footprint clean. We have just as much determination and intelligence to positively impact this planet as to do it harm.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as I’ve come across several exciting articles that are talking about advancements in fighting plastic. In particular, my husband shared two with me that have really given me hope about our environment’s future.
One, an article from AOL.com, takes a look at a new kind of water bottle. Instead of the typical cylinder with a screw-off plastic top, this portable pouch of water comes in a plastic-free bag. It’s a sort of water “pod” that looks a little like an amniotic sac of drinkable H20. Not only does this pod eliminate the necessity of bottle caps (which are proliferating at disturbing rates in the bellies of sea birds), but this bag is edible.
The product is called Ooho!, and it is advertised as fully biodegradable (so it will leave no trace in the earth or in your gut). The bag surrounding the water is made of a combination of organic materials, a “seaweed and calcium chloride-based membrane.” Say the reviewers, “It’s essentially an edible water balloon. All you have to do is pierce the membrane and gulp it down.”
How cool (and weird) is that?
The scientists who developed this water pod say that nature was their inspiration. They observed the way membranes naturally form to harness liquids, and they mimicked that in creating this design.
See—amazing human ingenuity.
My husband shared with me another exciting article from the Inquisitr. The article talks about scientists who are hard at work trying to clean up the plastic already clogging our planet. Specifically, these researchers found that mealworms, those icky, Beetlejuice-like worms of nightmares, can eat certain types of plastic and actually thrive.
When given a helping of Styrofoam to eat, not only do the mealworms happily devour it, they also produce biodegradable waste. Something in the mealworm’s gut transforms plastic particles into organic material, and follow up studies show that this waste is safe enough to be used in soil for growing crops.
One of plastic’s greatest evils is its inability to biodegrade. But if mealworms can serve as a filter to transform those stubborn polymers into organic materials, it seems we have a chance to turn our plastic disaster around.
The downside is that mealworms are tiny. Even if we employed every mealworm on the planet to chow down night and day in our landfills, they could only consume an infinitesimal portion of the world’s plastic. So, my initial vision of mealworms taking a journey to the Pacific Garbage Patch to feast it out of existence was a little unrealistic. Yet, just knowing that there’s a kind of bacteria inside of the mealworm that can produce this transformation is inspiring. Certainly some brilliant scientist will find a way to replicate that bacteria’s effect. We have the brainpower and enthusiasm to do so.
In the meantime, though, we need to keep thinking and dreaming up creative ways to attack the mess we’ve made. And I truly believe that we can.