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A Planet Covered in Plastic?

May 4, 2013

Research & Collections

by Meg Lowman

One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. —Aldo Leopold

A recent trip of Raleigh community leaders to advise the royalty of Johor, Malaysia on global conservation and create scientific exchange produced lifetime memories, as well as a photo album depicting many amazing landscapes strewn with plastic. This observation inspired numerous conversations during our travels about our global landscape, usually strewn with plastic.

Throughout Asia (and other continents), plastic trash is strewn along train tracks and roadsides, swirling in urban parking lots, nestled amidst tall grasses, embedded in fences, littering shorelines, and piled high in landfills. Plastic is viewed by some emerging countries as “progress.” My colleagues in India proudly explain that the ability to throw plastic away is a metric of their increasing economic status, reflecting the Americanization of their culture.

In Malaysia, they sold water…

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