“Let’s eliminate single-use plastic!”

© F.Latreille/Tara Expéditions

29 September 2014

Saturday, the crew welcomed aboard for lunch Etienne Bourgois, President of Tara Expeditons, and Gabriel Gorsky, scientific director of Tara Mediterranean. It was an occasion to discuss the problem of plastic pollution, and imagine the future.  

An on-going discussion, difficult to transcribe in full. Here’s an excerpt:

Gabriel Gorsky: There have been so many wake-up calls that didn’t get anywhere. I’m a little pessimistic. Regardless of the urgency of certain situations, we must initiate appeals for actions that are achievable! 8% of oil is used to make plastics, the majority in packaging that sometimes ends up in nature. Tara has launched an appeal to reduce the use of these plastics. Let’s begin right away by eliminating single-use plastic!

Etienne Bourgois: Apparently this seems to be well on its way.

Gabriel Gorky: “This is where you need to focus! We have to proceed step by step. Then we need to decrease plastics in the 2nd and 3rd categories: plastic bottles, and other plastic products that are not essential. At each stage we must involve industry, to find means of production that are as cheap as oil and can create many jobs. Otherwise, our calls for action will have no effect.

Noëlie Pansiot: We also need to raise general awareness about the problem.

Gabriel Gorsky: Of course, and Tara does this very well! Tara uses the necessary communication tools and the media.  It’s time for scientists to emerge from their ivory towers where experts talk only to other experts. Because ultimately there’s no response, no understanding or follow-up.

Noëlie Pansiot: Why do you think people need disasters to react?

Gabriel Gorsky: It’s human nature. Communication, the educational activities carried out aboard Tara, this closeness to people is very important. We realize that many people are already convinced. I think this is where Tara and other NGOs that raise awareness have succeeded – because ultimately people will speak out – they are already speaking out.  It’s time to take action, and involve the voting process. We need to elect people who will fight for ecological causes. It will be a long struggle, but certainly doable. The problem is that a lot of damage has already been done, and we must not fool people. We won’t be able to improve the state of the Earth overnight.

Noëlie Pansiot: As for plastic pollution, we can already try to stop it.

Gabriel Gorsky: Yes, we can stop it, especially in the smaller basins, such as the Mediterranean where most floating plastic eventually ends up on the shores and can be collected. In such places, if inputs are reduced, we can do something. It seems more difficult in the large gyres where we can’t get rid of the plastic so easily, because it covers extremely large areas. But of course, we must first reduce the use of plastic, since in many cases it’s not essential.

Etienne Bourgois: What about the Mediterranean – is the situation better than 30 years ago? ”

Gabriel Gorsky: Cousteau was wrong! The Mediterranean is alive and relatively well. I would say that nature is doing well. We now have new species, biodiversity has actually increased, but for humans things aren’t going so well. For example, plastic disseminates opportunistic pathogens such as Vibrio, which could cause cholera if conditions are right. There are a lot of pathogenic species that roam everywhere around the Mediterranean. For example, the tiger mosquito is now in Marseille.

 

Interview by Noëlie Pansiot

 

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