Plastic, not so fantastic

Our tendency to self-destruct is never more evident than when I see the indelible traces of our presence wherever I have gone to photograph birds over the last few years. Some of these are quite remote places where I would have expected minimal human footprint. But no, we haven’t really spared these places from the impact of our profligate consumerism.

Whether it is in the vast openness of the Rann of Kutch, or the high-altitude stark beauty of Ladakh or the dense bamboo forests of Arunachal & Sikkim or the subtropical pine and broad-leaved forest of the Shivalik ranges in Uttarakhand, all extremely fragile ecosystems that we need to go out of our way to conserve and protect, the most ubiquitous sight that has greeted me has been petrochemical derivatives in various shapes, forms and sizes that are symbolic of our consumption economy.

Plastic bottles, wrappers, plastic bags, plastic-laminated paper cups, plastic cups, styrofoam cups and plates, empty tetrapak cartons, laminated paper plates and the like. I must admit that I have contributed to this collection, though, of late, I have been carrying my own water bottle, steel glass and unpackaged snacks of dried nuts to reduce my personal impact.

Garbage dumps become areas for some of these birds to forage in search of food and I have often ended up clicking pictures of a bird that would have some of this plastic in the frame ruining what would have been a usable image. I would, usually, end up deleting these pics later, especially if it was a species that I had clicked before. This one of the Robin Accentor (juv) was shot somewhere around South Pullu enroute the Khardung La pass in Ladakh. I love the pose of the bird here and detest the plastic perch and the bokeh-ed blue wrapper around the beak.

Going back to the topic of plastics, unless we all do our bit and consciously reduce consumption, I just don’t see how we will survive this century. Few simple things that we can all do with minimal effort:-

  1. Carry your own reusable bottles and tank up whenever you find a clean water source.
  2. Carry a glass for your chai / coffee and avoid any disposables.
  3. Be sensitive to any plastic / non bio-degradable trash and carry them back into cities to dispose. These places will have no infrastructure to recycle / reuse plastic waste.
  4. Avoid any unnecessary consumption of packaged foods. A simple mixture of nuts and dried fruits can make for a good and healthy snack.

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