Beth Terry Bursts Your Bubble: You're Chewing On Plastic

This is part 10 of Stiv Wilson's tour to better understand how plastic ends up in the ocean. Read the previous installments here.

Did you know all chewing gum is made of plastic? Yup, even the "natural" stuff. If you look at the ingredients, you’ll see poly vinyl acetate listed. This was the discovery of one of Beth Terry’s FakePlasticFish blog readers. Terry researched the claim to death and sure enough, she found it to be true: you’re chewing minty fresh plastic.

Terry started her blog, FakePlasticFish, in 2007 after reading an interview with Captain Charles Moore on plastic ingestion by albatrosses on Midway Atoll. As she says, “That baby chick full of plastic affected me like no other piece of environmental information had before. Sure, I had seen An Inconvenient Truth, been a member of Sierra Club, seen photos of clubbed seals and stranded polar bears, but for some reason that photo really hit me because the objects inside that bird were everyday things that I use in my life and there was a direct connection between me and what happened to that poor bird.”

Terry’s project gets its name from Radiohead’s song, Fake Plastic Trees, a scathing meditation on the synthetic world we all inhabit. But unlike Tommy Yorke’s sad tale, Terry is all about solutions and personal empowerment on the consumer level. For her part, she consumes almost no plastic and she writes nearly every day on how you too can lead a plastic free life. From making her own cat food to avoid BPA lined catfood cans to ordering toilet paper online to avoid the multi-pack plastic wrap, Terry practices what she preaches and finds creative, convenient solutions to plastic dilemmas. “I think people want to know what they can do. That’s why I do what I do—because everything has gone to shit, and people get overwhelmed and lost—If we don’t try we won’t fix anything, we just won’t.”

Ultimately, the blog started as a personal exploration into Terry’s own habits as a way to track her own plastic footprint. Soon, it grew into a full scale project and as her scope grew, so did her readership. “Every time I feel I get to the point that I’m going to repeat myself or I’ve exhausted this subject, I learn something new—like the chewing gum thing. So I keep going.”

Stiv Wilson is a freelance writer/photographer and the communications director for the Project. He lives in Portland, Oregon. Next up: Next up Portland Mayor Sam Adams on the cost of plastic to the average taxpayer

Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

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