2020; a year of paradigm shifts. When one hears the word paradigm shift, what comes to mind? A major change in the concepts and practices of how something works or is accomplished. This year is a testament to the unpredictability and fragility of life. It is a proof that the regularities of our daily routine can be disrupted and changed in a fraction of a second which holistically add to the paradigm shift. On a social level, the lines between a socialist and an individualistic society have blurred. It almost like there is an advent of a new type of society, the one which meets with a 1.5 meter distance, refrains from shaking hands, hides its face behind mask, and above all, keeps itself first before anyone else.

Consequence; The highlighting word of 2020. Meeting people, heading out without mask, shaking hands, visiting crowded places, hugging family members, touching surfaces, not sanitizing hands, every act has a common consequence, “ The corona virus”. The most thought provoking fact of this entire ordeal is that are human beings the only inhabitants on Earth? Is the disruptive nature and fatal effects of the virus only subjected to humans? Are humans so self-consumed that in the process of protecting themselves they might be endangering their coexisting partners on Earth? Yet again, the superior beings overlooked the damage or the “Consequence” of their acts on Mother Nature.

Research suggests that the most popular measure of combating Corona virus, the mask, is a major threat to the marine life. Millions of masks are disposed in the sea resulting in extreme marine pollution and increase in the fatality rate of marine animals. Plastic pollution in oceans across the world is an existing issue. It is on the rise at alarming rates. In the years before the pandemic, environmentalists had warned people of the threat posed to oceans and marine life by skyrocketing plastic pollution. As much as 13 million tons of plastic is disposed into oceans each year, according to a 2018 estimate by UN Environment. Furthermore, 570,000 tons of plastic flow into the Mediterranean sea annually. According to WWF (World Wide fund for Nature), this amount is described as equal to dumping 33,800 plastic bottles every minute into the ocean. The disposable face masks are made of “polypropylene”, a type of plastic, and are not going to break down quickly. Marine animals mistake these masks for food which results in the thousands of deaths. Failure of proper disposable of face masks can lead to an ecological disaster in the coming years. One can say that these masks are an ecological time bomb.

What can we do to save the Mother Nature? The very first thing is to give it priority. Change our perspective of not just living for ourselves but for other life forms as well. Following are some course of actions that can contribute to the reduction of plastic pollution in the ocean:

  1. According to the World health organization, people aged above 60 are recommend to wear medical masks (disposable). People below 60 should embrace reusable and washable masks made out of good quality fabric.
  2. Swapping latex gloves for more frequent hand washing.
  3. Use of bio-degradable or eco-friendly bottles/containers for sanitizers.

As they say, “The Earth is what we all have in common.” This planet unites not only us but every living being present on it. Together we make it work in harmony. The responsibility of taking care of it should be as important as breathing, as it is all about survival.

By Rida Agha – Global Perspectives / Islamiat