A Love Letter to the Plastics Crisis by Dr. Antonia Sappong

Because somewhere along the way, most of us forgot.

A love letter to the plastic crisis,

In 2021, we are standing at the edge of an abyss of our own making. Or perhaps more accurately, we are running endless circles in a liminal space where the climate crisis, biodiversity loss, habitat degradation, and plastic pollution feel like isolated threats without any recognition that they are contained within the raging darkness of collective amnesia.

Because somewhere along the way, most of us forgot. We forgot that we are stardust with a pulse, that our blood is the sea, that our bones are the mantle of the Earth. We forgot that the I is we is you is they is us.

Out of this forgetfulness has come fear, fear of ourselves as unknown and unrecognizable entities. And out of this estrangement has come a language of war, a way to externalize our discomfort onto something that can be fought and conquered. Consequently, we have waged wars on every front we could manufacture; wars on drugs, on crime, on homelessness, on emigration, on viruses, on each other, on the elements, on nature itself.

So perhaps it is time for a new language. A language based not on violence, dominion, and separation, but rooted in connection, kindness, and wonder.

It should come as no surprise then that we are now being asked to treat the plastic and climate crises like a war zone. Faced with the fear that we have created something that has slipped past our control, we are told that we must fight “the battle of our time”. But perhaps, at this point in history, it is time to concede that despite our well honed battle techniques, we are not winning the war. One cannot win a war waged against oneself.

The deeply entrenched mythologies of the 21st century would have us believe that we are creatures of greed, hatred, and endless consumption. The problem with these mythologies is that with every iteration they slowly transmute into prophecy. We become our stories. But becoming doesn’t make us true.

So perhaps it is time for a new language. A language based not on violence, dominion, and separation, but rooted in connection, kindness, and wonder.

Imagine if we shifted away from decrying plastic the scourge of the ocean or the herald of the anthropocene, and instead welcomed it as a teacher of the balance between flexibility and strength. What if we wrote love songs to its longevity, to its capacity to provide clean food, medicines, warm clothing, and safe houses? If we could pause the fight, would we recognize that the carbon atoms of our polymers are the carbon atoms of our neural networks are the carbon atoms of our galaxies? Might we begin to honour the sameness in all that we are and all that we are surrounded by? Might we recognize that we are beings of creation not consumption?

And so as you embark upon this work of sustainability, I invite you to see the journey as a path to surrender. To return to the Earth and the sea and the stars. To treat the fossilized remains of our ancestors as more than a tool for endless expansion. To hold space for the hands that will shape it, the people who will be shaped by it, the raindrops that will fragment it, the winds that will carry it, and the future ancestors that will meet it millennia from now. As you begin, I invite you to remember.

Dr. Sappong currently works as a Family Doctor in Toronto, helping her patients to achieve healthier and happier lifestyles. She understands the connection between individual health and environmental health, and is a passionate advocate for access to healthy environments and social justice. As part of her roles as Co-Founder of PlasticFree Toronto, she works to educate and inspire her community to deal with issues of environmental pollution, climate change, poverty, and institutionalized racism.

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