Eighty percent of marine litter begins as litter on land. Most of this litter is plastic, which is not biodegradable.
Marine wildlife such as whales, seabirds, and turtles and fish die from choking, intestinal blockage, and starvation due to this litter.
Thousands of these animals also become disfigured and seriously injured from being caught in or cut by this plastic pollution.
According to Robert Cox’s publication, “Environmental Communication and the Public Sphere,” advertisements for cleaning up beaches, the effects of littering and donating to the cleaning cause are mind bombs: simple images meant to “explode in people’s minds.”
Organizations such as Sustainable Man and SurfRider advertise images of baby turtles that have grown deformed while stuck in plastic rings and decomposing seagulls with plastic littler and garbage inside of their stomachs.
These images play over and over in my head and I feel strongly that it is wrong to litter, but I do not take any action.
This attitude-behavior gap not only happens with me, but with many others who feel the same way about litter.
Studies suggest that people are more likely to take action if the message is focused on concerns for their own well-being and other people such as their family, children, etc.
That is why when I see animals being harmed in an advertisement, I’m moved but do not act.
When I see an advertisement that shows the fish I’m eating is damaging my stomach from plastic litter the fish has digested, I take action. I pick more litter off of the beach and out of the ocean when I see it.
A generation insensitive to media and prone to inaction may mean that the world’s oceans will continue to be filled with litter, to the point where sea creatures and swimming in them are no longer plausible.
However, if more advertisements are able to use mind bombs that overcome the attitude-behavior gap, litter may eventually disappear from our oceans.
I realize that I must act even if I do not feel compelled to do so by advertisements – and so do others my age. Otherwise, we will soon be swimming in litter and injured or dead sea creatures.