The Internet is amazing. Need proof? Have a look at this photo:
This a cafeteria lunch tray. Full of plastic from 1 bird.
OK…what’s the big deal?
Last summer, while on Midway, fellow FWS volunteer Liz was walking through our usual albatross plots, checking to see who was still there. We banded a number of fledgling Laysan Albatross and continued to check their nest sites to see how long they took to fledge. Some died and some survived and took off. Anyway. This bird had long-since died by the time she found it, so she started poking around. Disclaimer: it might sound weird to say that we poke through dead birds, but you have to understand…on Midway, there’s plastic in all these birds and we always want to know how much and what kinds. So, when we see a dead bird…we poke. Hey, we’re scientists!
What she uncovered is what you see in the photo above. That small pile of brownish blobs down in the lower right-hand corner? Those are the only fragments of organic material we found in the bird (kukui nuts and pumice…things that actually belong in an albatross gut). Everything else on that tray was found in that bird. That baby bird.
Here’s where things get really, really nutso. Just sorting through the plastic (424 pieces in total) wouldn’t do. So, we posted it to Facebook and then just sort of…left it at that. A few people commented and some more “liked” it but nothing too unusual and then the attention died down, or so I thought. That was on July 25th.
Sixteen days later, on August 10, something weird happened and I didn’t notice for months. What happened was that somehow this photo was shared 112 times…which is about 112 times more than usual. What’s weirder still is that I honestly can’t explain how it happened. The social media machine just took over. I sifted through the people and organizations sharing the photo and they were all over the place and I mean all over. Across the US and other countries! People working for wildlife rehabilitation clinics, sales associates for real estate agencies, various bird and wildlife organizations and everybody in-between.
What’s even better is to read the comments stemming from this shared photo and realize that everybody has the same reaction: “Holy cow, what are we doing to our planet?” This was just amazing. Plastic is so not awesome but the fact that all these people were exposed to this issue and affected by it in the same way is incredible.
There are those that believe that social media is destroying human interaction, and there are those that think it’s bringing us all closer together. Sometimes I think it can be a little ridiculous but in cases like this one…I’m just really, really grateful. This is what social media is all about: sharing things that are important to us. Thank you, Internet. You are awesome.
Same plastic, preserved.