From today’s Guardian –
You can witness a lot of environmental horrors, but there comes a moment when something snaps. It came for Rebecca Hosking last year when she was filming wildlife in the Pacific. What sounded like a nice job turned into something from a David Cronenberg film.
Hosking was on a beach on Midway island, a remote Hawaiian atoll. But instead of finding some pre-lapsarian wilderness, she and a colleague were confronted with the horror of hundreds of albatrosses lying on the sand.
The great birds’ stomachs had been split open by the heat, and bits of plastic were spewing out between the feathers and the bones. All kinds of plastic – toys, shopping bags, asthma inhalers, pens, cigarette lighters, toothbrushes, combs, bottle tops. The birds had swallowed them and choked to death.
It got worse. There were humpback whales, seals and turtles – all dead or dying from the plastic. Wherever they went the sea was full of tiny pieces of plastic and every tide brought more. On the leeward side of Midway they found thousands of albatross chicks dead or fatally weakened. Hosking picked up one still alive. It pecked her and then died too. At that, Hosking broke down in anger and distress. Most people would have left it there, but Hosking proved as tough as the bits of old toothbrush she saw. She went home to Modbury, the south Devon town where she was born and has always lived. She finished the film for the BBC. Then she set about banning plastic bags. Just like that.
In under a month, working with friends and showing her film, she persuaded all 43 Modbury shopkeepers to replace the plastic bag, the symbol of the throwaway society, with reusable cloth bags. What started as a six-month trial period became a permanent voluntary project, and the town’s traders now reckon they have avoided 500,000 bags ending up in the environment.
John Sauven, director of Greenpeace UK, said: “She’s changed the national perspective about the issue in a few months. She went as far away as she could get from her town and gave what is happening in the Pacific real meaning and relevance here. She should be prime minister.”