One picture can change the entire world

Remember this awful photo?

The child in question was not, of course, the only child to drown off boats full of illegal migrants crossing the Mediterranean. There were hundreds of them. But in this case, the photographer decided to publish the photo, because he wanted the world to see what was going on on the beaches of Turkey.

In a heartbeat, the attitude of people in western countries towards illegal immigrants softened considerably.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I was as horrified as anyone to see the poor child dead on a beach like that. He didn’t deserve that.

But what struck me about it is how one picture can change the attitude of almost the whole world. One picture of a dead child and countries throw open their borders.

Well, maybe it is not quite as simple as that, but I’m sure you see what I mean.

The same thing is being done with the battle against plastics. The media are selecting single pictures to give the impression that plastics are destroying marine life.

Take a look at some of these from National Geographic:

In its article,?National Geographic?admits that it has used these photos to influence people into changing their attitude towards plastics. Just as with the photo of the dead child on the beach, the magazine is trying to change people’s behaviour by showing graphic images of marine animals affected by our bad behaviour.

But the approach is not always an honest one.

For a start, the title – ‘Planet or Plastic’ implies that we have to make a choice between one or the other. But that is not true. We can have both. It is simply a matter of behavioural changes.

Secondly, the turtle in the third picture is caught up in a fishing net. Over 50% of the plastics found in the oceans are fishing nets. But the average supermarket shopper has no influence on that at all.

The seahorse was photographed in the polluted waters off Indonesia. The vast majority of the plastics in the oceans come from 8 rivers, all of which are in Asia.

So the magazine manages to make people in countries like New Zealand feel guilty about their use of plastics, even though they are doing virtually nothing to add to the pollution of the oceans. Banning plastic bags here in New Zealand will do nothing to help any of the marine animals in any of the above photos.

But a picture paints a thousand words. We all know that.

The hardest thing is looking at these photos and not feeling guilty about using plastic bags but there is no reason for anyone to feel guilty if we act responsibly and dispose of plastics properly.

There is no reason for outright bans either.

Our government ought to realise that New Zealanders are responsible people and can be educated to behave correctly. Instead of that, it treats us all like naughty children who must be punished for things they have done.

Or, in the case of polluting the oceans with plastics, we are being punished for things we have not done and that is the worst thing about it all.

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