Researching and writing | Unsustainable Communities

I plan on making my book quite text heavy, it will be broken down in to four main parts, each with its own introduction.

The first page in the book is text only and is an introduction to the book. The title of the book is Blue Planet Effect and so the introduction begins by explaining what that is. There has been a lot of media coverage of the Blue Planet effect recently so that wasn’t too difficult to research. I looked at several different articles such as these:

I then began research into disposable cups. I wanted to find plenty of statistics because I think they can really help with the shock factor. For example, 2.5 billion cups are thrown away annually in the UK, a stat that surprised me during my research. Initially this research was going to go onto its own page, in front of the images of disposable cups, however I ended up changing the layout slightly and so I added this research onto the end of the introduction instead. Again, there is a lot in the news about disposable cups at the moment and so this wasn’t too much of a challenge to research. The challenge was narrowing down all of the information into a coherent introduction.

Introduction:

When Blue Planet II aired in late 2017, it brought to light the devastating impact that plastic pollution is having on our marine life. Viewers watched helplessly as a mother albatross fed her chicks pieces of plastic, believing them to be food, as a hawksbill turtle became entangled in a plastic bag and mother dolphins potentially exposing their new-born calves to pollutants through their contaminated milk. The British public is right to be shocked by this because at this point in time an estimated 12.7 million tons of plastic ends up in our oceans each year, the equivalent to one truck load every minute. Plastic is cheap and easy to produce and is also incredibly versatile. However, this has resulted in a ‘disposable’ lifestyle in which an estimated 50% of plastic is used only once before being thrown away. In the UK, an estimated 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups are thrown away each year. Although these cups are made largely with paper, they are lined with a layer of plastic polythene, which is tightly bonded to the paper, allowing the cup to hold liquid. This means that these cups cannot be easily recycled at standard recycling plants and instead need to be taken to special handling facilities – only three of which exist in the UK. Since the release of Blue Planet,  several of the UKs biggest coffee chains are offering a small discount to customers who provide their own cups. Despite this, the convenience of a takeaway cup is a much easier option for many.

Plastic is a valuable resource and plastic pollution is an unnecessary and unsustainable waste of that resource.

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The second section of the book is laid out in exactly the same format. It begins with an introduction featuring information about plastic bags and the damage are causing to marine life. I made sure to keep it about marine life because the title of the book is ‘Blue Planet Effect’ and therefore everything should link back to that. Below are some of the articles I used to support this section of writing:

In 2014 more than seven billion single use plastic bags were handed out by the UK’s seven biggest supermarkets the equivalent of 140 per person and amounting to a total of 61,000 tonnes of plastic. If these plastic bags make their way in to our seas then they can have a deadly impact on marine life. A plastic bag floating on the water’s surface can easily be mistaken for prey by a sea gull or albatross. Upon picking up the bag and it may attempt to swallow it, resulting in choking. If it successfully ingests it, then the bag will slowly poison the bird from within. To a sea turtle, a plastic bag can look remarkably similar to a jellyfish, but instead of providing the nutrition a sea turtle needs, it releases toxic chemicals into it’s body.

In 2015, an international study led by a University of Queensland researcher revealed more than half the world’s sea turtles have ingested plastic or other human rubbish.

In October 2015 the UK Government introduced a five pence charge on plastic bags handed out by retailers in England. The impact of the scheme has been evident with the number of plastic bags being used by UK shoppers dropping by 85% to around 500 million. The scheme has also proved that government action can encourage dramatic change. Hopefully this trend will continue and the number of single use carrier bags being bought and sold in the UK will continue to drop.

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There is a small paragraph next to the final image in this set. The image is of a reusable bag and so next to it I wrote about the sustainability of reusable bags in comparison to single use plastic bags. This was quite a bit harder to research than the previous two topics. There wasn’t a lot of information about the benefits of reusable bags, or many stats. This was only a small paragraph though and so I was able to find enough information for that small section of text. Below are some of the websites I used for research:

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The next section is about Cotteswold Dairy. For this part I had to use quite a bit of my own knowledge from my visit there. The rest of the information was sourced from news articles that had covered the general story about an increase in glass bottle sales and from the Cotteswold Dairy website. My aim was to clarify the link between the cup/bag photos and the dairy photos. My intention was to show what people are doing in order to cut down on their plastic consumption.

Research links:

Milk doorstep deliveries have been in steady decline over the past 20 years. Back in 1975, 94% UK milk was delivered in glass bottles, but by 2016 that had decreased to just 3%.Supermarkets brought with them the convenience of picking up your milk with the rest of your weekly shop, rather than having it brought to your doorstep by a milk man. According to Roger Workman, 72, the current Chairman of Cotteswold Dairy and son of founder, Harry Workman, they “used to supply every house in the area, that was the only way to get your milk until supermarkets came in”.

Since the release of Blue Planet II, Cotteswold Dairy, based in Tewksbury, has seen a dramatic rise in the number of people requesting to have their milk delivered in glass bottles. Each glass bottle sent out by the Dairy is rinsed and reused an average of fifty times meaning they are far more environmentally friendly than the single use plastic milk cartons. As well as feeling as though they are being environmentally friendly, customers also enjoy the novelty and nostalgia of having their milk delivered right to their doorstep on the back of an electrically powered milk float.

At present, the dairy fills 60,000 glass bottles every day, but this is dwarfed in comparison to the demand for milk in plastic cartons. Workman explains that if the demand for more milk in glass bottles then they will “put more bottles out there”. As well as having environmental benefits, the comeback of the milk man could also have a positive impact on communities and perhaps the clinking of glass bottles and the whirr of the milk float will once again become a familiar soundtrack to Britain’s mornings.

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The final section of the book is about Zero Green in Bristol. Again, it starts with a page of text introducing the images and explaining how the shop came to be. Similarly to the Cotteswold Dairy section, this involved using information from the Zero Green website and news articles. The shop has only been open for a couple of months and so there wasn’t a lot about it.

Research links:

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The book ends with a quote from Sir David Attenborough. I wasn’t sure if this was too obvious, but upon discussion with peers I decided that it was an important quote and I felt as though it summed up the book well. I also liked that it was a quote from the Blue Planet series.

“We are at a unique stage in our history. Never before have we had such an awareness of what we are doing to the planet, and never before have we had the power to do something about that. Surely, we have a responsibility to care for Our Blue Planet. The future of humanity – and indeed all life on earth – now depends on us.”

– Sir David Attenborough

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