On November 3rd, I attended a documentary showing about the endangerment of the Red Wolf. Red wolves are not hybrids of coyotes and wolves, even though many people say they are. Red wolves are much larger than coyotes. It is also thought that red wolves share a common ancestor with wolves. Currently, there are no more than 40 red wolves living on earth today. If you compare red wolves to lion, tigers, and polar bears one could say that those species are flourishing. But that does not make the red wolves condition more important than lions, tigers, and polar bears – both cases are devastating.
At the moment, the very few red wolves that roam the earth are being protected in the Alligator River Wildlife Refugee in North Carolina. While the red wolves are receiving protection, the area isn’t ideal for the species. Red wolves, like regular wolves, require a lot of land to thrive.
Years ago, the protection for Red Wolves was almost terminated because private land owners were complaining about seeing red wolves on their property and that they were competing with the endangered species for deer. In order to do this, Fish and Wildlife was about to declare the Red Wolf extinct so that they can halt all works for protecting the red wolves. This is something that I found insane, how do you declare a species extinct when there are still 40 of them roaming around trying to survive? Luckily, Fish and Wildlife didn’t pull the plug and continued to provide protection for the endangered species.
The endangerment of the red wolves was incredibly sad to hear. At the end of the short movie, there was a speaker to talk about an organization that works to continue protecting the red wolves. The speaker really wants to get the attention of many people about the red wolves. Right now many people aren’t aware of what is happening to animals like the red wolves. I’m sure if more people were aware of what is going on, more people would care and want to take action.
This semester I had an amazing opportunity to intern for Five Gyres through the Office of Sustainability. Five Gyres is an organization, founded by Sylvia A. Earle, that researches plastic pollution in our ocean and discovers what solutions are out there to help out our ocean. During my internship, I learned so much about the issues at hand regarding our ocean and aquatic wildlife. I spent a lot of my work focusing on microplastics. Microplastics, or microbeads, are tiny plastic beads that are in our cosmetic and hygienic products. When we wash our face, tiny microbeads are washed down the drain. Water then goes through a water treatment plant where it is ‘cleansed’ before entering the ocean. Since microplastics are so small, a majority of the time the beads slip through the treatment plant and sneak into the ocean. Imagine how many microbeads float in our ocean from the thousands of people who wash their face on a daily basis. When in the ocean, the microbeads act as a sponge, absorbing many toxins and pollutants. These pollutants will either form gyres or float among the ocean. Aquatic wildlife feed on the toxic microbeads and for those who are meat-eaters, researchers are finding that people are ingesting these microplastics as well due to fish consumption.
This was saddening to learn but there are ways to help the ocean and its wildlife. LUSH cosmetics and Native Eyewear are two of many companies that are eco-friendly and aware of the ocean-polluting issue. All of LUSH’s products are animal-free tested, made naturally by hand, and does not contain microbeads. 80% of their products are vegan and their products have an expiration date because of the natural preservatives it contains. Native Eyewear is a cosmetic company that sells makeup made without any microplastics. So when someone goes to wash off his or her makeup, the makeup being washed down the drain is not harmful to the environment.
Soon, companies that do or do not contain microbeads in their products will no longer have the luxury option of choosing. A microbead ban is projected to go in action in January 2017. This ban will permit cosmetic and hygienic companies from making their products with microbeads.
Along with microbeads, I also did work with microfibers. Microfibers are tiny fibers that fall from clothing in washing machines. Just like microbeads, microfibers are too small to be caught in water treatment plants and they escape into the ocean. Patagonia outdoor clothing and gear is one of few companies that is trying to shift consumers to clothing without microfibers.
Working with Five Gyres was incredibly interesting and I have already made the switch to microplastic-free products. My toothpaste, cleanser, shampoo, lotion, and many more products all come from companies that promote a microplastic free lifestyle. It wasn’t a hard switch at all, especially after learning about the harmful effects that our cosmetic and hygienic products could have on our environment. If you visit Five Gyres website, they provide information on harmful plastic that are in people’s daily lives and solution to these issues.