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Why is this heartbreaking?

Summary:
The Telegraph tells us that: Kingfishers, otters and swans are being forced to dodge plastic in Britain's rivers, the first images from a nationwide river survey have shown.The University of Exeter and Greenpeace are currently testing river water at 13 sites nationwide and analysing plastics found there.Images taken during sampling show otters swimming alongside plastic bottles, voles eating plastic, and plastic in the nests of swans, moorhens and coots.The headline telling us:Heartbeaking images show otters and kingfishers living alongside plastic in British rivers Why is this heartbreaking?One advantage of maturity in years - but not too much of course, given the effect upon memory - is that ability to recall what we used to worry about. Which was that Britain’s waterways were so

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The Telegraph tells us that:

Kingfishers, otters and swans are being forced to dodge plastic in Britain's rivers, the first images from a nationwide river survey have shown.

The University of Exeter and Greenpeace are currently testing river water at 13 sites nationwide and analysing plastics found there.

Images taken during sampling show otters swimming alongside plastic bottles, voles eating plastic, and plastic in the nests of swans, moorhens and coots.

The headline telling us:

Heartbeaking images show otters and kingfishers living alongside plastic in British rivers

Why is this heartbreaking?

One advantage of maturity in years - but not too much of course, given the effect upon memory - is that ability to recall what we used to worry about. Which was that Britain’s waterways were so polluted that we didn’t have any wildlife. The 1950’s Thames was dead water, not a living thing above the size of E. Coli in it below about Teddington or so. Rivers of London is even a novel using this as its basic underlying conceit. Now we’ve got salmon in there. One of the things about Tarka The Otter was the complaint that such magnificent - if often vicious hunters - creatures would be no more than decomposing corpses soon enough.

OK, we’ve got the wildlife back and it has to dodge plastic. And?

The point being that sure, we’re using more plastic than we used to. These past few decades have indeed seen a significant rise in our use, our release as waste into that environment. They’ve also seen a massive diminution of all the other wastes we used to splay about. The net result - net note - is better. Why is this heartbreaking?

It’s even possible that we’d like there not to be the plastic out there as well. But as we consider what we’re going to do about that we must indeed recall that the current solution is vastly better than the one we had before we all started using plastics. Maybe it’s all just a coincidence, maybe it’s a correlation and there’s no causality to it. But whether or not that’s true is the thing we’ve got to consider.

It’s at least possible that our plastic use, along with it littering the waterways, is why we’ve actually had the swans, the coots, the otters, back. And if that’s true then what should we do then?

Again, not to say that is true. Only that that’s the question to consider.

Tim Worstall
Tim Worstall is a British-born writer and Senior Fellow of the Adam Smith Institute. Worstall is a regular contributor to Forbes and the Register. He has also written for the Guardian, the New York Times, PandoDaily, the Daily Telegraph blogs, the Times, and The Wall Street Journal. In 2010 his blog was listed as one of the top 100 UK political blogs by Total Politics.

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