Plasticus Maritimus: An Invasive Species
Plasticus Maritimus: An Invasive Species
Recycling has a long way to go
In the past, not only was there less plastic produced and consumed, but its impact on nature was unknown. And the word “recycling” made us feel relaxed. As long as we put plastic packaging in recycling bins, there was no problem. This plastic would be transformed, as if by magic, into other objects. Simple!
Our peace of mind ended when we began to understand all the problems associated with plastics and their recycling.
I invite you to dive into this sea of problems. Plastic problems. Not very pleasant. Can you take it? (p 125)
Author and biologist Ana Pêgo has written a book that needs to be widely available to all young people. Plasticus Maritimus: An Invasive Species is a creative and engaging look at a serious environmental problem – plastics in the world’s oceans. Without overwhelming young readers, it is a call for help presented in a clear voice that encourages action and problem-solving.
Plasticus Maritimus contains a large amount of information about the current problem of plastics in the oceans, but Pêgo begins her book by telling her own story as a young person growing up beside an ocean beach. Although the book is supported by comprehensive academic sources listed for each chapter at the end of the book, students will easily connect with the author as a real person, not primarily as an authority. (Don’t tell them she is.)
The illustrations, by prize-winning illustrator Bernardo P. Carvalho, are child-like in their style, making the book look like a very impressive school project. The style is very user-friendly, but, make no mistake, this is a serious academic look at a serious environmental problem.
The book begins with a chapter on “The Importance of the Oceans”. The middle section of the book is titled “Field Guide” and is divided into five sub-sections: “The Species Plasticus Maritimus”, “Do You Want to Know More about Plastic?”, “Common Ocean Plastic”, “Exotic Ocean Plastic”, and “How to Go into the Field”.
The remaining two chapters are “What We Can Do” and “Recycling: Why Can’t We Just Relax?”
The power and importance of this book lies in its ability to inspire action. In addition to the many illustrations, the book includes charts of Pêgo’s own research and findings on beaches around the world, photos of real beach ‘treasures’, Pêgo’s word for what her finds reveal “about the sea, the currents, erosion, and pollutants”.
Concepts are sometimes supported by storyboards, such as panels explaining bioaccumulation.
As part of her call to action, Pêgo’s “Field Guide” section includes what to wear when you go out to a beach and, equally importantly, how to stay safe.
Another important section helps young activists plan ahead for how they will deal with others who question or ridicule their actions, such as their not accepting a plastic cup or straw.
If you meet people who are skeptical or ill-informed about ocean plastics or people who think your position is strange, don’t be hostile. Explain calmly what you know and try to make them understand the problem and be willing to change. (p. 141)
The accompanying illustrations of people’s facial expressions are perfect.
Pêgo makes it clear that plastic is not inherently bad. For example, plastic is a durable lightweight material that reduces the fuel needed by planes and automobiles. It is single-use plastic that is the ever-increasing problem.
One of the failings of this book, however, is the lack of any index. I wanted to add a reference to the paragraph above about an excellent timeline titled “Brief History of Plastic Production”. I didn’t record the page in my notes, but I assumed it was likely at the end of the book. Note to anyone looking for this excellent resource; it is on page 56. Hopefully, the planned paperback edition will include an index, making this book much more user-friendly for students, (and adults).
One of the most intriguing characteristics of the book is that it is printed and bound on ancient-forest-friendly paper. Many book covers include lamination, which is a form of plastic. In this case, the creators of Plasticus Maritimus specifically requested that the cover not use lamination. Congratulations to them on walking the talk. This is a case where you truly can judge the book by its cover.
Plasticus Maritimus: An Invasive Species should be put in the path of all young people, not only those who already know they want to save the world, but also those who, through this book, may discover a new passion for environmental action.
Dr. Suzanne Pierson is sitting out the pandemic at home in Prince Edward County, Ontario, where she tends her Little Free Library for the enjoyment of the rest of her stay-at-home neighbours.