Societal Components to the Problem

The topic of plastic waste and its harmful effects on sea turtles is not a topic of discussion that is limited to ecology and biology. It is inextricably linked to humans, with inevitable societal and cultural aspects that should not be excluded from the conversation. First, it must be recognized that the environmental movement as a whole has been generally dominated by upper middle class, white, men. To have the ability to focus on environmental issues is a luxury because it (usually) means that a person’s other basic needs have been taken care of. The way Western society is currently constructed is highly consumeristic. It operates off of buying cheap, poorly made objects and clothes that are essentially viewed as disposable. To be able to afford “eco-friendly” products (think brands like Patagonia), tends to require a certain level of privilege that the majority of the world is not at.

To further understand the connections between the health of sea turtle populations and its complex relationship to the athropocene, it must be understood that while humans have undeniable detrimental impacts on sea turtles, our fates are linked. Sea turtles play vital roles in marine and beach ecosystems. When their populations become weak (or worse case scenario, extinct), beach and marine ecosystems suffer greatly (Bonaire Turtles). Due to the interconnectedness of ecosystems, the decline in sea turtle populations lowers essentially all other marine life (Bonaire Turtles). 10% of the world’s population depends on fisheries for their livelihoods, and 4.3 billion people depend on fish for 15% of their animal protein intake (FAO). The health of fish markets are vital to the economy and the livelihoods and nutritional needs of many (FAO). Indigenous populations that live on small islands are particularly at risk (FAO). Not only is the majority of their diet sourced from the ocean, but their livelihoods are wholly dependent on it. If they cannot catch fish, then they cannot eat, nor can they buy alternate food (Hunters of the South Seas).

This fisherman is an example of someone whose life is closely tied to the sea. While the relationship may not seem direct, the fate of this fisherman, and many other lives, are linked to that of sea turtles.