My Mermaid Tale About Plastic Pollution in our Oceans
The Oceanides, Goddesses, and Water Nymphs
Mermaids in mythology are believed to only exist in the minds of sailors, who claim to have spotted them while on long ocean voyages. Christopher Columbus wrote, in 1493, that he saw them near the coast of Hispaniola, and described them as "three female forms, rising high out of the sea, but not as beautiful as represented." The records of the English pirate, Blackbeard, tell of him instructing his crew to steer clear of waters he claimed were 'enchanted' by mermaids. The tale goes on that they were afraid of sailing through the charted waters, due to the mermaids seducing the men into giving up their gold and dragging the ships underwater. In Korean mythology, a mermaid warns islanders about impending storms by throwing rocks into the sea and singing. Another Korean tale is a story about an undersea kingdom ruled by a Princess named Hwang-Ok. Carved depictions of the beautiful, mysterious, half-human and half-fish creatures, dating back to the 11th century, have been found in the British Isles. In British folklore, mermaids were believed to provoke disaster, because they always seemed to be seen before it struck. This made them into unlucky omens.
The three mermaids in my tale swim close to land, and support the foreboding folklore for disaster. They found refuge using the rivers that flow across South America, from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. The narrow passageways, from seas and lakes, can have violent currents. They carry not just migrating fish, shellfish, and turtles, which we all love to eat, but all sorts of plastic bits that get torn up along the way.
In Greek mythology, the ancestry of mermaids is traced to the most famous mermaid of all: Calypso. The daughters of Calypso were created by the tears she shed when Zeus made her give up Odysseus. This is believed to be why mermaids have also been said to use their singing as a lure for fishermen and sailors. Calypso was one of the daughters of two Titans. Her father, known as Oceanus, was a giant who ruled bodies of water. Her mother was his sister, Tethys, whose name means "to conceal." Lunar light of the fullest moon reflected onto the surface of any body of water that Mermaids are caught swimming in will cause them to completely disappear from view. This concealment has saved many mermaids from close calls.
Floating plastic also becomes concealed in water. Almost invisible as it sinks down to the ocean floor, these polluting plastics get moved around by the deeper currents. A hungry mammal or fish, thinking it has found food (like a jellyfish) sucks it up. There are whales like this one, that wash ashore from the deadly consequences of our plastic pollution. How would you feel after ingesting a few plastic bags? Over time, you would feel full. Feeling full usually tells us not to continue eating. The lack of necessary proteins and vitamins would eventually cause you to die from malnutrition, just like that whale!
Oona, Siren, and Pearl
Now that we are properly caught up to where Mermaids came from, let us also catch up with three who are a couple of thousand years old... at least! Oona, Siren, and Pearl are their names. Oona, named after the bubbling guppy, has a bubbling personality to match the origins of her name. She has a heart-shaped face, framed with blonde hair, almost as white as the foam on an ocean wave, which hangs down to her waist. Siren is the dark, quiet, thoughtful one. She has sun-bronzed skin, long flowing black hair, and green eyes that give away her thoughts if they weren't hidden behind her long bangs. The sweet one is Pearl. She would get herself in trouble if not for the alertness of Oona, or the intuitiveness of Siren. Pearl has striking blue eyes that are deep set, behind thick blonde lashes. They change color to brown, depending on her mood. Her hair, which can either be light brown or blonde depending on the light, is to her shoulders. Mermaid tails tend to match their moods. At present, all three were relaxed. Oona's was white, Pearl had a red, one and Siren's was black. All three had a tendency to get goldfish orange tails when alarmed.
The common ability that ALL mermaids possessed was the ability to 'hear' the ocean. Except for most lakes, and landlocked bodies of water like the Dead Sea, all were connected from a single source. Mermaids all hear the same voice from the ocean. Once, they heard it happy. Then, because of pollution, they heard it crying. Most recently, the mermaids heard it angry. Not so much sadness and crying anymore. The children of the ocean that are closer to the surface, like the coral reefs, had started dying horrible deaths! Their tiny plastic infused dead bodies would sink to the dark depths of the sea floor. There they would be eaten by deep-sea dwellers, who never came to the surface... and they too would die. The regurgitated chunks of plastic bits and torn apart microscopic parts had inundated the waters across the world. Even humans began becoming sick from eating their own bits of plastic waste from the fish they caught! The Great Lakes in North America had long since become like giant black puddles. Much like the Dead Sea, but instead of the naturally occurring salt, it was man-made pollution dumped into them over the centuries that made the water unusable.
Oona, Siren, and Pearl had long since taken refuge in one of the only uninhabited oasis' in South America. It had a waterfall they bathed in. Behind that was a deep cave they slept in, with a pool of water. But lucky for them, a deep well was supplying them unpolluted cold water. So much sand and an underwater volcano, with hot Magma, had been a natural filter from all the chaos of pollution. Only occasionally, having to travel hundreds of miles on their two legs to view the closest beach where the pollution had piled up, did they ever hear the anger of the ocean anymore. Humans had long since gone to Mars and had begun living on the Moon. Any left behind had either died or were sick, and close to dying. Freshwater on Earth had been in a small amount before the effects of pollution. Now, there was so little fresh water for these humans, that they tried to rely on, and filter, the little rainwater that fell. The three mermaids liked both, but could safely survive on the icy cold water at their little oasis. As long as that supply held out.
Before the pollution had gotten so bad, the mermaids subjected themselves to hiding in Antarctica's freezing waters. Then global warming really hit the planet. The top layers of warmer water stopped flowing into the colder deep water. The frozen methane gas trapped in ice had begun to melt, and was released into the atmosphere. Before long, it was like the weather stopped flowing around the planet. The underwater methane gas deposits, from deep-sea floor beds, were floated up into warm water. The lack of oxygen closer to the water's surface caused the sea animals who lived there to die in abundance. Oona, Siren, and Pearl knew from what the ocean screamed, that they had to find somewhere safe. One day soon, hopefully, Humans would remember the oceans on Earth. They needed to clean up after themselves. Were they already destroying Mars and the delicate Moon? Were the lessons the Earth taught them forgotten?
The process of producing just one plastic bottle of water uses 6 times as much water as what is inside the container. Solution: Use a recycled, reusable container for beverages.
A plastic bag has a 'working life' of only 15 minutes. Most are discarded. Solution: Use a recycled cloth sack for shopping.
Plastic packaging is the largest end-use market segment that accounts for over 40 percent of total plastic usage. Solution: Think reusable—not disposable.
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