The place: A recently exposed outcrop of shoreline on the Ontario Sea. (Present day Ottawa. )
A team of archaeologists materialize on the flat stretch of loamy soil.
“Ancient maps indicate the location of a settlement here before the Water Age, when the Ontario Sea was still just a river,” says the team leader. At 80 years old, she is one of the youngest.
“Well, let’s see what we find,” says her assistant as he pulls a small spade out of his pack. “Whatever it is, it will tell us what kind of people were here, and how they lived.” He kneels and penetrates the soil with the spade. It stops abruptly when it encounters springy resistance. “Found something already,” he says. He scrapes the earth away with gloved hands and then sighs.
“It’s another one from ‘Giant Tiger'” he says as he pulls the tattered bright yellow plastic bag out of the dig site.
A month ago, our Habitat for Humanity team helped to build a house for a Bolivian family.
The site needed to be levelled and graded, and we did this by hand. I and my fellow team members spent several days digging in the dirt. The lot we worked on had been vacant for some time and had become a catch-all for errant plastic bags wafted onto the site on Bolivian breezes. Time after time our shovels penetrated the top layer of soil only to be stopped by a plastic bag or a plastic pop bottle. Time after time we stooped and tossed these to the side. The picture at the top is just one small part of the plastic we collected.
The reality of plastic hit home.
Plastic doesn’t go away for a long, long, long time. One carelessly tossed plastic bag is not just that. It is part of a mountain of plastic that won’t go away. It is not attractive, historic, meaningful, artistic, or culturally significant. It is ugly, utilitarian, and, most importantly, not necessary. There are other better options.
I will be more mindful about plastic use from now on, if for no other reason than I want my descendants to find beauty in 2000 years, not ugliness.