JANUARY 9 — Christine Figgener, a PhD student of Texas A&M University, published a video on August 2015 that has since garnered 33 million views. In it, a turtle was shown to have something lodged in its nostril.
Turtles are air breathers; this meant that the turtle is now breathing through one hole, instead of two. Kind Christine attempted to pull the thing out from the nose. The turtle at first appeared to be grateful, but alas, the thing was longer than expected.
Brave Christine continued the manoeuvre with the pliers component of a Swiss knife. The turtle gasped, bled, flapped its flippers, and closed its eyes in apparent agony while she struggled with it. When she got about two inches out, she feared that it will cause more harm and snipped that piece.
But upon examining that extracted piece, Righteous Christine became incensed. After a very elaborate cursing of the Christian God, she declared that the thing was called a freaking straw and kept referring to it as such throughout the video. This particular type of straw enraged her well enough that another attempt was made to extract that object of her fury out of the turtle. And with a well-executed pull, out came the rest of the straw. It was gruesome indeed but the turtle survived and was no doubt eternally grateful to its saviour for removing that single-use straw.
Today, many restaurants bear the sign ‘Don’t Be A Sucker, Say No to Straws’. Thanks Christine. Similarly, it was also graphic depictions of turtles mistaking plastic bags for jellyfish that fuelled the ‘Say No To Plastic Bags’ campaign.
And today we are penalised RM0.20 for each plastic bag that we request. There is now a YouTube video with the title ‘Plastic Fork Removed From Sea Turtle’s Nose’ that has nine million views. Plastic fork, you’re next.
Merriam-Webster defined hype as: deception; put-on; publicity. Beware of it. Christine admitted in Nature (Vol 563, 8 Nov 2018) that straws accounted for only 0.03 per cent of the plastics that end up in the ocean.
And yet, with one video she managed to move our government to ban straws. Hype is a tool that is frequently employed to manipulate a certain decision when facts are not on their side.
When politicians begin to make laws based on hyped up incidents, it is at best stupid, and at worst discriminating (e.g. plastic bag penalty apply to consumers but not businesses) and downright dangerous.
Mao Zedong, hyped the issue of grain eating birds being the problem of agriculture. The people responded. They would bang their pots and pans to scare away the birds. Having no landing space (trees were cut down to fuel Mao’s iron smelting obsession), birds would drop dead in mid-flight due to exhaustion. The demise of this natural predator caused an explosion of insects that decimated crops, contributing to a famine that killed 30 million people, which if lined up shoulder to shoulder, would begin from Johor Bahru, pass through Thailand, Mongolia and end in Siberia.
So the next time politicians suggest a hyped ‘Say No to something’ campaign, how about ‘Say No to Stupid’?
By the way, how much plastic bags are in the ocean? The authors of a marine scientific expedition reported that: “Plastic films were rarely found” and the number one plastic waste in the ocean is—fishing gears (Scientific Reports (2018) 8:4666, pg12). Fishermen, better start learning spear fishing.
*Dr Neoh Seong Lee is a researcher in Marine Science and can be contacted at [email protected]
**This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.