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National Geographic Heartbreaking images reveal the scale of plastic crisis, its impact on wildlife


National Geographic is launching a multiyear initiative aimed at reducing the 9million tons of plastic waste that chokes sea life and winds up on shores around the world each year. 

In the way that only National Geographic can, the magazine is showcasing heartbreaking images of the impact that single use plastic is having on the environment around the planet. The images are seen here first on DailyMail.com ahead of the organization’s world wide initiative roll-out.   

The striking images of marine animals that are entangled in, suffocated by, or have ingested plastic are just the smallest sampling of what National Geographic says are thousands to potentially millions of animals that have been devastatingly affected by the global plastic crisis.

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In the series of images released for National Geographic's Planet or Plastic campaign, ahead of its June issue, are several disturbing images from around the world. Here the photographer took it upon himself to free this stork from a plastic bag at a landfill in Spain, but bag can kill more than once: Carcasses decay, but plastic lasts and can choke or trap again

In the series of images released for National Geographic’s Planet or Plastic campaign, ahead of its June issue, are several disturbing images from around the world. Here the photographer took it upon himself to free this stork from a plastic bag at a landfill in Spain, but bag can kill more than once: Carcasses decay, but plastic lasts and can choke or trap again

Trapped in plastic: An old plastic fishing net snares a loggerhead turtle in the Mediterranean off Spain. The turtle could stretch its neck above water to breathe but would have died had the photographer not freed it

Trapped in plastic: An old plastic fishing net snares a loggerhead turtle in the Mediterranean off Spain. The turtle could stretch its neck above water to breathe but would have died had the photographer not freed it

Not natural debris: To ride currents, seahorses clutch drifting seagrass or other natural debris. In the polluted waters off the Indonesian island of Sumbawa, this seahorse latched onto a plastic cotton swab, the photographer says he wishes thus photo didn't exist 

Not natural debris: To ride currents, seahorses clutch drifting seagrass or other natural debris. In the polluted waters off the Indonesian island of Sumbawa, this seahorse latched onto a plastic cotton swab, the photographer says he wishes thus photo didn’t exist 

Under a bridge on a branch of the Buriganga River in Bangladesh, a family removes labels from plastic bottles, sorting green from clear ones to sell to a scrap dealer- where waste pickers can earn around $100 a month 

Under a bridge on a branch of the Buriganga River in Bangladesh, a family removes labels from plastic bottles, sorting green from clear ones to sell to a scrap dealer- where waste pickers can earn around $100 a month 

On Okinawa, Japan, a hermit crab resorts to a plastic bottle cap to protect its soft abdomen. Beachgoers collect the shells the crabs normally use, and they leave trash behind

On Okinawa, Japan, a hermit crab resorts to a plastic bottle cap to protect its soft abdomen. Beachgoers collect the shells the crabs normally use, and they leave trash behind

Some animals now live in a world of plastics like these hyenas scavenging at a landfill in Harar, Ethiopia. They listen for garbage trucks and find much of their food in trash

Some animals now live in a world of plastics like these hyenas scavenging at a landfill in Harar, Ethiopia. They listen for garbage trucks and find much of their food in trash

The challenge of recycling: This chart lists the varieties of plastic from easiest to hardest to recycle 

The challenge of recycling: This chart lists the varieties of plastic from easiest to hardest to recycle 

The organization believes that by effecting real change at the consumer level, as well as creating innovative partnerships with like-minded corporations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from all over the world, they will be able to  ‘contribute to the overall health of the planet’s marine ecosystems and all who rely upon them.’

The initiative called Planet or Plastic?, is launching today ahead of National Geographic’s June issue. 

Planet or Plastic? is a multiyear initiative aimed at raising awareness of the global plastic crisis and reducing the amount of single-use plastic that is polluting our world’s oceans.

And the magazine is playing it’s own part, with subscribers seeing their issue wrapped in paper, not plastic, for the first time ever.

They will continue to do so for all those who subscribe to the U.S., U.K. and India editions, and the company pledges to have all of their global issues wrapped in paper by 2019. ‘This change will save more than 2.5 million single-use plastic bags every month,’ the company says in a press release.  

Scientists estimate the growing plastic crisis could see the material remain in marine environments for at least 450 years, with the problem only getting worse, according to the organization’s release.

‘For 130 years, National Geographic has documented the stories of our planet, providing audiences around the world with a window into the earth’s breathtaking beauty as well as to the threats it faces,’ said Gary E. Knell, CEO of National Geographic Partners. 

‘Each and every day, our explorers, researchers and photographers in the field witness firsthand the devastating impact of single-use plastic on our oceans, and the situation is becoming increasingly dire.’

‘Through the Planet or Plastic? initiative, we will share the stories of this growing crisis, work to address it through the latest science and research, and educate audiences around the world about how to eliminate single-use plastics and prevent them from making their way into our oceans,’ Knell added in closing.

Jonathan Baillie, the National Geographic Society’s chief scientist and senior vice president explains how their research has, and will continue to, help illustrate what is happening to our planet as a result of single use plastic waste.

‘By harnessing National Geographic’s scientific expertise, we intend to pinpoint activities on land, particularly near rivers, that contribute to the flow of plastics polluting our oceans, and then use what we learn to inspire change at home and around the world,’ says Baillie. 

Baillie adds: ‘A crisis of this enormity requires solutions at scale, and National Geographic is uniquely qualified to amass the best in research, technology, education and storytelling to effect meaningful change.’  

Additionally the nonprofit arm of the company, the National Geographic Society, will embark on a journey to better document how plastic travels from source to sea and to fill critical knowledge gaps. 

Trucks full of plastic bottles pull into a recycling facility in Valenzuela, Philippines. The bottles were plucked from the streets of metropolitan Manila by waste pickers, who sell them to scrap dealers

Trucks full of plastic bottles pull into a recycling facility in Valenzuela, Philippines. The bottles were plucked from the streets of metropolitan Manila by waste pickers, who sell them to scrap dealers

The rise of plastics: This chart shows just how sharply plastic use has risen since 1950, leaving more and more of the material in the world's ecosystems each year

The rise of plastics: This chart shows just how sharply plastic use has risen since 1950, leaving more and more of the material in the world’s ecosystems each year

Planet or plastic?: The initiative launches ahead of National Geographic's June issue of the same name, featuring this incredible cover by the renowned magazine

Planet or plastic?: The initiative launches ahead of National Geographic’s June issue of the same name, featuring this incredible cover by the renowned magazine

The National Geographic Society will embark on an expedition in 2019 to study the ‘type and flow of plastic in a river system, National Geographic will provide science-based, actionable information to help local and national governments, NGOs, businesses and the public more effectively invest in and implement innovative solutions.’

Additionally, they are incorporating a bit of star power to their line-up with New Girl actress Zooey Deschanel National Geographic’s Instagram account, posting photos of the plastic crisis.

In the meantime, starting Wednesday, you can go to their Instagram to see it flooded with more images of the devastation that plastic is having on the global ecosystems around the world.  

 



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