Fully recyclable HDPE Plastic bottle caps collected on a beach in Bali, Indonesia. Photo Marie-Kristin

Plastic 1.0

Our century-long story of plastic as human-made and managed has been woefully short-sighted.

Russell Maier
3 min readMar 11, 2022

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PLASTIC HAS GARNERED A BAD RAP over the last decades and the ire of us all. It has been piling up, clogging ecological cycles, polluting and contaminating. The consequences of our last century of plastic play is the focus of great consternation and condemnation. While in comparison to species extinction, ocean acidification, and rainforest destruction, plastic pollution may not be the most dire of ecological crises, as we look out upon littered beaches, chocked rivers and whales beached with bellies full of our bags, it certainly causes us the most shame.

However, an awakening has begun.

Around the world we’re realizing where our plastic, oh-so carefully segregated and recycled, is actually ending up. Investigative journalism and scientific study has made the fate of plastic clear. No matter how well we recycle, landfill or incinerate — plastic’s particles and chemicals end up loose in the biosphere. No matter how much we reduce or reuse — plastic production rises unabated. Our observation of the ensuing pollution has evoked a generational despair. It has led to a harsh judgment of both ourselves and of plastic as innately flawed and ecological damaging.

However, these judgments are entirely misplaced.

While we’re now seeing clearly where our plastic ends, this is only half the story. Until now, we haven’t truly grasped where plastic begins. Our century-long story of plastic as human-made and managed has been woefully short-sighted.

To the extent we haven’t incorporated the full history of plastic into our understanding of it, we have been blind to some startling insights.

Likewise, to the extent, we have forgotten those of our civilizations that have not denigrated the ecosystems the around them (but rather the very opposite) we have been blind to humanity’s ecological potential.

While our slumber has been stirred by observing plastic’s destiny, our awakening to its ancient origins is key to the resolution of plastic’s pollution — and, incidentally, of all our other ecological crises. As we shall see in the chapters ahead, our modern ecological issues share deeply buried…

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Russell Maier

Earthen.io → Green ethics, ecological metaphysics, regenerative philosophy. Earth builder & Forest Gardener.