McKenna Erickson Oregon

Help the animals, Save the ocean!

An essay from a concerned high school senior on the garbage in the ocean, how it affects animals, and the garbage problem in general.

Dear Future President,

I know it is easier said than done, but our rural world is in imminent danger, and we need to come together and fix it. Animals are dying. Seabirds, fish, aquatic mammals, all of them! They are eating way too much plastic, and because it fills up their stomach and they can’t digest it, they generally starve to death because they are “full.” The animals don’t know that what they see colorfully floating on the ocean’s surface isn’t food, but instead what potentially will be the first bite of a slow, painful death.

The reason there is so much plastic in the ocean is because people litter. And they litter a LOT. They don’t realize there are extreme repercussions each time they throw a water bottle or candy wrapper in the ocean, in the sand on the beach, or even on the sidewalk. Plastic wrappers get caught in the wind and they find their way to the ocean. The tide comes in and takes with it all the garbage left from the visitors earlier that day. According to an article “Plastic Garbage” on, “An estimated 14 billion pounds of trash, much of it plastic, is dumped in the world's oceans every year.” It isn’t even a fathomable number. Our brains aren’t meant to imagine such numbers, and our oceans and wildlife shouldn’t have to take the burden of trying to cope with that much garbage.

The article “Plastic in Birds’ Stomachs Reveal Ocean’s Garbage Problem” “...globally, up to 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles die each year from eating plastic” ( In a 2010 study by Smithsonian, they wrote that there are over 40 species of seabirds that are either endangered or critically endangered. Now, most of those birds are not endangered because of the garbage, but having that trash will not benefit them in any way, shape, or form. In a worst case scenario situation, imagine if the last female Marbled Murrelet ate plastic and died. The males would be left alone in a never ending search for a mate, but would die looking. That is one of the many reasons our oceans need to be and stay clean.

Future President, I’m asking that you help the country take the steps we need to take to clean up. Beach cleanups should be rewarded, not just voluntary, because people really like incentives. The government should be the one rewarding the people, with checks or even cash handouts. Machines that gather garbage in the water need to be invented and produced in the thousands. They should not cost anyone anything; that way people can’t use the excuse of not wanting to spend money. The garbage picked up would then be recycled if possible.

Laws on intentional littering should be enforced, and it wouldn’t hurt for recycling to be more encouraged. I live in Oregon, and the recycling here is much different than in Texas. When I went to Texas this summer, it seemed as if no one cares to recycle. Unsurprisingly, their litter laws are very different than those in Oregon. Here, littering is a Class A misdemeanor and is punishable by a fine up to $6,250, imprisonment up to one year, or even both. In Texas, it depends on how much litter a person produces. It seems more realistic, but the higher fine in Oregon would really make it so no one would ever litter again after being fined $6,250.

There have been some actions in different cities nationwide to prevent the plastic consumption from consumers. Cities all over the United States have banned single-use plastic bags from the stores within the city limits. This saves on hundreds of thousands of bags each year. If all of the stores in the US did that, we would save so, so much plastic and reduce the amount of plastic that would go into the oceans. Another big plastic product mass produced here is the single-use plastic water bottle. Each year, the US alone uses 35 billion of them. Not nearly enough people have or care to use reusable water bottles. Metal ones are safer, more durable, and can last a person forever. I know people, my brother for example, will use the plastic water bottles when he is in the house. It is out of laziness that he uses those; he doesn't want to take the time to fill up a cup. I know that there are other people like that, and I would hope that people recognize that as a problem.

During your presidency, I really hope that you will guide our country in the right direction it needs to go in order to reduce our waste and litter. It is so important that we do that because our earth is our provider for food, happiness, places to explore, and things to discover. When an animal goes extinct, it messes with the natural balance/regulation of other animal or plant populations. We need to take this seriously and get our country on track. I believe that if we get our country sorted out, other countries will follow in our path and before we know it, the whole world will be reformed. Other countries will see our success and want to mirror it. There are a lot of environmentalists in this country, and as a president--a person in charge, you will appeal to a lot of people interested in the greater good for our environment. 

Jefferson HS

Jefferson HS Students

10th,11th, and 12th grade students at Jefferson HS in Portland Oregon.

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