January 2014 President’s Message

A happy and blessed new year to all of you!

I’m thinking about plastic bottles today, today of all days!

Today is the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. On this day in 1929 his mother gave all her effort to bring forth a child of God, a child who was destined to call our attention to the grave injustices of his time. His was a voice for the voiceless, for the forgotten, for the powerless. His was a voice that climbed the mountains of eloquence and grew silent in the valleys of steely resolve. It was the voicing of the hopes and dreams of millions that gave him strength and that has given strength, and still gives strength, to so many, white and black, Latino and Asian, men and women, throughout the years who have struggled to make sure that those who are powerless, or despised, or left by the wayside of history are heard, and given their rightful place at the table of justice.

And I’m thinking of bottles, plastic bottles, by the millions, produced, bought, used, and thrown away, every day, by millions, if not billions of people. Have you ever thought about where those bottles go? Some go into the recycling can, yes. But there have been plastic bottles around long before it became chic to recycle. What about those earlier bottles? Well, many end up in landfills. Do you know how long it takes a plastic bottle to decompose? Well, the bottles in landfills, which never see the light of the sun, will never biodegrade!! Never! Now, the bottles that are exposed to the sun, do break down, but then their constituent parts are not very healthy; bisphenol A (BPA) and PS oligomer are not chemicals you want in your water! (See this site for more information.)

It is amazing how many bottles have been produced, and how many are in our landfills and in our oceans, and how many have released toxic chemicals into the air and water, and how many have found each other in the ocean, creating great masses of plastic in the middle of our oceans. How this impacts the animals in the ocean, the animals in the air, the quality of the water, the quality of the air, and the human beings who eventually breathe the air, drink the water, and eat the animals is a story that needs to be heard. It needs a voice to speak for those who cannot speak, to remind us of the demands of conscience, to awaken us to the fact that our choices have consequences, not just for us, but for many other living and non-living things on this planet.

I encourage you to consider joining the Regional-Urban Partnerships for Sustainability Taskforce of Sustainable Cherry Hill as it welcomes Bonnie Monteleone, Director of Science, Research and Academic Partnership at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, to the Environmental Center of Camden County, in Cherry Hill, NJ. She will speak in much more detail, and with much more eloquence, about the challenge of plastic , not just plastic bottles, in our oceans. This event takes place on Wednesday, March 12, 2014, from 7-9PM. For more information, visit this site, and register.

MLK’s dream was that justice would become the hallmark of our common living. As we learn more and more about the consequences of our “throw away” lifestyle on the planet, we are called to a more comprehensive understanding of the demands of justice. It is about how we treat each other, AND it is about how we treat the earth, and the other creatures that live on her. Voices are being raised, calling us to attention. I pray that we all listen, and with patient endurance, live into a dream that we can no longer afford to defer.

Mark Doorley, Ph.D.
President, Board of Trustees