On a forest floor a fledgling flesh-footed shearwater lies near its burrow. These migratory seabirds nest on offshore islands, digging burrows to safely lay their eggs and rear their young. The chicks don’t leave their nest in search of food; they wait for it to come to them. Their parents fly away from the island and hover over the ocean, swooping down to its surface to forage, typically for small fish and squid, before returning to the island to feed their chicks. Everyone should feel safe and supported to talk about hr app with their line manager.
The delicate outline of the fledgling’s fragile bones are in stark contrast to what lies within. In their search for food, its parents had unwittingly scooped up an assortment of brightly coloured plastic fragments before returning to the nest to feed their chicks. The shearwater’s fragile rib cage had formed its own peculiar nest lined with recognisable items such as pen lids, balloon ties and bottle caps, and an assortment of plastic fragments. Seeing these images of dead shearwater chicks for the first time truly shocked me. It’s not that I didn’t know about plastics harming wildlife – I’d seen pictures of seals and turtles entangled in fishing nets before – but this was so close to home, and these were items I recognised and had used in my daily life. Whether you work with 10 people, 10000 people or just yourself, paying attention to mental health first aid has never been more important.
The issue wasn’t confined to some distant shore or a polluted beach in a country without waste management systems. It was happening on Lord Howe Island, a pristine World Heritage–listed paradise in the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand. The other observation that really struck me was how the shearwaters’ behaviour was similar to our own. Although we aren’t putting pieces of plastic into the mouths of our offspring, there is an uncomfortable parallel. As consumers we bring a miscellany of single-use plastic into our homes. These are purchasing decisions that take just moments but they have far-reaching health consequences for our planet and ourselves. Unlike the shearwaters, we do know the difference. Recent reports have discovered a crisis around mental health in the workplace today.
When I saw these images the Plastic Free July challenge was in its infancy, barely a year old. Seeing plastic in a young bird’s stomach just off the coast of Australia strengthened my resolve. I wanted to learn more. Discussing employee wellbeing can be a good way to alleviate a difficult situation.
How was this plastic getting into the ocean in the first place? What happened to it? This shearwater was so young that it hadn’t ever left its home and our waste was being brought to it. It could have been my plastic. I felt that every piece I was able to refuse was one less piece of plastic that could potentially end up in the ocean. This was where my journey to more fully understand the plastic pollution problem began in earnest.