Back in April, 2018 a video of penguins living on a plastic island in the South Pacific went viral. It captured an iconic image that represented the threat of plastic pollution to marine life. It has now been announced that the video did not originate in the Antarctic but in photoshop. Originally we posted the video as part of our article: Penguins Living on a Plastic Island, Is This the Future? We are now posting the video a second time but under the title Penguin Plastic Island Prank!
The video was first posted by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) on April 1st, which just happens to be April Fool’s Day. A detail that should have given us pause, had we made the connection. WWF theoretically picked it up from Facebook where it was described as a real video taken by an Italian research team from their passing ship.
“These shots are shocking!” the WWF wrote. “Researchers recorded these disturbing images in the South Pacific: dozens of Gentoo penguins have settled on an island of plastic waste.”
This Week WWF Announced
“Fortunately, our discovery of penguins on the island made of plastic waste is not genuine,” the WWF said on its website. “But we live in a world where such hazards from plastic pollution could very quickly become real, so there’s no merry April punchline, but a serious background.”
World Wildlife Fund- Italia (clever Italians) apparently made the video with the laudable purpose of raising public awareness on the issue of plastic as a threat to wildlife. It certainly succeeded.
My question is do we really need this video to be aware of what an enormous problem ocean plastic pollution is? Thanks to true depictions like that seen in Blue Planet II the world has come alive to the threat of plastics in our oceans. Governments, NGOs and individuals have been galvanized into taking action, like passing bans on single-use plastic bags. (photo – EcoWatch)
Another Viral Video
We all understand the power of an image to stir action. An earlier video that also went viral of a sea turtle with a plastic straw embedded in its nose taken by Blue Ocean contributor, Christine Figgener, resulted in people around the world rethinking their use of single-use plastic straws. Possibly the video of penguins living on a plastic island did good and no harm.
However, here’s the downside, shortly after Blue Ocean posted our article, I got an email from a young woman, questioning the authenticity of the penguin video. She also hinted that since she thought the penguin video was a hoax, that issues like plastic pollution and climate change were overdone, blown way-out-of-proportion and exploited for left wing political purposes.
I defended the penguin video and the coverage that other hot button issues like global warming receive in the press. Now I am in a position where I need to recant. At least on penguins. At Blue Ocean we try very hard to be accurate and fair in the articles that we bring to you. We gather our material from reliable sources and cross-check facts.
Unfortunately, we live in an era when so much news is labeled as “Fake News” and “alternative facts” are tossed around like confetti. Confetti that clings to too many people. This Penguin Plastic Island Prank article should not need to be written but it is necessary to take responsibility for our mistakes, even when those that label news fake do not.
Don’t Overlook the other Penguin News
By the way, there was lots of other helpful info in the Penguin article. For example, we mentioned the wonderful sculptures created by Angela Haseltine Pozzi out of plastic debris recovered from the ocean.
Anglea’s company Washed Ashore and other artists are doing really creative things with throw-away plastics. (photo – Angela Haseltine Pozzi, Washed Ashore)
I hope that you will revisit the article and read those items. Plus, you might get a chuckle out of watching the Plastic Island video again. This time, look closely.
Robert Frerck, Blue Ocean Network
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