This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Thursday, 28 December 2017

The familiarity of penguins: a rant.

This Christmas, according to Clare Fischer of the excellent Marine Conservation Society, 114,000 tonnes of plastic packaging will be thrown away and not recycled.

That's equivalent, says the headline on their website, to 3.3 million emperor penguins:

Three point three million emperor penguins? 

Look, I'm sorry and all that, but to be honest I'm having a bit of difficulty visualising three point three million emperor penguins. 

(Are there three point three million emperor penguins..?)

File:Emperor penguins (1).jpg

(Look, there are definitely at least three. Photo by lin padgham.)

I'd probably get more of an idea of just how much waste that is if did it with seagulls. Or pelicans. I mean, I can see why the Marine Conservation Society is looking for a sea creature, but something you get in zoos might be more helpful. Or they could have used something you see in films. A bottle-nosed dolphin, perhaps. Or even a blue whale.

I suppose I could do the maths, if it'd be helpful.

The amount of plastic packaging thrown away over Christmas will be 114,000 tonnes (how do they know?) which is roughly equivalent in weight to:

114 million herring gulls
11.4 million pelicans
57,000 bottle-nosed dolphins
814 blue whales...

...and a quite ridiculous number of partridges in pear trees.


Which statistic made you think most? 

Whichever it was, the emperor penguins have at least got us talking about plastic waste, haven't they? So perhaps the analogy, bonkers though it seems, was a good idea, after all. 

Oh, but fifty seven thousand dolphins...

Word To Use Today: pelican. This is a bit odd. The word seems to comes from the Greek word pelekus, which means axe. Pelekas in Greek means woodpecker.

PS There are fewer than 600,000 emperor penguins in the world.

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