It Ain’t Right and It Ain’t Natural

Evan Michaeli

August 2022

I will confess that I am a theatrical teenager. I have been fascinated by the likes from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton and In the Heights to Pasek and Paul’s Dear Evan Hansen. However, I recently stumbled upon my new favorite, Anaïs Mitchell’s Hadestown. 

Hadestown is a retelling of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. The legend revolves around a musician who loses his lover to the Underworld. He embarks on a heroic quest of risk and trust in his endeavor to resurrect his beloved. 

Hadestown does not only deal with the ancient Greek myth. The musical also addresses contemporary problems like human-made climate change, exemplified by the starved people above the underworld. One song, Chant, hones in on this issue.

The theme of climate change is disseminated throughout the musical in several forms, including the starved people above the Underworld. However, one song, Chant, hones in on the aspect of climate change.

In Chant, the climate crisis comes to a climax as Persephone – the goddess of agriculture and spring – and Hades argue over Hades’ perpetual destruction in the name of innovation as he destroys the land of the mortals up above. In one of Peresphone’s lines, she sings, “It ain’t right and it ain’t natural.” 

The song Chant aligns with what my environmental club at Brimmer and May is doing in Newton. The club and several city residents with five city councilors helped jumpstart the effort to reduce the usage of plastic straws, bottles, and takeout containers in Newton. 

Plastic is not natural in oceans. Plastic wreaks havoc on marine animals as plastic looks like their food. Why do we find images on the Internet of turtles with plastic in their mouth? Turtles usually feed on jellyfish, and plastic bags closely resemble a jellyfish. Therefore, when a turtle encounters a plastic bag, the turtle will assume the bag is a jellyfish, feeding on the bag instead of the medusa. 

According to the World Wildlife Fund, 52% of turtles have eaten plastic. But why are plastic bags an issue if turtles consume them? Well, plastic happens to choke turtles. Entanglement is not only an occurrence for turtles but also with sea lions and manatees

Plastic also builds up in our stunning oceans. In November of 2021, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) reported that 14 million tons of plastic get discarded into the ocean annually. The IUCN also stated that plastic is 80% of the marine debris out in the waters of the ocean today. According to a 2016 study by the Ellen McArthur Fund, partnered with the World Economic Forum, speculates that by the year 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. 

Not to mention, plastic does rise in the food chain. If a fish has plastic particles inside and we eat the fish, we now have potentially harmful substances in our stomach. 

Plastic is not only a problem in the ocean either. Plastic has its negative impacts on the surface too. The material plastic derives from is petroleum. Petroleum-based plastic can contain cancerous chemicals like BPA. What about the amount of plastic we make? According to The World Counts, we produce 5 trillion plastic bags a year! Let us also take into consideration microplastics. Microplastics show that plastic takes as much as 1,000 years to decompose. Microplastics are so diminutive you cannot detect them. However, they are all over you. Ever buy a fleece? A fleece is permeated in microplastics as they let up to 4.5 million fibers of microplastics loose in the washing machine. Do you know what is also minuscule but in numbers? The recycling rate for plastic. Only 9% of plastic is recycled, according to National Geographic.

One reason we have a plastic problem is selfishness. We must not fall victim to greed like Hades does in Hadestown for Persephone, and it isn’t right to pollute our water sources with plastic. We must overcome the urge to sip our soda out of a plastic straw or carry out groceries in a plastic bag. We can not allow our mindless pollution from greed because we do not want to see change. If we don’t change, the climate will. Dramatically. So it is time now to alter our ways to ensure that the climate does not change drastically. 

We must come to our senses, however. We will not get a flat-out ban for plastic straws or bags. Those with disabilities regarding their mouth need plastic straws to drink. Therefore, we put into place an available by request only policy. But don’t give the ice argument, we are the only nation to provide ice with our water at restaurants, but that is a separate topic. 

While taking this into deliberation, people who do not have special needs should consider: “Do I need a straw to sip my coffee?” or “Do I need a plastic bag for the gum I bought at the gas station?” The odds are slim. If you do need one of these items, alternatives suit perfectly fine.

Some alternatives to plastic bags include woven bags, but hemp shows to be the best alternative, especially if we can get hemp legalized in the U.S. For straws, bamboo, hay, and metal seem to work better than paper. Pasta straws are an unorthodox substitute, but not high-quality. Recycled agave straws also appear to work quite well. Alternatives for bottles are easy, bring your reusable water bottle. They can consist of aluminum and glass, but thicker plastic works fine too. 

So let us cue Persephone, It ain’t right, and it ain’t natural.