Plastic was the disruptive technology of its day but now we know the mess will never be cleared up, writes Professor John Holford. Plus letters from Chris Gee and Harold Forbes

Is anyone cheered by your report of the extent and intensity of plastic pollution (38 million pieces of plastic waste found on uninhabited South Pacific island, 16 May)? The plastics industry, perhaps? It is, after all, a sign of how much they have changed the world. I recall my first encounter with a transparent plastic bottle, 50 years ago this year. I also recall the “information” films, sponsored by firms such as BP and Shell, and widely shown in schools at the time, extolling the benefits that plastic brings. The industry put petroleum byproducts to good use. It was cheap. It was scientific. It was new. It was innovation. Today, the ideology of innovation is every bit as powerful. The future, we are told, belongs to the “disruptive innovators” – Uber and their ilk. They make billions, but neither political nor economic systems have evolved ways of dealing with or costing the havoc they cause. Plastic was the disruptive technology of its day: half a century later, we know the mess will never be cleared up. We also know that those – animal and vegetable – who pay the price will not be those who squirrelled away the profits. It is time society found a way of holding innovation and innovators to account.
Professor John Holford

• In your article, the plight of Henderson Island shows very visually the direct impact people are having on nature – even in the places that we consider to be most special. As a Unesco world heritage site, the island is considered to have outstanding universal value, but despite their protected status, nearly half of natural world heritage sites are facing serious threats, from poaching and illegal fishing to harmful industrial activity. Urgent action needs to be taken to protect these precious areas, which is why WWF has launched a global campaign, Together, Saving Our Shared Heritage, to safeguard these sites. The threats to our planet are now so great that wildlife populations are disappearing at an alarming rate. Current predictions are that wildlife numbers will have declined by 67% between the 1970s and the end of this decade unless urgent action is taken. We are all responsible for the future of our planet.
Chris Gee
Head of campaigns, WWF-UK

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Source: Guardian Climate Change