The Calchas of the zooplankton clan speaks:
“Listen, Iphigenia. The humans, through their exorbitance, have begun to include microbeads in their scrubs. For them, the benefit is rejuvenation; for us, the opposite is true. Their extravagance brings our demise. The polyethylene beads they have created possess toxins—such as phthalates, added for malleability; colorants; polybrominated diphenyl ethers, added for heat resistance; and plasticisers—that can directly harm us. Further, because these evil globes are hydrophobic and possess a large surface area relative to their volume, they are likely to acquire additional poisons, such as those present in our ocean: polychlorinated biphenyls, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons—as well as toxins from common sources such as coolant fluids, automobile grease, copy paper, flourescent tubes, and industrial waste. These chemicals can cause us great harm such as disrupting our endocrine system and growth as well as causing cell mutation, fecundity, and even death…
I see it now: the stomach pain, the writhing. Yes, this will destroy you. Your body will mercifully stop functioning, but—before—you will suffer. The beads will adhere to your antennae and your swimming legs on the outside of your body and to your gut on the inside. You will not move—not even from a predator; you will not eat; you will not mate; you will not feed. You will die.”
“And this is necessary?” Iphigenia, albeit raising the pitch of her voice at the end of her sentence, meant it as a statement of fact, not as a question.
“I’m afraid so, my dear. But think of what your sacrifice will do. Think of what it will show.”
“The humans will see. They must. They have to—or else my life will be wasted for nothing.”
“Don’t worry, my child, they will hurt; then they will see. Humans are that way; they must be affected. But, as I have said, once you ingest the accursed beads, you will die. Then your body will be consumed by a small fish; then that fish will be poisoned by what will poison you. The small fish will be eaten by a larger fish. The larger fish will be caught by a human. The human will fall ill. He will face endocrine and nervous system disruption, and cell mutation, among a range of other health defects—perhaps even death.”
“‘What if the fish escapes the human,’ they all ask me. But I believe in your vision, Calchas. You have seen the truth.”
“You are wise, young one. That is why you must be the one to go; you understand. You understand the damage the bio-accumulated toxins will do to the human’s body: that the land-dwellers will realize that the human has been poisoned. But they will not know why at first. Once they seek the answer, though, they will find it. And once they know that the damage they are doing to our ecosystem also affects theirs, they will cease—slowly, but they will cease.”
“It will take a long time do reverse what they have done here, even once they stop washing microbeads down their drains, through their water treatment plants (which cannot even catch the evil spheres), and into the ocean. Our ocean.”
“Yes, it will, and that is inescapable. But our clan—superior, it is—will move to better waters, which I hope to exist beyond these. We will warn the other clans of our kind, who already consume the counter-food, for they do not possess the knowledge that I do. Then, we will leave. We will avoid the microbeads while we can, but only our millionth decedents will see even a slight drop in the evil floating in our waters. But the healing must begin now.”
“Yes. I am ready.” Iphigenia, unafraid, ingests one, then another, and so on. Until she cannot fill her body anymore, she ingests the poisonous spheres—welcoming death. And life. Not for herself; for those to come.