National Geographic magazine has just launched an informative and shockingly revealing campaign called Planet or Plastic? and it is something that we all need to see and learn from.

Many of us are aware that there is far too much plastic in our environment, and feel a bit guilty knowing that we are contributing to a problem that is too vast for us to truly comprehend. But what if we were faced with the horrifying consequences of our plastic addiction?

That is one of the aims of the magazine’s campaign as they seek to change the ways consumers use plastic.

The magazine itself is leading by example, beginning to send out their editions in paper instead of plastic. Because every change, no matter how futile it may seem, helps at some level.

The campaign has identified plastic bags, bottles and straws as problematic products, and urges consumers to take a pledge to dramatically reduce their use of them by making simple conscious choices.

Will you take the pledge?

These powerful and heartbreaking images vividly illustrate the damage that 9 million tonnes of plastic waste each year does to our environment and wildlife, and are the beginning of what will be a multi-year initiative to significantly reduce it.

Scientists and researchers from the magazine hope to fill knowledge gaps about the long-term impacts of plastic, as it dissolves into microscopic particles that eventually enter our food chain. They also aim to gain a better understanding of its journey from the source here on land, all the way down to the deepest depths of remote ocean floors.

“The photographer freed this stork from a plastic bag at a landfill in Spain. One bag can kill more than once: Carcasses decay, but plastic lasts and can choke or trap again” Image credits: John Cancalosi/ National Geographic

“Under a bridge on a branch of the Buriganga River in Bangladesh, a family removes labels from plastic bottles, sorting green from clear ones to sell to a scrap dealer. Waste pickers here average around $100 a month” Image credits: Randy Olson / National Geographic

“Around the world, nearly a million plastic beverage bottles are sold every minute” Image credits: David Higgins/ National Geographic

“Some animals now live in a world of plastics—like these hyenas scavenging at a landfill in Harar, Ethiopia. They listen for garbage trucks and find much of their food in trash” Image credits: Brian Lehmann/ National Geographic

“An old plastic fishing net snares a loggerhead turtle in the Mediterranean off Spain. The turtle could stretch its neck above water to breathe but would have died had the photographer not freed it. “Ghost fishing” by derelict gear is a big threat to sea turtles” Image credits: Jordi Chias/ National Geographic

“To ride currents, seahorses clutch drifting seagrass or other natural debris. In the polluted waters off the Indonesian island of Sumbawa, this seahorse latched onto a plastic cotton swab—“a photo I wish didn’t exist,” says photographer Justin Hofman” Image credits: Justin Hofman/ National Geographic

“By 2050, virtually every seabird species on the planet will be eating plastic” Image credits: Praveen Balasubramanian/National Geographic

Although this is a monumental tragedy, the blame shouldn’t be put only on the consumers but the producers of so many packaging, that many times is simply unnecessary. 

Check out National Geographic’s campaign here, to further educate yourself about this hugely important issue.