Phantom - A Tale on Plastic Pollution

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Copyright Š 2019 ________________________ The United Nations Perception Change Project created this book to inform and educate children about the harmful impact plastic pollution has on the environment, and to encourage readers to take action to protect the planet. The production of this book has been made possible thanks to the financial support from Fondation pour Genève, and to Union University for the beautiful illustrations that bring the story to life. Printed at the United Nations Printing Section at UN Geneva, 2019. Written by Kirsten Deall Edited by Sarah Jordan Illustrated by Maria Stewart

“Amid the terrible situations many face around the world, amazing work is being done to help impoverished people. There are so many stories of compassion, creativity and invention. If we don’t write about them in books, blogs, and newspapers, or show them on TV, or talk about them on the radio or share the stories on social media, society will not know about it. It is our responsibility, as the United Nations, to inform the world about the solutions to global problems so that everyone will know how we can all be part of the change.”

Michael Møller Director-General of the United Nations of Geneva

In the depths of the ocean lived Phantom, the biggest whale ever. Only a few sea animals claimed to have seen him, but everyone had heard of him. Rumours in the ocean said that Phantom weighed as much as 50 elephants. Nothing would be able to harm him.





One day, a young whale was swimming with her mother and a few smaller fish when a group of penguins on the beach caught their attention. The penguins were in a circle huddled around something. The whales were curious and swam closer to see for themselves. “Is everything alright, here?” Mother Whale asked the penguins. The penguins made an opening in their circle so Mother Whale could see for herself. Mother Whale saw one of their fellow penguins tangled in plastic and gasped “Oh, how terrible! I am so sorry for your loss.”



*Spread 3 : Needs revision


The next day, when the young whale and her mother were swimming, they noticed birds circling in the sky above the beach. They swam to shore to see just what they were circling. When the whales got closer, they saw a young albatross lying on the beach with a few adult albatrosses gathered around him. “What happened?” Mother Whale asked the albatrosses. “We have lost another one of our children”, sobbed one of the birds. “Our chicks often mistake plastic for food and eat it. This causes problems in their stomachs and eventually they die.” “That’s tragic. I’m sorry to hear this,” said Mother Whale to the albatross.


The very next day when Mother Whale and her baby were swimming, they heard a lot of noise coming from the beach. Dolphins were lined up along the shore making big splashes in the water with their tails. A crowd of people had gathered on the shore. Whatever the people were looking at must have been a ghastly sight if the look on their faces was anything to go by. Some of them were taking photos. One man was crouching down to film the scene. Mother Whale and her baby were concerned and immediately swam to see what was going on. When the dolphins saw Mother Whale and her baby approaching, they stopped splashing and made space for the two whales to get a better look. Mother Whale gasped and tried to shield her baby’s eyes using her fin, but it was too late. Baby Whale had already seen the large whale lying on the beach, not breathing. And not just any whale, the largest creature in the ocean: Phantom.



“No!” cried Mother Whale. “Call a doctor!” “The doctor is on her way,” said a jellyfish, “Here she comes… make space for her everyone.” A small crab, who was very quick on the ground, approached the huge whale and climbed onto his belly. “Close your eyes, everyone,” said Dr. Crab. The crab snipped open the whale’s stomach with her pincers. And out of the whale’s belly, spilled hundreds and hundreds of plastic bags and other plastic objects. Mother Whale shrieked at the sight. The dolphins started flapping their tails in rage again. And the crowd of people leaned in closer to take more photos.


“How can that be?” said some. “Unbelievable,” said others.



iceberg of positive actions

already stretches far and wide, but how are the Sustainable Development Goals adding to it? Seventeen goals have been adopted to transform our world, including Goal 6, on clean water and sanitation, Goal 10, on reducing inequalities, and Goal 13, on taking climate action. The 17 goals have a total of 169 targets and more than 300 indicators so we can measure our progress. Most significantly, 193 countries are using these goals to bring peace, rights and well-being to their populations. As with all goals, there is a deadline, and for the 17 Sustainable Development Goals it is the year 2030.


Baby Whale didn’t say anything at all. She swam away as fast as she could. When her mother saw this, she swam after her until she had caught up with her baby, who was now crying. “We have to stop this,” said Baby Whale. “Every day, somebody new dies from plastic. We are not safe in the ocean anymore. Not even Phantom could survive it.” Mother Whale thought for a moment and said, “I have a plan.” She told Baby Whale her plan and they both felt excited and couldn’t wait to get started.


The following morning, Baby Whale and her mother called a meeting of all the plankton, penguins, birds, dolphins, jellyfish, seahorses and other sea life. “We have a plan to protect our oceans – our home - from becoming dangerous.” said Baby Whale to all the sea creatures, “and we need help – from each and every one of you.” “First, we need to inform the teachers and children in all the marine schools about plastic,” said Baby Whale. “Second, we need to clean up our home. Third, we need to send a message that is loud and clear to everyone who makes plastic and everyone who uses it”. All the sea life clapped and cheered at Baby Whale’s words.



The fish, dolphins, turtles, jellyfish, penguins and birds went their separate ways and spoke to all the marine teachers about the harmful effects plastic has on sea life. It turned out to be quite easy because the teachers agreed and thought it was necessary to teach all the junior fish and sea birds how to distinguish plastic from food. 15


After this, the sea creatures collected all the fishing nets that had been tossed overboard from the fishing boats. They used them to gather all the plastic they could find. When they pulled the plastic all together, they saw just how much of it there was. It was the size of a large country. The turtle asked, “Now that we have collected all the plastic and cleaned the ocean, where must we put it?” Baby Whale answered, “Right, what we need to do now is to send a message to the people on the land.” All the sea creatures had their eyes riveted on Baby Whale as she demonstrated what to do. The fish started fastening different pieces of plastic together with fishing line just as Baby Whale had shown them. With everyone’s help, they were able to finish their task quickly. They looked proudly at the great structure they had crafted using nothing but plastic waste: the biggest plastic whale in the ocean. They were happy with their work. Now they had to float it to important places.



Together, the fish pulled the enormous plastic whale along the shore. Holiday makers on the beach saw this original masterpiece and were amazed. They pointed, called out to others and took photos. Soon enough, film crews and photographers were capturing the moment for a live broadcast. The plan was working. The fish then pulled the huge plastic whale past fisheries, deep-sea fishermen and divers, and past holiday cruise liners. Everywhere they went, they caught the attention of people who could help them protect sea life.

*Spread 10 : Needs revision




After all their hard work, the sea creatures congratulated each other on their efforts. Baby Whale said, “Well, it might take some time before we see big changes, but we have made an excellent start‌â€? As Baby Whale was talking, something small glistening in the light mesmerized a young squid. But before just swallowing it whole, the squid tested it to see if it was plastic or something edible - just as his teacher had taught him. It turned out that it was food so he ate it happily. Seeing this, Baby Whale smiled at his mother, knowing that their actions had already made a difference.



PLASTIC POLLUTION Have you noticed the amount of plastic there is in the world? In your world? The chairs and tables you use at school are probably made of plastic. The single-use grocery bags and the single-use cutlery you use on picnic lunches are plastic. The water bottles you drink from are plastic. And many of the toys you play with are also made from plastic. Plastic helps solve many problems because it is cheap, durable, and lightweight, so we produce a lot of it. Unfortunately, only a small amount is recycled, so most plastic waste is dumped in landfills or in the ocean. The plastic waste that is dumped in the ocean is harmful to ocean life. Animals can become entangled in it, or mistake it for food, causing many deaths. Even larger animals, like whales, are not safe from plastic. And neither are humans. Plastic pollution from the ocean gets into the food chain. Plankton eat microplastics. What are microplastics? They are really small pieces of plastic, less than 5 millimetres in diameter. Small fish, oysters and crabs eat plankton. And seafood lands on our plates, so most people have plastic in their bodies. This is harmful to humanity because microplastics are toxic due to the chemicals used to treat the plastic. A lot of stuff has happened that we didn’t plan for when we produced plastic. Thankfully, world leaders are working together to reduce the amount of plastic products being made. For example, a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report shows that more than 60 countries around the world have introduced bans or levies on single-use plastic products like shopping bags or straws. There are also big projects to clean up the ocean. The United Nations, NGOs and others are campaigning to cut down on the use of microplastics and single-use plastics. There are many projects that aim to solve the plastic pollution crisis and you can help too. Here are just a few ways you can contribute:

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Use fewer plastic products. Reuse plastic products like bags or bottles. Recycle plastic waste. Say no to single-use plastic products like plastic bags, straws and cutlery. Learn about plastic pollution through documentaries and books on the topic. Be creative – use art to express what you know about plastic and share it on social media. Support an existing project to clean up the ocean and tidy beaches. Discuss your own creative ways to get involved with your friends and school teacher. Create a free workshop on plastic pollution with the help of your parents or teachers. Spread the word.

A NOTE FOR PARENTS AND TEACHERS Sustainable Development Goals Imagine a world where girls and boys are treated fairly, where there are good schools for all children, and where there is plenty of safe drinking water for villages in remote areas. That’s what the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim to do: to help us live better lives in a safe world. In 2015, world leaders agreed there would be 17 goals with targets to achieve by 2030. You can imagine these goals as a to-do list for all of us to tick off in order to create the world that we want. We encourage you to learn more about the 17 global goals. Have a look online at the resources about the SDGs aimed at your age group.

The Perception Change Project The Perception Change Project (PCP) is a small team at the Office of the Director-General at the United Nations Office in Geneva. It was started in 2014 by the Director-General, Michael Møller, with the objective of changing the perception of UN Geneva by showing the impact International Geneva* has on lives around the world. All the experts working in International Geneva are striving to put an end to problems such as hunger, inequalities, disease, climate change and lack of education by following the same road map: The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The PCP aims to raise awareness about the importance of the SDGs and how to achieve them. *International Geneva is made up of international organizations, permanent mission, non-governmental organizations and other institutions which work together to achieve peace, rights and well-being.


In this underwater adventure, we read about the tragic effect that plastic has on our planet. Phantom, the largest whale in the ocean, can normally overshadow any challenge thanks to his extreme size, but now, even he is struggling to survive in his natural habitat. So much plastic is being dumped into the ocean that is threatening underwater life. Discover how Phantom’s friends help stop plastic pollution and what you can do to protect our planet.