WHILE studying the diets of oceanic seabirds some 33 years ago, I was concerned about the amount of marine debris these birds were ingesting, and published a note on this in an ornithological journal at the time. Some objects such as bubbles of expanded polystyrene or threads of nylon rope were easily detectable. The origin of plastic beads in the gut of fulmars, shearwaters and storm petrels was less obvious. These were probably the source of the bird’s demise. Fortunately a worker at Grangemouth, attending a talk I had given, explained the source – the “cracker” plant within the complex that was subject to regular malfunctions in the filtration process, such that billions of polyethylene resin beads, feedstock of the plastics industry, were not filtered and bagged, but were flushed directly into the sea. Seabirds were swallowing them in confusion for natural floating foods such as fish eggs. Despite this being confirmed from other sources at home and abroad, nothing was ever done. Many oil-rich countries have a “Grangemouth”. Hence after almost four decades we have a polluted environment that will last for at least the same period again. Even the remotest areas have been defiled.

Similarly the amount of breathable air on the earth’s surface is rather miniscule compared to the planet’s size. The equator is around 25,000 miles circumference but vertically only 23 miles or so contains all the air every living creature, be it animal or vegetable, depends upon. That is around half the short distance between Glasgow and Edinburgh. What politicians in particular must realise is that this small area of importance, our atmosphere, is much more precious than factories, jobs, money, or any other source that pollutes or contaminates it. Unfortunately the powers that be are oblivious to many of the fundamentals of life on earth, particularly uncontrolled belching of toxic gasses into the air.

Bernard Zonfrillo,

28 Brodie Road, Glasgow.

A MARTIAN visiting Earth might wonder how inhabitants that had invented nuclear power, were deliberately putting themselves in the position of having to rely on the weather for electricity, having made no progress with wave and tide, and were now contemplating dropping large weights down mine shafts as another possible source of power ("Gravity power plan can bring work to disused collieries", The Herald, February 8).

Malcolm Parkin,

15 Gamekeepers Road, Kinnesswood, Kinross.