The activist is not the man who says the river is dirty. The activist is the man who cleans up the river.
I am a member of World Animal Protection UK and recently, with Surfers against Sewage, they organized a Beach Clean to clear our beaches of marine litter and “ghost ghear”.”Ghost Gear” is the term used to describe the lost and abandoned fishing gear that ends up in our oceans where it causes untold damage. I wanted to write about this because I love the Sea. Each Summer we head down to Dorset, Devon or Cornwall where we spend memorable and magical days on the beaches of the these beautiful Counties. Each year, on our walks, we regularly come across discarded plastic bottles, disposable BBQ’s, plastic bags, fishing lines, fishing nets, buoys and the list goes on. I have learnt to take an extra bag out now so I can pick it up as we go and dispose of it safely. Luckily, Neither me or my family have never had the misfortune to step on a fishing hook but I know 2 people who have and who sustained nasty injuries and a lot of pain at the time. On one of this year’s walks, we found an umbrella which we fixed and which is now coming in very useful!
We face many complex challenges when it comes to keeping our oceans, rivers, canals, streams, bubbling brooks and great lakes healthy and safe, and the problem of pollution from manmade waste that is directly or indirectly disposed of in oceans, rivers and other waterways is becoming a growing and major concern for mankind.
Hundreds of thousands of sea turtles, porpoises, seals, sea-lions, dolphins, whales and other marine beings, including a million sea birds, die each year from ocean pollution, after mistaking unfamiliar objects for food or after becoming helplessly entangled in marine debris.
All seven species, and one subspecies of sea turtle are listed as endangered or threatened. Turtles like to eat jellyfish and mistake floating plastic bags for their prey. When ingested, the plastic causes blockages within their digestive system, leading to painful and slow deaths. On the beach, they get caught up in balls of netting, discarded by fishermen, becoming entangled, which results in strangulation or amputation. They also become entangled in fishing nets in the sea and drown.
It takes centuries for plastic bags to break down in a marine environment and they cause deadly entanglement by ensnaring animals in loops and openings in the plastic. Some sharks must keep swimming in order to breathe but if they become entangled in a plastic bag they are no longer to swim and will drown. Plastic bags are petroleum based and do not biodegrade. It takes centuries for plastic bags to break down in marine environments and as they do so, the toxins are released into the environment. Worldwide, as many as One Trillion plastic bags are used each year, which equates to 100 Million barrels of oil which is needed to make the bags.
Other Common marine debris includes cigarette butts, cans, tyres, plastic bags and bottles, polystyrene, balloons, lighters and toothbrushes. Every year millions of non- human beings who depend on healthy and clean oceans and other waterways are being mutilated and killed by the throw away habits of human beings. Distressed and terrified, many entangled Animals drown within minutes or endure agonizing wounds and infections caused by tough nets and lines that cut into their skin as well as death from liver and stomach poisoning after ingesting our rubbish.
We are in trouble now, unless we deliberately take actions to take care of the sea, and make sure these systems continue to operate as they have for millions of years.
Sylvia Earle, Marine Biologist
The Iconic Albatross for instance, mistakes plastic debris for food and gives it to her young. Chicks choke and starve with full bellies and when their bodies rot away they leave tragic piles of bottles, tops, pens, cigarette lighters and plastic fragments to bleach in the sun.
As the video shows, tragically our oceans and waterways are becoming a death trap for animals. Abandoned or lost fishing equipment, such as lines, nets and buoys is particularly hazardous and every year 640,000 tonnes of it ends up in the worlds’ oceans, causing suffering and death to millions of marine animals.
This ghost gear can last in our oceans and other waterways for up to 600 years, polluting our coast lines and washing up on our beaches. Thousands of our most beloved animal beings are in danger including one of our most familiar and another iconic bird, the swan. Every year, the RSPCA and similar organisations rescue swans and other birds who suffer because of discarded fishing tackle. Typical examples are floats getting caught in throats, hooks piercing skin and beaks and fishing line frequently getting wrapped around limbs. Swans seem particularly affected by this issue, but other birds such as gulls, geese and even the odd owl are often affected too.
Fish also eat and choke on the small particles of waste, and then human beings come along and eat this seafood nourished by the plastisphere. Consequently, the toxins from plastics have entered the food chain, threatening human health.
Where the quality of life goes down for the environment, the quality of life goes down for humans.
I recently read an article that sent a shiver up my spine. It is a startling reminder of the damage the Human Species is wreaking upon our planet. The article was about Ivan MacFayden who has twice raced a yacht from Melbourne to Japan. The first time, 10 yrs ago, his isolation was relieved by regular sightings of turtles, dolphins and flurries of feeding birds. But on his most recent race, he says that for 3,000 nautical miles there was nothing to be seen. Just reading those words fills me with a feeling of devastation.
Similar reports about the dearth of wildlife have come from trans-oceanic rowers and others with the time to observe conditions far out to sea. In the place of Wildlife, there is floating plastic detritus. That along with overfishing, explains the scarcity of maritime creatures.
The great areas of man- made waste and debris floating in our oceans are known as gyres. Pushed by winds, tides and currents, plastic particles form with other debris into these large, swirling glue-like accumulation zones, which comprise as much as 40 per cent of the planet’s ocean surface. There are five major ocean gyres worldwide. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is one of these five major expanses of plastic drifting in the world’s seas. Also known as the Pacific Trash Vortex or gyre, it is approximately the size of the state of Texas with debris extending 20 feet/6 metres down. It’s estimated that this “plastic island” contains 3.5 million tons of trash and could double in size in the next 5 years.
If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.
~ President Lyndon B. Johnson
The impact of our consumer driven economy based on wasteful products and plastic packaging has a distinct message to US, the Human Beings, the supposed custodians of Mother Earth. And that message is that our penchant for plastic bottles, wrappers, containers, toys ( it was recently reported that the recent craze for loom bands are a disaster for the environment) , packaging etc. will have grave consequences for Our Planet and all who depend on her. All this wasted material does not magically disappear when discarded. It becomes deadly. The time has come for us to change our habits if we want future generations to inherit a healthy and sustainable planet. For centuries, we’ve treated our seas and waterways as endless and bottomless. Taken them for granted. Treated them as places that give forth riches and swallow waste. The time has come for us to respect Our Oceans and Rivers, Lakes and Streams, Brooks and Canals, and clean them up, allow them to recover their health and the health of all the beings who live and thrive in them.
As World Animal Protection UK says, Beach Cleans won’t solve the problem, but they can be part of the solution. Next time you are walking along the Beach, Don’t walk by discarded rubbish, take a bag, pick it up and dispose of it responsibly where it will not cause suffering to innocent beings.
On another walk this year, we came across this discarded Buoy which was attached to a very long rope which could have posed lethal consequences to any Poor soul that may have got caught up in it. We took it to the lifeguard station for them to, hopefully recycle it!
You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make. ~