Lately I’ve been on a bit of a sustainability kick. It began around the start of the year, or the end of last year… I’m not sure. It was when I lived in Alderley, and I had access to the housemates’ Netflix. (Cheers friends!) I tended to have it on in the background and eventually ended up on a documentary kick where I would watch anything history based or scenic. And I began watching a documentary by Sylvia A. Earle, “Mission Blue”. And it touched me deeply.
It was a documentary about her life, and how she grew up fascinated by the sea. She would go on to become one of the leading ladies in the field of marine biology. The feminist in me was slightly insulted by some of the content (in particular an article that suggested the group of women wouldn’t survive living with only one hairdryer… ugh), it was fascinating to see how far the world has come, both in terms of research and the understanding that a woman is more than her appearance or marital state.
And then it gets depressing. This documentary focuses on the rapidly changing state of the oceans. It lays footage of beaches and oceans some forty years ago next to current-day images, and the contrast is staggering. Threats to the ocean’s wellbeing are discussed at length, including overfishing, toxic waste, and pollution.
Here’s some facts that we’ve probably all heard before but I want to repeat to drive the point home:
- In the last ten years, the use of plastic is now greater than it has been in the past century
- 50% of that is single use plastic
- Every piece of plastic manufactured, ever, still exists today
- Microplastic is starting to become a real concern in waterways as it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces and is consumed by more marine animals.
- There’s a huge floating patch of garbage in the middle of the ocean, between Hawaii and California
- Animals are constantly being found wrapped in garbage or having eaten garbage that either has killed them, made it too difficult for them to hunt or made them vulnerable prey.
We’ve all seen the photo of the floating cottonbud with a baby seahorse clinging to it. Other documentaries I would recommend watching (along with this one) is “a Plastic Planet” and David Attenborough’s “Ocean” documentaries . Most are on Netflix, so that’s pretty convenient if you own an account there, but you can also find them online. National Geographic also has some interesting articles on plastic and the ocean, which I would recommend checking out. I’ll start you off with this one: https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2018/03/great-pacific-garbage-patch-plastics-environment/
So you’re probably thinking, “Wow Angie, this is a bit different”. Getting a bit real. But I recently learned that I live next to one of the most polluted rivers in the world. You can’t swim in certain beaches, and you sure as hell can’t fish there, unless you want mercury poisoning. This may mainly be the result of the local zinc refinery having a history of dumping its waste in there (which hasn’t been allowed in decades), but that doesn’t mean modern life doesn’t have an effect.
In 2016, a study on the river found that it contains:
- “Heavy metals, which are toxic to aquatic plants, animals, and accumulate in seafood
- Excessive nutrients, which can smother fish habitats and release heavy metals from sediments
- Pathogens from human sewage
- Sediments, which reduce light to aquatic plants
- Litter, particularly floating plastics”
I like volunteering and donating. It makes me happy to contribute to causes I deem worthy but I don’t usually find it necessary to post every time I do something for others. Small kindnesses mean a lot. But every so often I find opportunities to volunteer my time and service, and I decided this was a cause I would like to support for a while.
“The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others”-Ghandi.
I spent an hour or two of my time recently helping the Sea Shepherd Marine Debris Team to clear a little reserve of rubbish. It was a bit chilly because of the wind but the sun felt good. Armed with bags, buckets and gloves, we began picking up the rubbish scattered on the beach and in the reeds on the edge of the water. The ducks weren’t too thrilled by our arrival but they would appreciate the litter being collected when they don’t have to eat it anymore (except they’re ducks so they actually don’t know or don’t care. Either way…) Do it for the wildlife!
We filled at least ten bags with litter. This included discarded water bottles, innumerable lolly and chocolate wrappers, lollipop sticks, cigarette butts, straws, flattened cans and the little twisty ties from bread bags (obviously left by people feeding the ducks). Some glass. A few needles… We also managed to find a tyre and a blowup pool or float. There was so much litter, we ran out of bags. It’s likely we will need to come back to continue clearing the area, as we really didn’t make it all the way along the reserve.
It was very eye-opening. A lot of things we picked up were little, broken pieces of plastic that may have been there a while so they have degraded. And yet all those little pieces add up.
If you’re interested in joining the Sea Shepherd Marine Debris Team, you can look them up on Facebook to keep up to date with their events and the like. Down here in Hobart, they tend to do these cleanups every 4-6 weeks, so it isn’t hard to get involved.
I hope you found this interesting! It’s hard to face facts sometimes but its necessary for the wellbeing of our planet to be aware and be active.
~*“Good actions give strength to ourselves and inspire good actions in others”. – Plato*~
Formal Photos from Google Images
(this obviously excludes the last three, taken on my little iphone)