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Plastic Pervading Paradise

A sad reminder of what we are doing to our planet and how we need to start cleaning up our act.

It’s been stormy the past couple of days, something I’m secretly grateful for as it means I can spend more time outside; free from the worry of overheating and instead soaking up the winds. Yesterday I was able to spend a good couple of hours sat outside my room staring at the ocean, just being. Today I decided I needed to get off my arse and actually do some exercise. This began with a beach walk…

At first I was delighted to notice an abundance of seaweed, all bubbly and smelling gorgeous (I strangely take great delight in the sweet scent of seaweed) cluttering up the beach having been dragged in by the storm. As I neared the first batch of this, I spotted a medicine bottle chilling out surrounded by a halo of sandflies. Less than a foot away, lay his bright blue plastic friend, snuggled up next to a polystyrene coffee cup. My mood changed instantaneously. I picked them up and sat them on the top of the beach wall. What to do with them? If I put them in the bin would they just end up back here one day after another trip on the high seas? Where is the recycling? I decided to leave them there for the meantime before beginning ‘Operation Beach Clean Up’. Over the next fifteen minutes I had collected over 20 bottles, milk cartons, bits of cups and random fragments of plastic. I was in a rage. I still am.

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Some of the plastic I picked up on my walk. Note the barnacles!

Two of these bottles had small gooseneck barnacles living on them! This really got me. These crustaceans, a real delicacy in places like Galicia and Asturias, are meant to live attached to hard surfaces such as rocks and flotsam in the ocean, not on man-made litter. It was another reminder of how much we are damaging the eco-systems of our precious oceans. There have been too many reminders lately.

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Gooseneck Barnacles making this bottle their home!

I don’t know whether becoming pregnant has added fuel to the already burning conservationist fire I had burning inside of me or whether it was living in the States and seeing the amount of packaging used and then absent-mindedly disposed of on a daily basis. Dubai was bad enough but I had higher expectations of America. I recently watched a documentary about the drastic implications of plastic waste in our oceans not only on marine life, but ironically on us as we consume from it. We are essentially poisoning ourselves with plastic, not only through contaminating our fish, but also with the BPA flooded food and drink containers we consume from. I am in a situation right now where bottled water is the only safe option for me and my growing baby, so I am not pretending I am not contributing to the problem, but what saddens me is the lack of other choices available. Whilst I have a steel water bottle I refill, I still have to get these refills from somewhere and plastic containers are the only option. I try and buy the biggest water bottles I can so that there is a smaller plastic to volume ratio but this is still not good enough. Why are small water bottles even made? Surely water dispensers are a better compromise than having to create plastic for a few sips? Whilst recycling is an option, it doesn’t solve the problem. What we need to do is prevent the need for this in the first place, by reducing waste.

Another recent concern of mine that has added to the flames is concerning food recommendations for pregnant women. For the sake of my baby’s developing nervous system, I have to avoid certain fish due to the high levels of mercury they contain, mercury…a metal, a metal that comes mainly from pollutants that again inhabit our oceans; seeping into them through mining, power plants and the burning of coal. I am currently living in the Pacific, a natural paradise and I can’t eat, or should limit my consumption of, one of the most natural food sources here – tuna and other large fish! It is beyond ridiculous. Rather than seafood and fish being one of my main food sources, it has had to be replaced with imported rubbish like pasta and white rice as local culinary treats are on their way out to cater to the tourist’s tastes. I’m on an island, I should be living on fish. Whilst I know there are other fish I can eat, most of them are among those larger species which collect smaller mercury deposits and I’m supposed to watch that I don’t have too many. Firstly: too many rules, secondly: why do I even have to think about this? What a sad situation we have got ourselves into. And who/what suffers? This beautiful natural world and so many of its wonderful living things inevitably. I hope that as time passes something changes but we are relying on future generations to clean up our mess. The song lyrics by Vance Joy This Mess Was Yours, Now This Mess Is Mine go round repeatedly in my head.Doesn’t this go against everything we teach children? “You made that mess, you have to clean it up!”. I fear that many of us and generations before are not setting the example.

Soon there will be nowhere safe anymore, no sacred ground from which we can grow anything. No non-toxic place to grow food or let animals we feed from roam as we contaminate the earth with pesticides, no fresh air free from pollutants from which we can draw a hearty breath and no ocean free from plastics, litter and unnatural substances infiltrating it and its inhabitants. Even our bodies in which we grow our young are potentially impure as we consume hidden chemicals from a tainted Mother Earth. How have we let this happen?

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A sobering walk along the beach this morning

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