Happy belated birthday, Earth!
Recently, I had the privilege of snorkelling in the aquamarine waters of Roatán, a small island off the coast of Honduras. My family and I went on a day trip to a very small cay, off the southeast coast of the island. We found a pristine reef with gem-coloured schooling fish, lurking sharks, and healthy, large coral formations.
Like so many tropical islands world-wide, tourism is the major industry in Roatán. While being a boon to the local economy, tourists in large numbers obviously also have a negative effect on the environment.
It’s the double-edged sword of travel: accepting that you have both a positive and negative impact on the place you are visiting.
Roatán is a beautiful, lush island, where the people are friendly and the beaches are stunning. However, garbage disposal is becoming more of an issue as the island gains popularity as a destination. And, like everywhere world-wide, plastic ocean debris is a huge issue. There is nothing more heart-rending than diving a reef system only to find plastic bags and other garbage cluttering up the coral, as this poses a giant threat to many marine species.
In places like Roatán, the locals are working hard to prevent the plastic from taking over. There is a twice-annual coastal cleanup, and the island has recently taken the initiative of instituting a partial ban on plastic straws and bags, which, by some estimates, make up very large amounts of the world’s plastic debris.
There’s no doubt about it, our Earth is under duress. Last month, young people world-wide took to the streets to call for political action on climate change. As we are all aware, sweeping reforms are imperative at this point.
Our snorkelling excursion was an unforgettable highlight of our holiday, for me and the 10 members of my family who were with me.
I hope my 10-year-old son never forgets what that day was like. To speed across turquoise seas to a magical, castaway island, to drop into those waters in the middle of nowhere, and to see perfect reef, still untouched by bleaching. Sharing that experience with him was special and wondrous and also bitter, because I fear that our future world is in danger of losing our reefs forever.
On Monday April 22nd, Earth Day, I spent time at the park with my little Lark. We enjoyed some spring sunshine together and looked in dismay round the playground, at the detritus of winter, left strewn everywhere. Coffee cups, butts, and random pieces of plastic.
We spent about 15 minutes picking up garbage and disposing of it in the bin. She came up with the idea of collecting the more interesting bits to create a piece of artwork. Together, we did this at home:
Yes, I know that picking up a few pieces of rubbish isn’t a game-changer. And eventually, our found art will make its way into the garbage and to landfill.
Sometimes, in the face of a crisis this large, it’s hard to know what to do, how to act, how to create change.
Here are 3 small moves I’m starting with:
- Today I became a monthly donor at the Coral Reef Alliance. I care so deeply about this cause and the amazing work they do.
- I’m making a pact with myself to reduce the amount I drive.
- I’m taking full advantage of a neighbourhood initiative, Roncy Reduces, that has enlisted local businesses to allow customers to BYO containers, cups, etc. Even our local ice cream shop is on board, with bring your own bowl!
How do you try your best to be environmentally friendly? I’m genuinely curious, please share!