Monday 27 July 2015

Facebook - a tool for wasting time or a tool for change?

 Sometimes I marvel at the way life works. 

'Volunteers heading to the cove'
Photo by Jaume Llinas
If you've been reading my blog lately you'll know that I've been getting upset about the amount of plastic in the sea. It's not just the disposal of the rubbish but the quantity of it generated. There are so many single-use items that will take thousands of years to decompose, if they decompose at all. Things that aren't essential to our survival but are ruining the chances of survival of so many other species.
The thing is, I know I'm at risk of becoming one of those boring, preachy types and I'd really rather DO something rather than moan about it.

But how to get started?

In a shop in Palma a few weeks ago, the owner of the shop asked me if I wanted a bag for my purchases.

"Only if it's paper," I said. "I'm trying to give plastic bags up!"

The shop keeper said she didn't like plastic bags either, and we got chatting about the state of the sea. I asked her if she knew anyone who organised beach clear ups and after a moment's thought, she gave me an unusual name that I promptly forgot.

A few weeks later it came to me, Biel Barcelò! I looked him up on Facebook and found a page dedicated to clear ups. It wasn't long before he posted a news report that a huge amount of rubbish had been swept up at one particular cove called Cala Vella. He set up an event inviting people to go out on a Sunday and help clear up.

'Sunday in Mallorca -
very different from our London life!'
Photo by Jaume Llinas
If you say to the universe, I WANT TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS ISSUE! and then the universe replies, OKAY, DO THIS! you can't go, well actually I'm busy this Sunday, maybe next time...

My husband and I headed across the island and joined a small group of volunteers, plus a news crew who filmed the operation. It was a stunning day - every day is a stunning day in Mallorca - and looking out from the top of the cliffs, the turquoise sea made us doubtful there really was as much rubbish as had been reported.  

Half an hour later, we saw it for ourselves. Mounds of plastic. On the sand, between the rocks, in the bushes... it was everywhere.

We got to work gathering it up as best we could. Sixteen big bin liners were filled. If only we'd had sieves as so much of the plastic has been reduced to tiny pieces. However it's the tiny bits that gets washed back out to sea and ingested by fish and turtles, which then die an agonising death.

It was hot and sticky, but it was profoundly satisfying working alongside a group of strangers all wanting to do something for the good of the earth. Focused on the practical work meant I stopped feeling so annoyed and just got on with the job.

'16 Bin Liners filled - much of it from North Africa'
Photo by Jaume Llinas
Only later did  I reflect on the wonderful coincidence of walking into that shop. To talking to that lady - to her knowing of this man - and to being able to get involved doing something practical about an issue I feel more strongly about each day.

Facebook can be a massive procrastination tool or it can be a tool to make things happen!

What is it that annoys you? Perhaps there's something you can do about it... maybe the next step is just a click away!

Check out the Two Hands Project for an international Facebook page on beach clear up or leave a comment with other pages you've found useful. I've also just heard that World Champion Surfer, Kelly Slater, has just launched OUTERKNOWN, a clothing brand which makes its garments out of ocean waste!


Maxi said...

People do bitch about social media and I can understand some of it when it's filled with yet another airhead posting selfies of them pouting or posing. But it does have its benefits, such as in circumstances like these. Being able to spread the word about issues farther than would be possible ordinarily.
Sounds like you had a very productive day. I hate over packaged items and too am annoyed at how it's just thrown into the sea. Awareness needs to be taught as some of it is cultural. But some of it is just selfish and ignorant people being lazy.
Well done on a good job!

Emily Benet said...

Thanks for reading Maxi! I know what you mean - so many people can't be bothered or don't think it's their responsibility. There are lines of recycling bins over here, and then you'll see in the main bin a big bursting bag full of stuff that could have all been recycled. It's rubbish, literally!

Endless pouting selfies are so boring and don't get me started on selfie sticks!! I confess to wasting far too much time on Facebook though! Since moving countries it's been really useful to connect with friends!