Benjamin Disraeli said that there are lies, damned lies and statistics. Sometimes, however, we must turn to statistics to show what Al Gore called ‘inconvenient truths’. Consider these numbers: 71% of the world’s surface is covered by oceans. We have two of these bodies of water washing our shores in South Africa; the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. Around 99% of South Africans love the sea (I made that one up, but fault me if you can), but we still don’t care enough to stop polluting the waters. Believe this: 65% of our country’s waste ends up in the sea. That is 57,725,600 people’s waste, two-thirds of which is thrown, piped or poured into the most susceptible part of our planet. Every type of waste you can think of, and probably a few that you don’t even know to exist. Here are a few more numbers to chew over: we are currently undergoing the 6th mass extinction on Planet Earth, the Holocene Extinction. It took the planet 30,000,000 years to recover from the last extinction, and there wasn’t a single human being alive to leave their plastic wrappers lying around during that particular wipe-out. This Holocene Extinction is Anthropocene: in layman’s terms - a man-made disaster.
Roughly one million species of plants and animals face extinction caused by anthropogenic impacts, and we can now proudly call humans ‘global superpredators’ – we happily destroy all that we come across, from large mammals to tiny insects. (But who cares about stinging insects and worms? Only our entire agricultural industry. But that’s an aside.)
“…when the last individual of a race of living beings breathes no more, another heaven and another earth must pass before such a one can be again.”
William Beebe, The Bird, 1906
Now for the good news: there are people who care. Saturday the 8th June is World Ocean Day, and this event focusses the attention of the world on the plight of our oceans. The Atlantic Ocean is Waterfront Charters playground, and we mean that in the best possible sense. We know that we are only visitors on the water and that our impact must always be positive. We have teamed up with a remarkable young woman, Margo Adonis, who is the current Miss Earth South Africa, a leadership programme that aims to empower young South African women with the knowledge and platform to create a sustainable difference in the battle to combat the destruction of our natural heritage. Margo is focussing on bringing attention to the destruction of our oceans and sea life through pollution, and we have put our weight firmly behind her in this endeavour. As Margo puts it herself, “I want to ensure that all South Africans, as well as the millions of tourists who visit South Arica and boost the economy, have the opportunity for experience not only the beauty of being on Cape Town’s waters, but at the same time gain environmental awareness, and learn how to beat plastic pollution in our oceans, creating sustainability.”
Margo is spot on: plastic is a killer. Another statistic for you: there is a conservative estimate of 200 million tons of plastic currently in our oceans; five trillion separate entities. This is increasing at – wait for it – approximately 750 000 kgs per hour.
Who didn’t cringe when they read recently that an American explorer, Victor Vescovo, reached the deepest part of the Pacific Oceans in the Mariana Trench during a sea dive – and found a plastic packet and candy wrappers?
Watch the video that Margo and the Miss Earth South Africa team have put together; she is passionate about the five R’s - Recycle, Reduce, Reuse, Rethink, Respect. As Margo says: “The solution begins today, if 8 billion people all began to say: #WasteStopsWithMe”.
Margo’s collaboration with Waterfront Charters includes a string of initiatives, ranging from beach clean-ups in Sea point, audio-visual documentaries on pollution and the effect it has on our oceans, eco-tours for children to get the message across, through to working with the Two Oceans Aquarium on a Plastic-free July campaign.
We salute Margo, and other young members of society who stand up make a difference: let’s every one of us learn from them and make a difference too. Margo’s final thought: ‘A wise prophet once said: “We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors but borrow it from our children.”’