WORLD OCEANS DAY
Ever heard of Emong the hermit crab who decided to use a can as a home instead of salvaging sea shells? Probably not. I wrote the tale of Emong many years ago after seeing a crab awkwardly pulling a sardine can on the shores of San Salvador Island in Zambales. Quite isolated and far from big cities where garbage abounds San Salvador Island then was spared from refuse and non-biodegradable wastes coming from the mainland. However, seeing this spectre in front of me inspired to write the tale of Emong and to do something about garbage on land that end up in our Oceans.
Back to the present, it’s a few days from World Oceans Day and I only thought about one title for my blog: Our coral reefs are dying.. full stop. Too morbid? But it’s real and let me put my optimism hat on the shelf for now.
I’ve been diving for more than half of my mortal life (I’m 41 regardless of how I look, hehe) and I’ve seen how our oceans have been the dumping ground and recipient of all the refuse we humans use and misuse. I’ve seen corals smothered by everyday items such as drinking straws and plastic bags to toxic substances such as used batteries and effluents from manufacturing plants or even resorts. I’ve seen different marine organisms making a home out of tin cans, pvc pipes, PET bottles, broken cups… or even sea urchins using plastics for camouflage instead of blades of seagrasses or algae… name it I’ve probably seen it.
Once a year we have the international coastal clean up day and there’s a lot of hullabaloo on this day for media attention and “pogi or ganda points”. But does it have to be only one day in a year? It is also very disappointing to see that those joining in the clean up use a lot of disposable packaging for their food that eventually ends up in the same ocean that they have just tried to clean up… Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?
We can always say that nature adapts but until when and up to what extent? Is Emong better off with a tin can as a house? (when it gets published you’ll find out so no spoiler here)
I will not even rant about other issues such as the illegal harvesting of black corals that is now in the news or why power plants are going to be built adjacent to marine protected areas or the impacts of climate change on the oceans including ocean acidification because I know others will write about it on this day.
On this day, let us all be reminded that sometimes the smallest acts can have the greatest impact on the environment and on the attitude of other humans.
For the longest time I and my friends use reusable shopping bags whenever we go to the market in Anilao. We are often asked why we say no to plastic bags and the simple answers are: “Basura lang kasi” and “Puro basura na nga dagat natin eh kaya dapat huwag na gumamit ng plastic bags”. Some would react indifferently but nods of approval come from those who understand. Batangas is now going to ban the use of plastic bags following the move of other municipalities and cities. I was there last weekend carrying my usual reusable bags when I went to the market. Some of the comments I heard are: “Ayun ready na siya pag bawal na plastics…”, “Puwede naman pala yung magdala ng sariling lalagyan ang mamimili eh!”, “Kaya pala kayo dati pa nagdadala na ng sariling bag para din di na dumumi ang dagat naten!”.
Our reefs are dying, but there’s hope.