My love affair with the ocean began from an early childhood spent beside it. I remember taking walks with my grandmother by the sea, going out on a jetty to feed bits of atta to shoals of fish, and carefully choosing seashells with my sister on visits we’d make to islands in the Andaman Sea. Even now, living in Mumbai, at times of deep churn, my feet find their way to walkways and parks that adjoin the sea. In its rhythms and the vastness it presents, I find solace.
It’s not so surprising then that when we were planning conversations for our podcast and thinking about well being, Mumbai’s beach clean up that began in 2015 at Versova came to mind. I wanted to go and meet the person who had set the wheels in motion of what is now one of the biggest beach clean-ups in the world. I wanted to understand what it is that brings volunteers out week after week in the face of an immensity of plastic waste. I was nervous that first time—worried about how my body, recovering from chronic back pain—would hold up. Yet, despite the tragedy of a beach covered in plastic waste and the physicality a clean up demands, I came away from that morning with a sense of quiet joy.
Prominent institutions and organisations of scientific rigour and renown are ringing the alarm bells on the increasingly poor state of our oceans. A landmark report released in May 2019 by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) states that nature’s dangerous decline is now ‘unprecedented’. It identifies more than 400 ocean ‘dead zones’ – areas with reduced oxygen (a term used for hypoxia) that are unable to support marine life. In India, the seas near Mumbai, Kerala and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are among the most polluted in the world, according to a study by Litterbase. With the plastic processing industry is estimated to grow to 22 million tonnes (MT) a year by 2020 from 13.4 MT in 2015, we will need to collectively reimagine how we can protect the ocean on which our very survival and well being depends. In the latest episode of TCCs podcast, we speak with Afroz Shah (UN Champion of the Earth, 2016) and his team of dedicated volunteers who have been instrumental in the world’s largest beach clean at Versova, Mumbai. We hear how many small individual actions rolled together, year after year, can result in the startling outcome of over 20 million kgs (and counting) of garbage being removed from the beach.
In the essay, For the Love of the Ocean, we’ll also explore what continues to draw us to the ocean and despite the urgency of the situation, there is reversal and rejuvenation that’s possible. We have also put together resources on ‘How to Care for the Planet’ with steps that each individual can take starting now, to heal the ocean and the planet. If you are raring to be a part of this movement, here’s a ready reckoner- a list of places you can join clean ups today.
Don’t forget to join us in our social media spaces to keep track of all this and more! Also, do share these resources with anyone who might be interested or might find them of use. You can always write to us by replying to this email.
Have a great week ahead.