Today started off like many sunny days living on the coast of England. We woke up, immediately happy to see the sun shining, starting our day with coffee and breakfast in the garden. Shortly after we began packing our beach gear, a plentiful supply of sunscreen, water and gin- determined to soak in as many rays as humanly possible before Mother Nature changed her mind.
The waters of the English Channel were sparkling with inviting hues of blue, seemingly playing mirror games with the cloudless skies above. As we made our way onto the pebbled beach to secure our spot for the next six hours, my mood instantly changed. Strewn along the coast were beer cans and food packaging, plastic six-pack rings, and empty cigarette boxes- it seemed they had found their place on the beach the night before we arrived. I sat there, trying to ignore the trash ruining the beautiful view before me, but I just couldn’t move on. I watched as a seagull pecked away at an empty bag of chips (crisps) and felt genuinely disgusted that people could have such disregard for their home; their planet.
Grabbing a bag, and enlisting The Kid, we began clearing up the beach can by can.
I have been thinking about what story I wanted to share as part of the Contiki Storyteller Challenge all week. Should I mention the mistreated monkeys I saw caged to steal money in China or the stories of elephant rides in Thailand that sound more horror movie than a check off the bucket list? Should I share snapshots of beautiful places that have been ruined by tourism or focus on an animal species I saw that is now endangering on extinction entirely due to humans? When I sat on the beach today, I knew that was the story I wanted to share. Taking care of our planet, giving a damn about all of the living things around us- it has to start at home.
This wasn’t my first experience with litter, so it shouldn’t have bothered me so much. In fact, I am sure I have been guilty myself of leaving things behind. But, the more I see of this beautiful world, the more defensive I feel when I see someone or something endangering it. We have a responsibility to our planet, this isn’t news, but it is important to truly consider the effect of our actions when we travel, whether we are on the seaside of England or in the rainforest of Costa Rica. We need to think of the bigger picture.
It is estimated that over 100 million marine animals are killed each year by plastic floating around in the ocean. 100 million. Sea turtles in particular are extremely sensitive to the debris humans leave behind. Turtles often confuse plastic as a food source, such as jellyfish, and it only takes a piece of a finger nail sized portion to kill them.
Did you know? If you took all the plastic floating around in the ocean and put it together, the mass would be larger than the USA and India- combined.
Sea turtles are detrimental to the ecosystem of the ocean. Along with manatees they keep the sea grass ‘mowed’, which hundreds of species rely on for breeding and safety. As the turtles lay their eggs on the beach, and not all of them hatch, they provide extremely important nutrients to the world’s dune and beach habitats. If the sea turtle was to go extinct, it would have not only a negative impact, but one that would have a domino effect on the ecosystems and species that depend on the creature for survival.
Contiki has launched a new conservation program, the Contiki Storytellers Challenge, aimed at not only protecting this beautiful world but educating those who travel at home or abroad on the consequences of their actions. The coolest part of the initiative is their pledge to sponsor a sea turtle for every 250,000 views the video below receives. It costs around $5000 to sponsor a turtle, which then enables tracking of the creature to identify the dangers they face and create more preventative measures to keep the turtles safe. (Find out more about sea turtles and what exactly sponsorship covers at Sea Turtle Conservation.) Watch the video below, share it, watch it again, tweet it to your five million followers.
I’d like to challenge three fellow travel bloggers to tell their own inspiring wildlife or environmental story to help support this wonderful cause. Char of Taylor Hearts Travel, Kasha of Lines of Escape and Stephanie of Lady of the Zoos. At the very least- pass on the video 🙂
The next time you are joining in on a Full Moon Party or trekking your latest peak, be mindful of the footprint you leave behind. The world is a far less wonderful place when you need to step over garbage to see the sunrise.