In the words of Theodore Roosevelt, "Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.”
April 22 is Earth Day, a day dedicated to educating and activating the environmental movement worldwide. It is a global event held every year and more than one billion people in 192 countries take part by doing their part in their communities. This year's focus is ending plastic pollution, an issue that affects us all, especially here in The Bahamas.
By now, you should already know how beautiful The Bahamas is. We have some of (if not) the best natural resources which afford us the opportunity to market them for tourism purposes. Given the pace of environmental change in the world, we cannot continue to capitalize on these natural resources without taking responsibility for their management. Our ocean is filled with beautiful marine animals that play a huge role in our tourism industry but imagine if, by 2020, 50 per cent of these animals just washed up on shore due to the long-term effects of ingesting plastic!
As it stands now, two-thirds of the world's fish stocks are suffering from plastic ingestion and more than 250 species are known to have eaten or become tangled in plastic. In case you're wondering if our waters also tell a similar story, research done by the Bahamas Plastic Movement (BPM) prove that fish such as Mahi Mahi and other sportfish found in Bahamian waters are indeed ingesting marine debris as they have found many pieces in their stomachs.
In fact, The Bahamas is highly susceptible to tons of marine debris washing up on our shoreline. According to Kristal Ambrose, founder of BPMb, because of the currents in the Atlantic Ocean, The Bahamas as well as other Caribbean countries receive a lot of marine debris. The Bahamas is adjacent to the North Atlantic Gyre which is a clockwise-rotating system of currents in the North Atlantic. There are five major oceanic gyres and all contain copious amounts of marine debris.
Representatives from The Bahamas Plastic Movement believe that if the rate of plastic pollution on beaches continues to increase, it can cause up to $8.5 million in tourism losses annually for the country. In other words, if we don't take responsibility, we are set to lose majorly.
So if you've been paying attention this entire time, one thing must be on your mind - what can be done right now?
Glad you asked because, similar to most environmental issues, proper management policies must be put in place and change must come from the top all the way down. But there is something you can do and if everyone latches on, we will have a major impact - give up plastic products.
- Refuse disposable plastic whenever and wherever possible. Even straws.
- Reduce your plastic footprint. Don't use goods that contain excessive plastic packaging.
- Reuse utensils, containers, bottles, bags and other non-plastic items. Choose anything over plastic
- Recycle what you can't refuse, reduce and reuse.
If at any time you forget, just remember it takes plastic bottles 450 years to break down and a plastic bag 10-20 years. There is no place for them in our oceans and it is your duty to protect the resources within your country.
Tourism is everyone's business - do your part to protect it.