The sea threw up this morning. It spewed tons of rubbish all over the beautiful Barcelona beaches. It has been sick for days. I think we made it drunk on everything we shove in the wrong bin or down the wrong toilet. We have forced it to drink shot after shot of wet wipes, tampons, condoms and pads. We have used the last unblemished silent sanctuary on this strangled earth as a giant trashcan. Landfills crumple into the water and become eternal sea cities of floating garbage. The harbinger of death to millions of creatures in our oceans. Sewers spill out into our oceans. Humanity has basically wiped its collective ass on the sea.
Now the sea is sick, and we need to help.
Storm Gloria ravaged the eastern coast of Spain earlier this week. The death toll is 9 and counting. The Ebro Delta flooded over 3 km inland destroying acres of farmland. Across the Catalan coast record levels of 12 inches of rainwater in just a few days (in a region which normally receives an inch for the whole of January). Winds up to 144kmh battered the region and waves up to 44 feet high brought seawater further than ever before. It is thought to be the worst sea storm since 2003 and possibly of the century.
The aftermath and destruction can be seen on the beaches. Strewn with acres of debris and a blanket of multi-coloured micro plastic.
Where is everyone?
This is a national emergency. The beaches should be heaving with people. We made this mess. We should clean it up. The sea is calm today. Sadly, but surely, the waves are inching their way back, tongues of water slowly licking up the waste. Soon, the rubbish will all be back in the sea. Already, we are responsible for up to 12.7 million tons of plastic entering the sea each year. Here is a golden opportunity to take a tiny amount of that back.
If we all grabbed a bin bag (and some heavy-duty rubber gloves!) we could have the sand pristine in a few hours. Many hands make light work and a grateful sea.
Having a job does complicate the ability to rock down to the beach for the day. Which is where local governments could step up to the plate. Here’s some ideas:
- Give employees a day off on the condition they spend a few hours at the beach helping clean up;
- Encourage good citizenship at beach clean-ups by offering a tax rebate;
- Arm entire classes of schoolchildren with shovels and bags – the beaches would be cleaned in no time!
- Buy the rubbish. Pay people 5 euros per bin bag or by weight.
Of course, there are plenty of hardworking volunteers. A huge group of people go out every Sunday with the Pure Clean Earth Barcelona to pick rubbish (mostly cigarette butts) between the beaches of San Sebastien and Nova Icaria. There are worthy charitable organizations like the anti-plastics Raw Foundation or Friends of the Earth. The global conscious is getting greener by the day. Even at the enterprise level, some companies are doing their bit. There is a new movement where enterprises are offsetting their carbon footprint (including Barcelona-based Under Lucky Stars).
Yet, it is a chilling image. Barcelona is supposedly on track to be the green capital of Europe. Their Agenda 21 plan has consigned 620 companies to eco-friendly practices and green energy initiatives. Yet, after the most damaging storm of the century, where tons of trash had washed up on the beaches, none of the 5 million residents of one of the greenest cities in Europe were in sight.
I am as guilty as they come. I started recycling in my late twenties, and probably do the bare minimum. I always forget my Bag for Life when I do big supermarket shops (in the majority of my purchases are wrapped in plastic as I am a stingy shopper, and these always seem cheapest). In fact, I have so many Bags for Life it looks like I am probably immortal.
So, to salvage my conscience I have spent the last few days collecting as much rubbish as I could. A drop in the ocean (pun intended) and I have barely left a dent in the carpet of trash. It is a thankless job. The stench of old sanitary towels. Rotten wet wipe after wet wipe. The cherry on the pie of filth being the odd bloated carcass of a radioactive-looking rat.
The sea cannot say thank you. But nor can it say “Please” or “Help”.
Let’s take back our trash! Anyone free this weekend? 🙂 Hit me up! +34622896595