• Coastal Cleaners Andalucía

Humanity has wiped out 60% of the world’s animal populations since 1970, and the outlook is bleak. If we do not reverse the effects of global warming within twelve years, life as we know it will change forever as we blindly flounder along the precipice of disaster. Should temperatures rise above 2°C worldwide, the risks of floods, drought and extreme heat will take a terrible toll on our planet, yes, we are a planet of finite resources, resources that plundered with no regards to their continual survival, let alone humanity’s!

The facts are sobering if temperatures do increase by 2°C, over a third of the world's mass will be affected by heatwaves, 99% of our sea reefs will die, while ice-free summers will have a devastating effect on whales, polar bears, seals and birds. Closer to home many of our pollinating insects will die leading to food shortages while 50% of the worlds potable water will disappear! Global warming is not a ghost story it’s a nightmare waiting to be unleashed!

There is no doubt about it, our oceans are dying as is the marine life that it supports. Global warming, widespread and indiscriminate pollution are taking its toll on our seas and as, yet we seem powerless to do anything to prevent it. Turtles are starving to death because they mistake plastic bags as a jellyfish. Sharks, whales, dolphins and seabirds are washed up on our shores with plastic bottles wedged in their mouths; stomachs are swollen and distended full of plastic debris, gullets pierced or blocked because of plastic bottles, fishing lines and humanities overweening belief that the seas and our natural world are expendable resources. So are we powerless to prevent our seas and coastlines becoming nothing more than refuse sites?

The answer is no; we are not! And as such a team called Coastal Cleaners Andalucía organise a group of volunteers to go out and clean their local coastal outline. Their most recent achievement took place when they organised a Big Kayak Clean 2018 event saw 31 volunteers collect enough rubbish to fill 155 bags. Alarmingly, their rubbish bags consisted of over 98% of plastic debris with most of the rubbish removed comprising of plastic bottles, fishing lines, beer and soft drink cans as well as general debris such as wood, sticks and other matter.

Coastal Cleaners Andalucía is a small group of volunteers living in the Almeria region, South East Spain. The group was set up in March 2018. Moved by the harrowing stories in the press, Coastal Cleaners Andalucía is the brainchild of one lady, Sue Parmenter-Philips. Sue took the courageous step of ‘Rather than focusing on the bad (and damn right depressing), she used it instead to instigate change, create ideas and inspire others to where ever possible choose to be part of the solution.’ As such, the group has been out on nine cleanup outings since their creation this year.

Initially, they used to meet up and clear the litter from their local beaches and coastlines. However, like all small ideas, the group has grown and branched out providing much needed educational support and business incentives to create greater awareness on the impact litter, and plastic pollution has on the local environment. Since its inception, the group have collected over 300 sacks of rubbish and considering each collection comprises of some six to twenty volunteers and takes about two hours to complete it is easy to see that our beaches and seas have become nothing more than refuse sites. Most of the litter consists of drinks bottles, drinking straws, crisp packets, aluminium cans, plastic bags, cigarette butts as well as pipe, polystyrene cups, trays, fishing lines and nets.

One of the most frightening things of the 21st Century is the emergence and segregation of nature away from human life, with many people seeing themselves as something very different from the world around them. Innate selfishness and the belief in the ‘Me’ has created a generation of social media motivated humans. To counteract this, the group aims to encourage people to get outside and feel and experience the natural world around them by taking part in the rubbish collection and through water-related activities so that they can experience the wonderful natural environment that is out there. Also, by encouraging people to experience the effects of what happens in our ‘careless’ society, it can change destructive habits and help people of all ages to make informed, environmentally conscious decisions in their everyday life.

Through their initiatives they hope to:

Clean the beaches, seas and coastal areas for both the benefit of marine life and wildlife as well as humans.

Educate people about the damage rubbish and plastic pollution does and ways to prevent and reduce it.

Get people involved, connected and inspired through group activities and projects.

Encourage people to spend time outdoors. On the water, in the water, on beaches and generally surrounded by nature.

To achieve this and to encourage people away from their phones the group holds several different activities from general beach clearing, fun days and Plastic Free Picnics, which include kayak litter removal, diving and snorkelling as well as creating a fun picnic environment.

Like many of the world’s great initiatives, it all started with a dream. The dream of spending time outdoors, having fun, while doing the things she loves surrounded by like-minded people. But this is more than a dream it’s a journey, a journey of discovery and enlightenment. It started like most voyages with a single step, cleaning the beaches while walking her dog. The fact that she was reluctant to set up a group was overcome by the fact that there are so many people who want to help including designers, artists, first aiders, delivery men and everyone in-between. And she finds herself inspired and motivated daily. ‘It’s more than just cleaning beaches; it’s creating a cleaner healthier coastline and marine world.’ A dream and a goal that many others also believe, including Sea Shepherds, Ocean Defenders, Paddlers against Plastic, Parley for the Oceans. Who like many others are lobbying at various levels from local communities to Government policy makers, creating a united voice to make both themselves and the oceans that surround us heard, and whose success will countlessly inspire others to do the same.

For more information about Coastal Cleaners Andalucía, please visit their Facebook page.

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