Photographer:Fotograaf: Jesler van Houdt
Jesler in Freiburg
A hundred hawksbill turtles hatched and crawled their way into the sea at Sentosa’s Tanjong Beach one week ago! I’d like to think that I contributed the most modest of shares to this miracle - after all, once upon a time I joined a beach clean-up only 25 kilometers further along the beach (which in Singaporean terms is almost the other side of the island, but let’s forget that for now).
This beach clean-up was quite the experience itself.
I got up at six in the morning only to commute for two hours by public transport (yes, a taxi would have been tremendously faster, but I was being an eco-warrior that day!) and be greeted by a beach that looked as clean as if it jumped out of a postcard. Apparently, there were eco-warriors before us that woke up even sooner and already took care of the big chunks of plastic that washed ashore.
Yet the feeling of uselessness quickly turned into terror: the beach wasn’t clean at all! In fact, it was incredibly polluted. But it was polluted by little things: the minuscule styrofoam balls of broken down styrofoam containers, cigarette butts, straws. There was so much, that if I had wanted to, I could have just sat down anywhere and clean the square meter in front of me - picking out micro-plastic after micro-plastic, the whole two hours long.
Instead, I turned the clean-up into a treasure hunt: I found a single toddler’s boot (leaving me to wonder what happened to the left shoe), a set of vampire teeth (children’s sized, so it didn’t make sense to hold on to them until Halloween) and something so ginormous hidden under leaves that I don’t even know what it was. I didn’t even know whether it was natural or not until I turned it around and was faced with a logo. Nature doesn’t use logos, I contemplated. Ergo, it goes in the bin. And I found so, so many cigarette butts, proving once again that they don’t biodegrade after all. (AchooUCM).
With a total of 150+ volunteers, we filled a whole container with plastic (leaving me with both pride and horror - emotions really did go all over the place that day). And then we went home.
Once upon a time, I joined a beach clean-up.
End of story? Enough eco-karma points? I know what you're thinking: one clean-up won't solve the plastic crisis. Oh, how very true. But it does raise awareness. It does make 150+ people post a pretty picture on Instagram. It does inspire them to refuse styrofoam the next time they go to a food court because they've seen with their own eyes how disgustingly toxic it gets once it's disposed of.
It did make me pick up trash the next time I went for a hike.
And it made me write this little piece.
Jesler van Houdt