This article originally appeared on VICE India.
It's time to panic. Our forests are on fire, our ice caps are melting and the mercury is rising faster than you can say 'anthropogenic global warming'. But even as climate scientists unanimously raise the alarm on the disastrous effects of human activities on climate change, we continue to go about our daily lives—one inundated with single-use plastic.
Latest in the line of casualties to our ignorance is India's marine life. Over the past two years, carcasses of more than 120 marine mammals, including dolphins, porpoises and whales, were found dead in Mumbai and surrounding areas. Dead fish, mammals and other sea creatures are washing ashore in huge numbers along the coasts of Goa and Kerala. The perpetrator? Plastic.
It's fitting then, that this watersports company is raising awareness about the environment with a marine cemetery to memorialise the sea life our actions destroyed. For the past three months, Kerala-based Jellyfish Watersports has been working with climate activist Aakash Ranison, to spread awareness about the effects of plastic pollution. On December 4, 2019 which also happens to be World Wildlife Conservation Day, the world's first Marine Cemetery built entirely out of plastic bottles will be opened to the public. It represents the near future of our aquatic life and warns of what could happen to them. The plastic that went into building the installation consists entirely from the waste collected by a team of 200+ volunteers. At 4 PM today, a memorial for the endangered marine life was to be held at Beypore beach in Kozhikode, to sensitise people about the effects of single-use plastic and water pollution.
6.4 million tons of marine litter is disposed into our seas annually. Beach litter—50 percent of which is plastic waste—poses a serious threat to our marine life. Water and plastic pollution, overexploitation and climate change have caused the extinction of 15 marine species, and currently threaten the lives of 700 more.
The installation pays respect to eight critically endangered marine species, along with a freshwater fish—the Miss Kerala. Also called Denison’s Barb, it is endemic to the Chaliyar River but ever since the invasion of single-use and microplastics, the creature is on the verge of extinction. The Marine Cemetery installation dedicates a special memorial to the species.
“It’s just one bottle—said 7.8 billion people.” That’s how Aakash Ranison likes to explain it. A 21-year old climate activist, Ranison has been working with the team at Jellyfish Watersports to raise awareness about the massive harm to our waters, caused by plastic. The conservationist effort is not limited to the Marine Cemetery which will raise awareness, and Jellyfish has also succeeded in bringing together paddlers to clean the Chaliyar River. In addition, locals from the area were also mobilised in a large scale effort to clean up Beypore beach.
“This one isn’t going to do any harm. That’s how the other side likes to fool us,” Ranison says. This one won’t add up to gigantic piles of waste, we like to think. The impact, we don’t realise, lies at the bottom of oceans far away from our eyes. If only we could see the damage we do.
In a bid to bring this reality to the limelight—along with the installation of the haunting marine cemetery—Jellyfish also seeks that we pledge to discard the use of at least one single use plastic from our life. Their campaign, #OnePlasticLess, encourages people to realise that rejecting plastic from your life means eliminating millions of kilos of plastic waste from the environment.
There's no two ways about it—our oceans are dying. There’s a dire need for change, and people everywhere are waking up to this truth, whether by choice or through lived experience. There’s undoubtedly been an increase in the number of extreme climate events as a direct result of global warming and more people will be affected if change isn’t put into place soon, and fast. As 16-year-old Greta Thunberg leads an incredible effort to save the planet, there’s a responsibility on each of us to do our part. The Marine Cemetery is here to remind us what impact a simple action like rejecting plastic can have. There’s a long way to go, but let’s start today and start saying a firm fuck you to single-use plastics, so that our aquatic life can breathe easy and rest in peace—not plastic.
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