"Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean." ~ Ryunosuke Satoro
Last Wednesday, the news about the dead "butanding" (whale shark) that turned up dead on Manila Bay got my attention. Never in my years of training on the waters of Manila Bay have I seen whales, dead or alive, anywhere near our boats. However, I did witness several instances of dead fishes floating, human wastes of the most unsavory kind, a sea of water lilies, and tons of garbage that made training even more difficult than they usually were. What we did was just to row anyway and try not to think about the sorry state of the bay.
The dead "butanding" made me curious about our new breed of rowers. What is it that they see now when they are out there training? Do they see less of the problems we saw before or is it worse now?
I keep thinking that regardless of where we choose to stand in the issue of climate change, we have to admit that something is terribly wrong if sea creatures keep turning up dead on our shores. Garbage do not belong in what should be pristine waters. They should not endanger the survival of creatures that cannot even speak to beg for our help.
Looking at the big picture can sometimes be daunting, especially if we do not fully understand the root and extent of the problems. But perhaps taking that small step individually is a beginning of the big solution we hope to see. And maybe, if we follow others' lead and personalize the problem we can find the inspiration to make the change we feel are necessary.
Sports is where I found that inspiration. I spent hours every day for years rowing in places where training and competition brought me. I ran in city and country roads where I felt like I was drawing energy from around me. It was only after constantly seeing the beauty that I learned to notice small things that I would have otherwise missed.
Whatever form the problems choose to manifest, they will not go away by themselves. Perhaps what is more important is how we choose to take the next steps to mitigate them. The possibilities are endless and the following are just a few of the many things we can individually and collectively do:
1. Develop the habit of bringing reusable bags when shopping. This helps minimize the use of plastic bags. Just imagine how much we can contribute in minimizing the garbage we have. In those times my paddle caught plastic bags there were moments I wondered if some of them were mine.
Note: 450 Estimated time, in years, for a plastic bottle to degrade completely in a marine environment. (Read more)
2. Use events as an opportunity to set an example. Sporting events often generate a lot of trash. I remember several instances when we organized competitions and had to spend hours cleaning after all sorts of trash left by participants and spectators. It would help if event organizers begin to integrate the values of sport and the environment in each activity. Athletes can be the champions by setting an example. Volunteers can help with encouraging participants and spectators in segregating trash.
3. Instill the values of sport and environment to athletes, coaches, officials, and support staff. Encourage them to share how important is a sustainable environment to the future of their respective sports. They can put a face to another facet of a campaign that ultimately makes winners in all of us.
Over the years, I have seen how the above examples worked. I met people who showed me that all these are possible. This is why I believe it is not too late to "give this planet a sporting chance".
Numbers: Plastics, From Manufacturing to Recycling to Long Death in a Landfill
United Nations Environment Programme
The International Olympic Committee Sport and Environment Commission
Japan Olympic Committee Sport and Environment Commission