We are pleased to present the next Master Divers Life contest blog by contestant Tiffany Ayling
The sea was a perfect blue
The sea was a perfect blue. We dropped the tennis ball attached to our freedive equipment that would mark a depth of 30 meters. I was amazed to still be able to see that tennis ball. The warm blue sea wrapped itself around me and said: you’re home. Just the blue, two mates, our freediving rope, and tennis ball. A school of five fish buzzed over to us. We were something big that they could use as protection. I saw a large jellyfish off in the distance. I watched it pulsate and surrender to the strong current. More curious creatures drifted towards me… but we were in the blue where few creatures roam, so I knew that what was coming towards me was not a school of fish. It was a sea of plastic.
Over three days, we spent hours in the water. At least twice an hour, the current would bring a wave of floating plastic our way. We worked together to swim and dive into the rushing current of plastic and grab all that we could.
Motoring back to the island, we could spot the currents carrying even more plastic. There would be a full moon that evening, so the tides were at their highest. Huge waves broke over the reef and onto the beach. We saw huge turtles popping up for a breath and even a mola mola leap out of the water. We hopped on shore and high-fived for today’s success in the blue.
At low tide, we walked the length of the beach to get dinner. We had walked this way the previous evening over clean sand. Now, plastic was everywhere. My partner said to me, “I reckon people dumped their trash on the beach.” Instead, it was the ocean that brought it in. Some of the restaurants had started sweeping it into large piles.
Every morning spent on Nusa Lembongan we picked up bags of trash. In front of restaurants, the trash was regularly taken care of but other sections of the beach had endless amounts of trash. This would seemingly create a lifetime of cleanup because the ocean would keep delivering.
Before the beautiful island of Nusa Lembongan, my partner and I had spent a week on the mainland of Bali in Canggu. Canggu was a surf, yoga, and detox retreat. I loved it, but I did not love the trash! The rivers and sewers were all connected, filled with overflowing amounts of rubbish, flowing into the ocean where we were surfing. When we walked down the street, we’d plug our noses as we passed burning plastic. There was always smog that prevented us from seeing the sun, the moon and the stars.
Simultaneously, Bali felt progressive. Locals (Balinese and foreigners) realized there was a problem and were trying to fix it. There were bags that say “I am not plastic” made out of cassava root. There were little grocery stores that sold goodies like bamboo and steel straws, reusable mesh bags, bulk nuts and seeds. Many cafes even served drinks with reusable straws.
After Bali and a year of living in Australia, I flew back to America. I was shocked in the airport when I saw Starbucks giving out plastic everything and people accepting it without a second thought. I had become used to people thinking twice about single use plastics, to cafes offering biodegradable to-go coffee cups and cardboard to-go containers.
Home, on the shoreline of Connecticut, I was dismayed to find much of the same. I thought enough people in the world were aware of how harmful plastic is to the oceans that a greener mindset would be present on coastal Connecticut. Single use plastic was everywhere… “Can I have a straw please?” I was shocked to realize that people weren’t aware of the photos and videos that have gone viral online. One video in particular comes to my mind (which was filmed where I went diving near Nusa Lembongan) — a diver films himself at Manta Point amongst a sea of plastic that floats around him. After watching this particular video, it is very clear that we must make immediate changes regarding our plastic addiction.
The oceans are connected. A mate of mine in British Columbia recently posted a photo of a buoy with Japanese markings on it ending up on her shore. The way we live our lives and make decisions matter, especially those of us that live directly on the coast. We are all connected.
Now, I am home in Connecticut–thankfully living by the beach (I can’t imagine my life without the sea!). I see this chapter in life as an opportunity to make a change and start a movement here. I have seen the change beginning in other parts of the world. It needs to begin here as well.
I am planning on working with small cafes and venues to host plastic awareness documentary showings and discussions. I want to work with cafes and restaurants to join “the last straw movement” by selling reusable straws at venues to see if people can get on the plastic-free train. I want to teach my local cafes and restaurants how to get involved. For example, using incentives such as a 25c discount if customers BYO cup/mug. The shoreline is our home and we must begin joining the plastic free movement. It all begins with AWARENESS and CHANGE. We must be the change and the voice of the blue. We have no time to waste.
The sea is blue. It will always be our home. Let us protect it so that there will be more fish than plastic. Say no to plastic. Please consider alternatives to plastic every time you shop. Everyone can make a difference individually and together we can raise awareness. Each individual action, cumulatively, can amount to enormous change. Be the change.