Plastic! Beat Plastic Pollution! Ban Plastics! Say no to Plastics! Plastic is bad for the environment! Plastic this and plastic that! Here a plastic there a plastic everywhere is only plastic!
I am positive for the past week you have heard and seen the word plastic at least 10 times and if you’re not an environmentally conscious person you’re probably asking yourself what in heavens name is going on? Well, one week ago June 5th, 2018 the environmental community celebrated World Environment Day with the theme being #beatplasticpollution. If plastics are so bad for the environment then why is it still being produced and sold? Well, let’s just say the oil and gas industry is still around and despite the odds, plastics does have its benefits. Before I get crucified let’s go back to World Environment Day and save the plastic conspiracy for a next blog.
World Environment Day! A day recognised by the United Nations for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the protection of our environment. It began in 1974 and has grown to become a global platform for public outreach with individuals, organisations, communities and countries doing their part to protect the environment. Every day should be World Environment Day, but that is not the reality so if for one day everyone over the globe decides to take action by either cleaning up a beach, planting a tree, educating the public you name it, then for that one day 7 billion people would definitely make a significant impact.
So what did I do for World Environment Day? Well….. I jumped out! Either you go big or go home, right? At the end of April, I journeyed to Matura (which is known as the Turtle Village of Trinidad) to hike and enjoy the Mermaid Basins more popularly known as the Mermaid Pools. To explore these basins you have to journey along the river which according to the island hikers group is timeless and patient and remains uncontaminated from human interference as it meanders through the vast landscape of uninhabited and continuous woodlands. Imagine my surprise when I got there and the first thing I saw wasn’t a beautiful forest, a pristine river or native species but trash! I was greeted by a sea of trash! The Mermaid Pools are absolutely stunning however that litter deeply bothered me as it had absolutely no place in a secluded forest. Unfortunately, over the years, the popularity of the Mermaid Pool’s have increased, and instead of people enjoying the water and the beautiful scenery they have decided to pollute the land with…… you guessed it plastics!
Although I enjoyed my time in the water for days I laid in bed disturbed by the trash I encountered and my inability to clean it as I had no garbage bags with me. I needed to do something! If the land is polluted then so too will the river when it rains and then the oceans. The rainy season was coming, So what could I possibly do?
I got it! I can have a nationwide clean up of all the hiking trails in the country!
But something had to be done because hiking and exploring our country’s natural hidden gems has become the new trend in Trinidad and Tobago. While this encourages appreciation for these sites and the environment, too often people visit and leave the trails and sites laden with trash. As an environmentalist, I’ve found this to be incredibly frustrating. While changing this requires sustainable behaviour change, I felt as nature lovers we could do something to lead the fight against plastic pollution. So, In honour of World Environment Day 2018, for two days (June 2nd & 3rd) Ecovybz hosted a Nationwide Hike Trail Clean Up whereby you were encouraged to pick your day, your trail, organise your team and materials and clean up the trail! Sounds easy!
I was super pumped and excited! I had an event, created a banner I was on a roll. I most definitely was not prepared for what hit me next. A HEADACHE! I think somewhere in my illogical head I was expecting smooth sailing, a breeze in the park but I could not have been more wrong. As a one-woman show, I was totally overwhelmed and wondered what I had gotten myself into. There were many instances of me wanting to cancel the event-I was convinced I was in over my head and a complete mad woman for thinking I can do something like this on my own. But day in and day out all I can think about was how much that trash at Mermaid pools bothered me so I used this to deal with my frustration well at least I thought I did. At one point, I was convinced that no one was going to register. “Nationwide my foot” I figured I’d be out there by myself cleaning one trail. It was literally going to be a one-woman show. A little dramatic I know but I’m a dramatic person. I dug deep and by deep I mean the core of my soul and I tried to remain positive. If one trail was cleaned then that’s better than none right?
As the days went by and it got closer to the event, people were registering, phone calls were coming in, emails like never before, Jesus was answering my prayers! As more people contacted me I ran into logistical issues but you live and you learn. Things were taking a turn for the better I was no longer depending on my core for motivation I had people on board providing words of encouragement, congratulating me, wanting to learn more about ecovybz it felt amazing! My one-woman show was taking off and I was literally ready to burst with excitement!
In all the craze I completely forgot about arranging a team to join myself in the clean up which brought a whole new headache. It was only a matter of time before my head literally fell off and ran away. Despite a few disappointments and setbacks, I got a small group of friends to join me who were all eager to support the cause.
Finally, June 2nd arrived and Ecovybz and friends journeyed to Three pools Blanchisseuse where we had a spectacular time. The hike wasn’t very strenuous but there were a few challenging spots that would have forced you to call on your maker for survival. We splashed in the water for hours despite how painfully cold it was but we didn’t forget our mission.
Of course, we met trash along the trail but we were there to clean it up!
The other registered organisations and individuals followed suit and I received nothing but positive feedback. On our trail, there was a substantial amount of litter as we collected 10 bags of trash, however, other organisations reported that were able to fill approximately 2-3 garbage bags. Although we all would have loved for perfectly cleaned trails they weren’t as polluted as expected.
So where exactly was cleaned you may ask?
- Three pools Trail
- Maracas Waterfall Trail
- Rio Seco Waterfall Trail
- Mermaid Pools Trail
- Paria Waterfall and Bay
- Rincon Waterfall Trail
- Rampanalgas Waterfall Trail
- Paragrant/Paragon Bay & Private Road from Fond Poix Doux Rd
- Northern Range Trail to abandoned plane crash Site
- Caura Waterfall and Cave
Not bad right? We did it!
All I wanted was an opportunity to clean up my beautiful country and I went out there and created it. I know and understand that one clean up event isn’t going to solve the problem, its simply putting a temporary plaster on things. The problem is way deeper and focuses on policy change, behavioural change, public education, environmental appreciation etc. However, sitting around scratching watching the nonsense take place means that I am also part of the problem. Yes, it is the government’s responsibility. Here in Trinidad and Tobago we love to blame the government for everything but, it is also our responsibility. We have to start somewhere, it doesn’t have to be a big event like this. You can choose to invest in a reusable bag or bottle and work your way up the ladder. We all need to practice what we preach and do our part to make the environment not only a better place but a safer place.
I am happy that I believed in myself, pushed through what seemed like a sturdy concrete fortress and executed my first event. Would I have liked more trails and beaches to be cleaned and more people to have taken part? Most definitely, but I am truly grateful for the support that I received and everyone who participated. I made a series of meaningful connections along the way, learnt valuable lessons, developed patience and met people on the same mission as myself ready to take action. I would also like to acknowledge and congratulate all the other organisations and individuals that did their part for World Environment Day. Well done!
Is this the end for Ecovybz? Am I a one hit wonder? I did one clean up so I can roll over and feel content now? NO WAY!
My head is bursting with ideas and projects and through God’s grace, I will achieve them all. I am on a mission and there is no stopping me. I am going to make Trinidad and Tobago a more environmentally aware country, inspire others through my own behaviour and help my country achieve the sustainable development goals one day at a time!
So look out for Ecovybz and Friends!
“A nation that destroys its soil destroys itself ” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
Below are some of the participants of this year nationwide hike trail cleanup event.