As a former believer in the notion perpetrated by generations of Chief Petty Officers – who took exception to ship’s decks being littered with rubbish – that the ocean was the “world’s biggest ashtray”, I always assumed that the sea was more than capable of dealing with anything that I happened to throw its way.
Several decades later, I came to the realisation that the sea is not an infinite resource and that dumping vehicles, unwanted household appliances, bottles, cans and plastics into the ocean is plain vandalism.
On the other hand, removing rubbish that’s been allowed to accumulate on the seabed over many years can – unless it’s tackled selectively and with care – have unintended consequences and add to the ocean’s woes by denying shelter to marine life.
Which is why, I’ve decided to become more caring by doing nothing. I’m not going to eat sharks; I’m not going to collect shells; I’m not going to buy or otherwise encourage the trade in ‘souvenirs-of-the-sea’. Neither am I going to knowingly consume any endangered species, or use ‘traditional’ medicines that harvest otherwise inedible sea-creatures; I’m not going to feed fish – unless it’s an involuntary response brought on by the motion of a heaving vessel in a rough sea; I’m not going to throw anything into the ocean and – with the exception of plastic bags and other obvious pollutants – I probably won’t remove anything, either.
I’m not going to throw anything into the ocean and – with the exception of plastic bags and all of the other obvious pollutants – I probably won’t remove anything, either.
Based on the fact that the residual effects of vitamins, medications, pills, potions, beer and liverwurst can apparently spell doom and cause as much harm as poor buoyancy control to the breeding cycles of fragile eco-systems, I’m even going to forgo the self-indulgent practice of peeing in my wet-suit while swimming around coral reefs.
Doing something for the environment by doing nothing might seem like a reactionary approach to the cause of conservation, but after years of imposing my values on an environment that needs me less than I need it, I’m prepared to give it a try.