World's Largest Beach Clean-Up: Trash-Ridden to Pristine in 2 Years
By Joe McCarthy
A lot of people take part in community clean-up efforts—spending a Saturday morning picking up litter in a park, mowing an overgrown field or painting a fence.
But not everyone has the drive to do what a young lawyer and environmentalist in Mumbai recently accomplished.
In 2015, Afroz Shah moved to an apartment near Versova beach, an ignored strip of ocean near slums. He was shocked by the pollution that he saw—the beach was covered in rotting garbage. Nobody could walk along the beach, let alone swim in the water, without being assaulted by the smell.
"[The plastic] was 5.5 feet high. A man could drown in the plastic," Shah told CNN. "I said I'm going to come on the field and do something. I have to protect my environment and it requires ground action."
At first, Shah and his neighbor, an 84-year old man, would go out and pick up as much trash as they could.
After a while, Shah realized that he had to expand his team if he was going to make a dent in what was essentially an environmental crisis. He began knocking on doors and talking with local residents, explaining the harm caused by marine pollution. His determination inspired a lot of people and soon dozens, hundreds and eventually more than a thousand volunteers from all walks of life pitched in.
Cleanups were ironically called "dates with the ocean," because they were really arduous affairs, "shin-deep in rotting garbage under the scorching Indian sun," according to the UN.
Global Citizen reported on the 33-year old lawyer's efforts last year, but his volunteer organization, Versova Residents Volunteers, was only half-way through with the massive undertaking, which is being hailed as the "world's largest beach clean-up effort."
Now, after 21 months of toil, they picked up 11,684,500 pounds of trash, most of it plastic, that had accumulated along the shoreline. They also cleaned 52 public toilets and planted 50 coconut trees.
For his vision and hardwork, the UN awarded him the "Champion of the Earth" award.
"I am an ocean lover and feel that we owe a duty to our ocean to make it free of plastic," he told the UN. "I just hope this is the beginning for coastal communities across India and the world."
Shah's work didn't end with the last piece of trash picked up, either.
He wants to plant thousands of coconut trees to return the beach to the lagoon it once was and he now works to limit the amount of garbage that makes it to the beach in the first place, by, for example, building barriers along creeks upstream that carry litter to the beach.
He's also planning to expand his clean-up effort to the coastline's mangrove forests, which are similarly infested with garbage. When clean and unobstructed, these forests can act as powerful filtration systems and also form a natural defense against storms.
Shah also hopes to bring grassroots clean-up efforts to other parts of India, inspiring a nationwide awareness of environmentalism. Ultimately, Shah wants to export this mentality throughout the world, cleaning up oceans and ecosystems to create a world that can foster life in all its splendor.
It's going to be an uphill battle.
Each year, 8 to 13 million tons of plastic make it into the world's oceans each year—the equivalent of two garbage trucks filled with plastic every minute. Throughout the world, there are about five plastic bags filled with plastic for every foot of coastline. By 2050, plastic could outweigh fish in the oceans.
While companies are to blame for the massive amounts of plastic produced and sold, plastic pollution often happens on an individual level.
But if Shah's work proves anything, individuals can transform their relationship to garbage.
And if his style of enthusiastic environmentalism catches on around the world, then more beaches will begin to look like the Versova beach of today than the Versova beach of two years ago.
By Tim Radford
Scientists have calculated yet another item on the human shopping list that makes up the modern world: plastics. They have estimated the mass of all the plastic bottles, bags, cups, toys, instruments and fabrics ever produced and tracked its whereabouts, as yet another index of the phenomenal change to the face of the planet made by recent human advance.
Altogether, since about 1950, with the birth of a new industry, more than 8.3 billion tonnes (or 9.1 tons) of synthetic organic polymers have been generated, distributed and discarded. Of that total, 6.3 billion tonnes are classified as waste.
By Jessica Corbett
As Senate Democrats stay silent on an energy bill that environmental groups call "a pro-fracking giveaway to oil and gas interests that would commit America to decades more of dangerous fossil fuel dependence," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is receiving applause for speaking out against it.
"As a nation, our job is to move away from fossil fuels toward sustainable energy and energy efficiency. This bill does the opposite," Sanders said in a statement.
ExxonMobil filed suit against the federal government last week, claiming that a $2 million fine levied against the company by the Treasury Department is "unlawful" and "capricious."
The Treasury Department fined Exxon Thursday morning, alleging that the oil giant displayed "reckless disregard" of U.S.-Russian sanctions in its dealings with Russian company Rosneft in 2014 under CEO Rex Tillerson.
By Andy Rowell
For years, environmentalists have warned that due to climate change, there will be billions of barrels of oil that we will never be able to burn. These reserves will become what has increasingly been called "stranded assets."
To give you one example: In a new report, Friends of the Earth argued that "The coal, oil and gas in reserves already in production and development globally is more than we can afford to burn. There is no room for any new coal, oil or gas exploration and production.
Late last year, the tiny house community celebrated a watershed moment—an official appendix in the 2018 version of the International Residential Code, the model building code used by most jurisdictions in the U.S.
"There are many things that are monumental in the adoption of tiny house construction codes by the IRC," cheered Thom Stanton, the CEO of small space developer, Timber Trails. "Among them, that architects, designers, builders, community developers and (maybe most importantly) zoning officials have a means of recognizing tiny houses as an official form of permissible dwelling."
The colossal mass of throwaway plastic—from straws to bags to bottles—has grown much faster than recycling and disposal efforts can contain it. You might even say this is obvious, no matter where you look.
Check out this video from National Geographic to watch underwater photographer Huai Su film a diver collecting an endless amount of plastic bottles that litter the seafloor off Xiaoliuqiu Island, Taiwan.
A reef off the coast of Cancún will become the first in the world with its own insurance policy, testing a new strategy meant to encourage local investment in the wellbeing of the reef.
Under the policy, created by insurance company Swiss Re and the Nature Conservancy, local hotels and other organizations dependent on tourism will pay into the policy, receiving reimbursements to repair the reef and local beaches after natural disasters.
The Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York (NOFA-NY) denounced the USDA's permit for the world's first open-air trials of the Genetically Engineered (GE) Diamondback moth to be released in Geneva, New York.
This announcement came concurrently with the availability of a final environmental assessment and finding of no significant impact for the field release of the GE Diamondback moths. NOFA-NY considers the Environmental Assessment lacking comprehensive health and environmental details.