The video I saw on Facebook broke my heart and I can’t forget it. The whale stranded in a Norwegian harbour refused to return to sea because it was dying. Finally the local vet came to the rescue and euthanized it. Autopsy revealed that there were 30 plastic bags in its stomach and it had been starving to death as a result.
Our 30 pieces of plastic betrayed this wonderful animal. We have allowed the waste of our lives to pollute the ocean to such an extent that marine life is dying. We are cutting off our nose to spite our face – every day of the week.
I’ll only go if we can see whales
I had my first encounter with whales over 20 years ago on a visit to New Zealand. John was really keen to go and I was terrified. I was much less adventurous in my young years, so the thought of taking our two daughters half way across the world, scared the s**t out of me. I finally agreed on two conditions: that we saved the money first and didn’t go into debt (I can’t stand debt!); that we went to see the whales. I’m not quite sure where that came from, but I was pretty determined and John was delighted to comply.
So our first stop in the South Island of New Zealand was Kaikoura. We arrived in our camper van alongside all the other whale watchers and settled down for the night. I said to the girls: ‘before you drop off, send out the Call. Tell the whales we’ve come half way round the world to see them and ask them to visit.’
Turns out the Call works.
It was one of the best days for sighting whales in a long time – even reported on the local news. In our (very) small boats we sat over a pod of sperm whales watching over and over the elegant slide of the tail fin as they dived for the final time. I just couldn’t stay quiet – the feelings were overwhelming – I was sighing, whooping, shouting in sheer delight. Tears pouring down my face – this experience of being alongside such magnificent creatures in their own habitat was something I will never forget.
Finally our guides moved on to see the Blue which had just been heralded on their radio. In those days it was a rare occurrence to see a Blue whale so off we shot (terrifying and exciting all at the same time – I’ve never travelled at such speed!). When you’re in the water at their level, you have to imagine the enormity – to us it just looked like a huge log in the water. For those in the helicopters overhead the view must have been astounding. The realisation that I was in close proximity to the largest creature on the planet brought my heart back into my mouth and I wept like a baby.
Since then, I’ve never visited an animal of any kind in captivity and I’ve used every available
opportunity to see whales and dolphins in the wild. Fin Whales in East Coast US, Humpbacks in Iceland, Bryde Whales in Plettenberg Bay South Africa, not to mention the astonishing Southern Right Whale migration in Hermanus off the African Cape. And I’ve kept sending out the Call. It’s become a family thing – whatsapp is great for getting support from afar – and it works every time.
So to see a whale dying from our neglect was really tough and it made me cry – this time for the wrong reasons. Since then I’ve been on the rampage, sorting out our use of plastic. Turns out it’s a really tough job. Shopping has become even harder – is the apple organic (to save the environment from chemical pollution – and us of course), British (to reduce the environmental impact of transporting), wrapped in plastic (for obvious reasons). The chance of getting all three is negligible and the choices exhaust me. By the time I get home, I need a drink!
On the hunt for alternatives
Finding Carpenters the local farm shop has been a blessing. Their loose veggies are mostly local and when they do need to use rigid plastic boxes for protection, I can return them for use again. But it’s going to be a challenge – I won’t be able to get exactly what I want when I want it, I’ll need to think seasonally. It’s like stepping back in time to the excitement of the strawberry season, never mind wondering how on earth to keep swede interesting!
It means carrying my coffee flask instead of having using a disposable cup as I wander around London (and sometimes giving up on a drink if I don’t have it with me); always having a
shopping bag to hand so I don’t have to take the branded shop version; searching the shelves for the least plastic wrapping and definitely refusing those that are double wrapped. At times, I get fed up with the struggle, but then I think of that whale. Just because I want this (probably unnecessary) item right now doesn’t make it OK.
Once I get this under my belt, I’ll have to think again. Maybe finding out more about the recycling from our local council to make sure they do what they claim to do. Maybe lobbying the supermarkets to use less.
I can hear my Dad telling me not to be so daft.
He thought I was bonkers using Ecover washing up liquid – ‘it won’t make any difference what you do.’ Turns out he was wrong – gradually as more of us change our ways, it does help.
So I’ll keep going with my war on plastic. I’ll keep thinking of the whale. I’ll keep recycling. I do have to be careful though. Once I get a bee in my bonnet, it’s hard to let it go and I can be a bit of a pain in the neck. I can hear my family groan, ‘Mum on a new mission – watch yourselves’. I’ll go in fits and starts – overly zealous, driving everyone mad through to exhaustion and giving up – but my overall trend will be better.