Message in a bottle

We spent two weeks on the Mayan Riviera recently, enjoying the sand and the sea. It was warm, sunny and very relaxing, but also very troubling.

The water and the sky are beautiful shades of azure, but the sand is littered with all kinds of garbage. More than anything else, there were plastic water bottles everywhere.

Both my hubby and I are certified divers and we were thrilled with the diversity of the sea life. Thankfully, the coral reef off the coast of Cozumel is a protected underwater reserve, named for Jacques Cousteau, who first documented the waters in the 1950s.

The dive team who took us out in Playa del Carmen were almost all young French men and women, disciples of Monsieur Cousteau in their passion for underwater conservation and respect for sea life. The mainland with its bigger communities has a bit more infrastructure and maintains a degree of cleanliness (e.g. there are garbage cans in busy areas). 

On the island of Cozumel, it’s much more rural, though. Roadsides are decorated with litter, and any beach away from a resort is awash with debris. We saw plastic water bottles, beer and pop cans, plastic containers and bags, toothbrushes, flip flops … layers of stuff that had washed up from the ocean over time. 

I don’t know how much time it had taken for all those bits to drift onto shore. The island is in the path of many cruise ships (6-8 ships per day stop in Cozumel from November through May).

Many people say some of the garbage comes from the cruise ships. Some may be dropped at the beach. The extra 10,000 people or more who add to the island’s population do add pressure to the environment. There are not lots of garbage cans around, and even if there were I’m not sure there would be manpower to empty them often enough. 

What I do know is that in about 500 metres of beach we picked up more than half a green garbage bag of debris, and that was only what we could easily grab on a windy day with no tools. 

In the midst of our efforts cleaning up, it occurred to me that this effort was just a drop in the bucket – was it really going to make a difference?

Then, I realized that was exactly the point; every little drop in the bucket does make a difference.

Where we sit in the First World, away from a world with dirty beaches, there are few reminders of the damage done. But we are all on the same planet. The First World should be setting a good example. Just recycling is not enough any more; reducing is the name of the game now.

Instead of just putting a plastic water bottle in a blue bin we can use our own bottles — over and over again. Instead of buying individually packaged items, we can put portions in reusable containers. We don’t need to use so many straws.

I saw a video this week made by an artist who wanted to juxtapose the gravity of the situation with the beauty of his art. The sheer volume of plastic bottles he used is mind-boggling. How can we not see the message in the piles of bottles?

I can’t pull at your heart strings by including a picture of a turtle I saw with a beer can tie around his neck. What struck me after seeing those littered beaches was that I shouldn’t have to do that.

I can say that having looked in a turtle’s eyes, I just want to do everything possible to make sure I can see another turtle the next time I go under the waves. 

More Happy Gourmand articles

About the Author

Kristin Peturson-Laprise is a customer experience specialist by trade, which means she is someone passionate about people having a good time. 

Her company, Wow Service Mentor, helps businesses enhance their customer experience through hands-on training, service programs, and special event coordination.

Kristin enjoys her own experiences too, and that is what she writes about in this column. She and her husband Martin Laprise (also known as Chef Martin, of The Chef Instead) love to share their passion for food and entertaining.  

Kristin says:

"Wikipedia lists a gourmand as a person who takes great pleasure in food. I have taken the concept of gourmandise, or enjoying something to the fullest, in all parts of my life. I love to grow and cook food, and I loved wine enough to become a Sommelier. I call a meal a success when I can convey that 'sense of place' from where the food has come . . . the French call that terroir, but I just call it the full experience. It might mean tasting the flavours of my own garden, or transporting everyone at the table to a faraway place, reminiscent of travels or dreams we have had."


E-mail Kristin at:  [email protected]

Check out her website here:  www.wowservicementor.com


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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