Four years ago I was very fortunate to spend 12 nights in a luxury resort in the Maldives. Situated in the far south of the archipelago, the island our hotel was based on was at most 400 meters long, and 100 from one side to the other. Surrounding the island, beyond crystal clear waters (the likes of which I’ve never seen before or since) was a pristine, vibrant reef.
Swim a few yards from the shore and through a narrow channel and the island dropped away beneath you, whilst sharks, turtles, dolphins and tuna swam throughout the coral and the rocks. Genuinely it was awe-inspiring.
Then two jarring things happened.
I was happily standing on a jetty watching my wife dive, next to a French woman doing similar as her husband sank beneath the gentle waves. She turned to me and sadly commented,
“You should have seen it 30 years ago.”
She proceeded to tell me how the colours, and the coral had been so much more vivid than they were today. I have never seen colour pop like I have in the Maldives, and to me this paradise seemed sheltered from the troubles on distant shores. Her experience suggested otherwise.
The second incident to shatter my naive illusion came on our penultimate morning. There had been a distant storm in the night. I’d heard the thunder rolling around whilst laying in the darkness. In the morning I stepped out to see an unwelcome addition to this idyllic island; plastic.
Not just a little plastic. Rubbish, everywhere. Bottles, wrappers, foam structures. It was a shocking reminder that our world (however beautiful) is quite small and human actions are choking it.
On Tech Talks this week I had the opportunity to welcome Ann Sofie Gade, General Manager of the ReSea Project, to speak on the show. ReSea is a community driven solution (based out of Copenhagen) to remove plastic from our oceans, seas and rivers.
Their cleanup mission aims to incentivise business by combining purpose with profit, whilst employing local communities in Indonesia to recover the plastic waste in their waters. Technology plays its part by creating transparency; the blockchain provides traceability with real-time tracking and data.
The fact that this solution tackles the issue at source, and gives opportunity back to the very communities affected by the irresponsible actions of others, strikes a chord. The people of the Maldives were so proud of their beautiful home and wanted to share the best of it with you. The people of Indonesia are being given the platform to protect their home, and generate financial security for their families at the same time.
Ever since my experience in the Maldives I’ve been more aware of the indirect consequences of our actions. I run a lot, and running kit and equipment tends to be synthetic, releasing millions of microplastics with each wash; a real concern as microplastics have been found in the DNA of sea life and humans.
Increasingly a number of running firms have started producing running clothes from reclaimed ocean plastic, Zouma being a personal favourite of mine. I’ve snapped it up, but I’ve never questioned where the plastic is from or how fair the deal is for those who are tasked with recovering the plastics until now.
ReSea are on the forefront of our efforts to clean up our oceans. In much the same way I now feel informed in the choices I make over food in the supermarket, I love that ReSea could add an informed layer to the purchases we make.
In a complex world one of the real benefits of technology is the transparency it is able to give back to us, and help us see how our actions really might affect the world beyond our immediate horizons.