Closing out SUP magazine’s inspiring Destination 3 video series, the ladies put standup’s diversity on display, sharing their love of paddling with locals on the river near Jenny Kalmbach’s childhood home. The score from their series makes us want to rent their iPod for our next party.
Ultimately, Destination 3 is about awareness. We asked Kalmbach to sum up her trip from an environmental standpoint, below.
A Disposable World?
On my last day in Costa Rica, I spoke to a local high-school recycling class about the issue of plastic contamination in the ocean and it made me realize that we still have so much work to do. Their response wasn’t exactly that of overwhelming excitement, most of them fidgeted and looked on with glassed over eyes but I hope they got the point. I showed them clips from the Destination 3 Degrees project, the powerful trailer for Tapped and photos from Algalita’s website highlighting the damage plastics have on wildlife. One particular photo of a bird carcass filled with bottle caps and lighters seemed to really catch their attention.
They may not all go out right away and buy a reusable bottle and I’m sure some will still take the plastic bag offered to them at the grocery store, but they heard the message and that's a start. I can't expect things to change overnight, I have to accept that the road ahead is long and bumpy but as long as we’re still here telling people to stop and look around, make a few changes to their lifestyle, eventually, we will start to see a change.
During our trip we saw bottles on beaches, roadways and gutters. I saw more plastic bags than I would have liked – most of them tumbling their way down the sidewalk and onto the roads. We saw cigarette butts and disposable plates and cups, leftover from parties on the beach. And we saw one truck driver throw an empty soda bottle out the window and into the river below. It was a sad sight, especially for a country that prides itself on being eco-friendly.
I haven’t spoken much about the issue of plastics and what we saw during our trip as I have been trying to think of the words, trying to find a way to put what I have seen and how I feel. At times I feel frustrated, angry, even sad and hopeless. I don’t understand why governments won’t stand up and fight for the quality of their marine environment and land. Why they would rather waste their time, energy and resources on anything and everything else. It bothers me that there are actually people out there who feel the need to fight issues like reducing plastic bags and bottles when they could put that energy toward something good. It saddens me that no matter how many times I say no to the plastic bag at checkout, inevitably, someone behind me will use one for a pack of gum. There are times I just want to scream at them, DON’T YOU GET IT?! We don’t live in a disposable world, this is it and quite frankly, we’re screwing it up.
So what’s the tipping point? When is this going to be a big enough issue for people to take notice and make those necessary changes? How many more dead birds, turtles, dying seals and tangled whales will it take? Or will it be something that hits closer to home, something more personal, like finding out that the plastic in the ocean will eventually make its way up the food chain to us. Does that get the point across?
As for the trip and what we saw, not all of it was bad. I did see positive changes, signs of hope like bins at the beaches designated for trash and recycling and signs encouraging visitors to take their trash with them. We can only hope that more people will understand the impact of plastic contamination on the ocean and make the necessary changes to their lifestyle.
During the Costa Rica, I spoke to a group of kids at a church about the issue of plastic contamination and what we can do. I told them that we are the caretakers of this earth and it is our responsibility to protect it. One of the group leaders spoke after and his words were powerful. He was given 5 months to live after being told he had cancer. He brought up plastic bottles and the toxins they contain and how sometimes, something that seems as innocent as a plastic bottle can have such a major consequence. He finished with a question for the kids. “If you knew that what you were doing right now would be the cause of your death down the line, would you stop?”
As a standup paddler, the ocean is my playground and I will do what I can to keep it clean and healthy. The paddling community is a large one and as it continues to grow, I hope to see more paddlers step up and take action. Whether we surf, paddle, dive or sail, I believe that all of us who enjoy the ocean have a duty to protect it. - Jenny Kalmbach