It’s a sad truth to admit, but we’ve all either heard or said the phrase “”Why are you doing that, it’s not going to make a difference?” If you’re a believer in this then I’d like to tell you a little story about Varsova beach in Mumbai that was cleaned up in 3 years and the result, turtle egg hatching that had not happened in over 30 years, all because one man decided not to listen to everyone and believed that he could make an impact.
Afroz Shah saw the state of the trash piled beach and rather than admitting defeat and standing around idly feeling helpless, he decided to start picking up the pieces of trash. For 3 months Shah and his best friend picked up endless amounts of trash with no one offering to help. Then one day volunteers started showing up and something magical happened.
Shah had created a community of changemakers with one goal and one goal only: to clean up Varsova beach, a seemingly impossible task with the beach containing over 20 million cases of garbage. Over 100,000 people from all walks of life, 60k being student volunteers dug their hands in the sand to dig up trash that had been accumulating since 2015. One day Shah woke up to a volunteer calling him telling him he needed to come to the beach as soon as possible. What Afroz saw next was not a miracle, but the result of his commitment to give back to our Mother rathern than take, and the reward was a beautiful gift of life.
The once polluted beach was now full of 102 baby sea turtles who had not hatched on this beach in over 30 years and were now making their journey into the oceans to start their life. Now Shah has continued his commitment to give back to the planet by setting his sights on the 18km Mithi River and the mangroves that surround it. When Shah started his beach clean up, he had people telling him there was no point to his efforts, that the problem was bigger then he was or could ever impact. Instead of complaining about the system, he decided to change the system by encouraging people to help him rather than pointing out that they weren’t doing their part.
We are much stronger together, but we can only enlist each other to be protectors by coming from a place of positivity and empowerment. Shah alone recruited over 100,000 people that included different groups of people, municipalities, governments, and even celebrities. This is a critical time for our existence, a pinnacle point where we can either make a difference and create a change for future generations or we can adapt the mindset of standing by and watching ourselves destroy our home telling ourselves there’s nothing we could have done.
There is always something we can do. Every day there is work to be done, in the conscious decisions we make with the resources we are trying to protect. Plastic is the number one threat to our existence, so if you don’t know where to begin, start there. When you receive plastic, make a promise to always recycle it. When you have the option to wrap something in plastic, make a promise to go without it and save that piece from going into our landfills or oceans. When you are buying water bottles, make a promise to use reusable sustainable bottles.
There is always something to do, and it is not hard work if we do it every day. The hard work comes from the lack of awarness down the line when we are trying to fix the mistake long after it’s been sitting idly by. If we want to be protectors and champions, we have to make the commitment to ourselves first and practice it every day so that one day there won’t be anything left to clean up.