We've hit rock bottom
Over 50 subs engaged in cleaning the bed of Lake Orta and about 100 people simultaneously working on the shore, to pick up the waste abandoned on the banks of this shimmering body of water: just some of the figures that describe the environmentally-friendly initiative organised by the Dive Project Sub Borgomanero association. Instead, the single pieces of waste recovered from the lake bed are too many to count, but these are being catalogued by Legambiente and then sent for disposal and recycling.
This initiative, in which we were delighted to participate, was first staged in 2017 and has recently expanded thanks to the involvement of many associations, organisations and companies who play important roles in the mission to raise awareness about the need to look after Lake Orta and its delicate ecosystem. The participants in the initiative included Sub Novara Laghi, Lions Club Borgomanero Cusio, Ecomuseo Cusius, Lega Ambiente with Gli Amici del Lago onlus, FAI Laghi Alto Novarese, and a large group of young people from Klincy, a Russian city about 200 km from Chernobyl, guests of Legambiente Il Brutto Anatroccolo VCO, engaged as environmentalist and international aid volunteers.
The event took place on Sunday 9 September and the location was the lido of Gozzano. «As soon as you put your head under the water you automatically become an environmentalist- illustrates Umberto Piscopo, sub instructor of PPS Worldwide (one of the most important sub aqua teaching agencies in the world, which condemns behaviour that contrasts the protection of the environment and educates divers to take a sustainable approach to the underwater world) - ...divers know that all forms of environmental contamination have a direct effect on the marine ecosystem, compromising its equilibrium». The chairman of Dive Project, Maurizio Di Terlizzi, continues: «This is one of the reasons why we decided to organise an event that would not only be useful in a practical sense, by cleaning the lake bed, but would also promote another ambitious objective: that of raising the public’s awareness about becoming more interested in and respecting the environment, by behaving in ways that fail to damage it». Piscopo continues: «Damaging the environment means damaging ourselves: perhaps in the lake this effect is less evident but it is easier to note when for example, we talk about seas and oceans: chemical substances can be absorbed by the fish which then ends up on our table and, at the same time, waste can cause alterations of the marine equilibrium that can drive certain species to extinction or increase their numbers immeasurably».
Abandoning plastic in the environment is definitely one of the most important problems, not only for the seas and oceans but also in terms of the waste found on the bed of our lake: our divers recovered tens of thousands of pieces of plastic during the clean-up operations, as well as all kinds of other waste, including tires, glass, cans, iron and lots more. «From a practical point of view, in order to proceed with the operation on the lake bed we divided the divers into pairs, giving them mesh bags with which to recover the waste - explains Di Terlizzi - ...as the containers filled up, they were brought to shore and then divided into macro categories. Next, with the support of Legambiente, and the international waste cataloguing system used by them, it was carefully recorded. The results of the initiative were presented to the public at a later date». The lake clean-up initiative had an additional beneficial objective, as it also raised funds for the Auser Volontariato Onlus of Borgomanero, an association that operates transport services for the social and healthcare sectors and provides clinics for the elderly and the needy, staffed by retired doctors. «The high level of participation in the initiative and the results achieved fill all of us with pride and great satisfaction. We hope that in this way we have helped to further raise public awareness about a correct environmentally-friendly culture» concludes Di Terlizzi.
Plans to organise the 2019 edition are already underway. Next year the initiative will involve several more areas of the lake, in association with different underwater divers’ clubs in the province of Novara. The different initiatives organised to raise awareness about environmental protection are the sign of a heightened focus on these problems by an increasingly larger number of people: some examples include the two giant plastic whales set up in 2016 in front of the Pantheon, in the heart of Rome, by Greenpeace, popping out of the concrete as if they were the waters of the ocean invaded by human waste and designed to promote a series of demonstrations with a strong impact on public opinion, so condemning the pollution caused by the abandonment of plastic waste. Again in Rome, the powerful 10-metre whale of «Sky ocean Rescue» - A sea to save, made using 250 kg of plastic waste (the same quantity thrown into the sea every second) set up in the Cavea of the Auditorium Parco della Musica during the national Geographic Festival delle Scienze, dedicated to pollution deriving from plastic. Not to mention the experiments of artist Dominique who, after a holiday in Malaysia during which she had joined a team responsible for cleaning up a small beach, was inspired by the experience and used the waste to make real works of art on the sand, such as the portrayal of a hawksbill turtle, an endangered animal, with a view to highlighting and condemning the shocking damage caused to the planet by pollution and creating a high impact on social media channels by sharing the images to sensitize as many users as possible.
Separating our waste is now the duty of every citizen, but it is now clear that recycling and in a domestic perspective alone is not enough for saving the planet. Indeed, active participation and concrete actions are needed if we are to remedy the extreme damage already done and the technological investments made with a view to removing the waste that plague the waters of our plant are vital, as is the introduction of increasingly stricter laws on the matter. The problems of the planet are interconnetted, so are the solutions. There is no one way to save the planet. Everyday people can band together and challenge even the world’s most powerful forces. Every action to reduce single-use plastics says that is time to change.