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I was wrapping Christmas gifts when I came across the BBC news story from November 3 on a “colossal ‘sea of plastic’ which stretches for miles” and was found floating in the Caribbean.
Miles of garbage in the very warm body of water which defines us, holds us, connects us, feeds us and heals us across our archipelago. The images are sickening, a prophesy of the sickness to follow up the food chain, into our drinking water, and into our own warm bodies. Amidst all our gathering today in the name of love, is this how we love ourselves and our own?
I stopped wrapping, held still by a feeling of waste of precious time and of precious priorities. What did these gifts for Ziya matter when one of our greatest gifts lay in waste? What did any of our gifts matter, all over these islands, when we are withholding the real wealth and our greatest expression of love and generosity, because it requires us to sacrifice our bad habits; be real that our connection to each other, rather than consumerism, are what actually matter; and be accountable as adults and ancestors to our children and their children’s children?
I kept wrapping, imagining today’s familial bliss of presents given and received. I could also see the bags of garbage, that would pass on from house to house and from generation to generation from our ways of cherishing each other, ending up in Beetham or Guanapo or maybe just at sides of roads, and ultimately in our rivers and seas before washing right back towards our feet.
Like many of you, I profoundly love our islands’ rivers and sea shores. There are no places more sacred, no sites of communion more capable of expanding your heart and spirit, and bringing bliss and peace. Zi and I go to feed our souls, and hers finds its little way by carefully stepping through and around garbage, some washed up by the tide, some thrown next to trails by irresponsible individuals.
We’ve seen bits of so many gifts, so many family gatherings, so many efforts at community spirit strewn for miles as signs of how much less we care about ourselves and each other than we say we do, or maybe how much better we have to be about what care and love truly mean.
I continued to cut paper and stick the ends with Scotch tape, thinking how everything is a cycle. Everything you do, every decision, comes back to you or your children. Every act has consequence. Every piece of plastic I throw away will eventually come right back to me or Ziya or those she loves.
Stick. Dream of the joy of children opening gifts. Think of the thousands of plastic and styrofoam plates, forks, spoons, bags, bottles, wrapping and cups thrown away today. See the very happiness of Christmas just as I see its implications for tomorrow.
Greenpeace has an ongoing global campaign to save seas from plastic pollution. They are specifically targeting single use plastics, arguing especially against plastic bottles and bags. There’s a key line to their messaging which is that we have to think about reducing, not just recycling. We have to think about giving to seven generations, not just for today. And, if we did, how might that change today itself in our little twin-island Caribbean state?
Greenpeace itself says: “Recycling schemes are failing to keep up. We are calling on key environment ministers to lead the fight against plastic pollution. This means taking urgent measures to eliminate single-use plastic waste at its source…The moment to turn the tide is now!”
These are my Christmas wishes. That these words stick with you and make you look at love, children, giving, receiving and sacrifice a little differently, and remind us all of our real gift-giving responsibilities and opportunities.
Best wishes to you and your family
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