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The Conservation Project of Santa Marianita

By Danielle Norris

As you walk through cities, beaches, and towns, what problems do you see? What are the problems that we ignore and turn a blind eye to? For me, and many others, it is waste and pollution.We live in a throwaway society. I have noticed it back home in Canada and here on my favorite beach in Santa Marianita, Ecuador. But it doesn't have to be this way.

Society once revered the sentiment that says “one person's trash is another person’s treasure,” but people collectively have become more and more wasteful. We have cultivated a throwaway culture where humans overindulge, waste in droves, and use a plethora of single use plastics. We then turn a blind eye to this ever-growing problem.

Research suggests that the blame for the mass amount of garbage consuming our streets, rivers, lakes, and oceans is because of corporations in manufacturing. These companies use a “planned obsolescence” system that enables their consumer to be brainwashed into buying into this flawed design. Planned obsolescence is making products that are designed to be used once, or for a limited time, and then thrown away. This trend of disposable products is leading to climate change, atmospheric pollution, resource depletion and subpar waste treatment projects which impact our sustainability on earth.

Although companies and government policies on environmental issues need to take their own accountability, what is our own? To answer this, I talked to Davo Hidalgo and Carina Schaefers at Ocean Freaks Watersports in Santa Marianita. Santa Marianita is a beach town that is a 15-minute drive away from Manta, and unfortunately it has its fair share of problems when it comes to the sustainability of our shared environments.

Ocean Freaks is a water sport company that is run by Davo and Carina, Davo’s brother Santiago Hidalgo, and their talented instructors, however it is not simply about catching a wave. This company also has a non-profit organization called “Ocean Freaks Marine and Wildlife Protection.'' They are small but mighty and with their other founder Daniela Delgado, they are doing everything they can. For over 10 years Davo, along with many volunteers, have been doing their part to clean up the beach, educate visitors and locals on the problem surrounding the environment, and make a committed effort to protect and preserve their community. In fact, at least 10% of the revenue from their water sport classes goes directly into their non-profit to help the cause.

Davo’s partner Carina is also very passionate about this. Since moving to Santa Marianita almost four years ago, she has seen positive changes, but also has been heartbroken.

“One day I was walking on the beach and saw sea turtles hatching. Many people were around. Some were apathetic to what was happening, some had no idea what the significance of this event meant, and others thought they were just trying to help, but what they were doing was actually very detrimental… I remember running home very emotional because although I knew this was wrong, I didn't have any power to change it.”

From that day forward it has been Davo and Carina’s mission to start connecting people with the daily practice of environmental intelligence. Their belief is that we do have the power to make a difference. One person picking up trash while walking on the beach with their family or their dog can lead to 10 people, which can then inspire 10 more and so on.

Through my interview, I asked what positive changes they have noticed since starting their organization, and a warmness took over their faces. Proudly, they said, “we now have 40 turtle nests this season but four years ago we only had 14… things are definitely getting better.”

Let's face it, the environment isn't a very glamorous topic to get into, and it can be easy to turn a blind eye, but we need to take off our rose-colored glasses. More education is required for all inhabitants. School curriculum must include teachings for our future generations, and policies from the Ministry of Environment need to be not only implemented, but also followed through on. As a whole, our collective mentalities need an overhaul.

If we do not make these changes now, what will this country look like in 10 years? How about 20? Without us all doing our part, pollutants will destroy the air and masks won't help us, wildlife will perish, and we will not be able to sustain ourselves.

However, there are simple things that you can do every day to become a champion and save not only the oceans and animals, but also you and your family. These three simple little things can make a huge impact:

1. Stop using single use plastics… buy reusable containers.

2. Reduce water consumption and reuse collected rainwater.

3. Pick up garbage and never throw garbage on the ground.

Imagine what could happen if more people joined in this effort. In 10-20 years, we would see a remarkable difference. We could take off those rose-coloured glasses for good. I have made my own pledge to change my habits to help my habitat… will you be courageous and join me? Let's all be the change that we want to see in the world!


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