For Jono Bailey and his family, Coolum Beach on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast “has always been a paradise”. It’s their home beach, and a place they return to again and again: “Its clear blue waters and bright sunshine never fail to captivate our hearts,” Jono says.
But early last year they had a shock. “A colossal cyclone disrupted the tranquillity of our beach, unleashing a deadly combination of floods, massive waves and strong winds,” says Jono, who is National Manager of Christian Surfers Australia. “The once-pristine beach transformed into a foamy chocolate milkshake with a plethora of sprinkles on top.”
Those “sprinkles” were pieces of plastic that had been washed ashore from the open ocean.
“Our family was astounded by the sheer amount of plastic that had been in the ocean for an extended period, evident from the barnacles and other algae that covered them,” Jono says. “We, along with others from our community, spent several evenings collecting bags full of rubbish before it could be washed back into the ocean.”
Surfers come face to face with the reality of plastic pollution in a way that many other Australians don’t. And it’s a problem that’s been growing for decades. Since the 1950s, an estimated 8.3 billion metric tonnes of plastic has been produced. That’s one tonne for each person born within the same timeframe.1 Plastic is prevalent in every area of our lives: in how we work and play, eat and drink, care for our bodies and travel about.
And the production of plastic is only the start of the problem. Around 80 per cent of all that plastic has ended up in landfill, the oceans, loose in the environment or openly burnt.2
The rising levels of plastic pollution that bring destruction to the oceans and their inhabitants deeply saddens us, as we recognise that it grieves our Creator as well.
Along with the environmental emergency that Jono’s family saw for themselves, plastic pollution is causing a social emergency that is hitting the world’s poorest people hardest. Two billion people – one in four of us – have no safe way to dispose of rubbish, meaning many are forced to live and work among piles of waste. And it’s harming their health, damaging their livelihoods, and causing up to a million deaths each year. That’s one person dying every 30 seconds.
We’re now facing mountains of plastic pollution around the world. But Jesus told his followers that even the smallest amount of faith can move mountains. We believe every person, created by God, has value and should have the opportunity to live a full life, free of all this rubbish.
Tearfund’s global Rubbish Campaign is bringing together Christians in more than 10 countries and six continents in prayer and action to demand an end to plastic pollution. Over the next two years, nearly 200 governments are meeting to develop the first-ever international agreement on plastic pollution. This agreement could help end the world’s rubbish problem. Together, through the Rubbish Campaign, we’re calling for an effective, binding plan that holds big polluters to account, reduces plastic production and ends the impacts of plastic pollution on people living in poverty.
Jono says that for Christian Surfers, supporting Tearfund’s campaign is a natural step.
“Christian Surfers Australia is a community of surfers who hold a strong concern for the waves and the environment that we cherish every day,” he says. “The rising levels of plastic pollution that bring destruction to the oceans and their inhabitants deeply saddens us, as we recognise that it grieves our Creator as well. We are committed to joining the campaign to bring about a positive change.”
We invite you to join with Jono in supporting the Rubbish Campaign. Sign the petition calling on the Australian Government to ensure that this plastics treaty helps end the world’s rubbish problem: https://www.tearfund.org.au/rubbish
Visit https://www.christiansurfers.org.au/ to learn more about Christian Surfers Australia
1. Geyer, Roland et al (2017) Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made, Science Advances 3 (7) https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.1700782
2. Geyer, Roland et al