Conservationist: opportunity exists for small islands to send message about environment
Island nations can lead by example to show the impact that even a small handful of people can have on an environment, according to a conservationist from the Isle of Man.
Bill Dale said that the clean-up work of himself and a former partner had snowballed into the creation of a charity, Beach Buddies, that helped to transform the territory’s coastlines.
“I think there’s a genuine opportunity here for all of the islands to come together to send out a group message,” Mr Dale said.
“If we can do this with a little population and not much money, just the work of the people to make changes, that sends a message.”
Mr Dale — who is set to make a presentation at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute tomorrow as part of the Island SOS event series — said the roots of the charity began to grow in 2006 when he was walking with a former partner down a beach.
“We had four dogs and while we walked near the water line, the dogs were more interested in the things at the high-water mark and kept coming back to us with plastic bottles,” he said.
He said that as they continued to walk they realised just how much trash there was on the beach.
Mr Dale said the bulk of the trash was plastic, but they also noticed a large number of tin cans and abandoned fishing equipment.
“We went back the next weekend to clean, and continued to do it every weekend. We picked up about 30,000 items in six weekends,” Mr Dale said.
“Once we realised that two people could make a difference like that, we thought if we did other beaches we could make an even greater difference.
“The thing is that there was a stigma against picking up other people’s trash. There still is.”
He said that he realised that more hands were needed if all of the island’s coastlines were going to be cleared, so he put out a press release asking for other volunteers to come forward.
Mr Dale said that weekend he was joined by 45 other volunteers, and a week later they were met by another 35.
“In the space of two weekends we had 80 volunteers,” he said. “Since we started, we have had just over 17,000 volunteers.
“It doesn’t mean that we have that many every weekend, but it does mean that we changed the way that 17,000 people think.”
Mr Dale said that in the years since Beach Buddies first took to the shores of the Isle of Man, National Geographic has declared the island to have the cleanest beaches in the world.
The charity’s work was also credited as a factor in the country being the first to be declared a Unesco Biosphere Reserve.
Mr Dale said the recognition highlights the combined dedication of all sectors of the island to make a difference and bolster the environment.
He said that while island nations might not be the cause of the bulk of marine pollution, they can stand as international examples of the good that can be done by a small community and he hoped that other islands would follow suit.
He added: “If we can collaborate together to do that, we would send out a message to the world, and how wonderful would that be?”
Mr Dale’s talk is scheduled to take place at 4pm tomorrow at the BUEI Tradewinds Auditorium and will consist of a live-streamed presentation followed by an interactive question-and-answer segment.
Tickets cost $15 for BUEI members and $20 for non-members, with tickets available at the BUEI Oceans gift shop or by calling 294-0204.