DAY 70: The World Through the Tide

By ‎Mílton Pérez, Guatemala City, Guatemala, 11 October 2017

Seeing Pollution Through the Eyes of a Surfer

a poem that derived from the Day of Learning

The first time I went to the sea I was about 6 years old. The image of the immeasurable, imposing, peaceful (in appearance), indomitable and mysterious blue body was inserted in my memory as an indelible image, omnipresent, that as their movements, succumbed my conscience like the waves that break the calm of the shore where the sand rests its memory. My heart was firm as the rock formed by the impending blow of the tide, the engine that moved my body to encounter his memory.

Ten years later, at the age of 16, I returned to that wonderful blue world, full of mysteries, full of stories, magic. The old and ever changing sea, now with the aim of surfing its waves, knowing about its tides, strength of its currents and able to adapt to its changes. Little by little I was discovering a new world in an old friend; the sea. So distant and so close at the same time, so alien and so proper to my life, and just as the sea moves its body to the shores, so it turned my attention to the encounter with the conscience. Besides bringing many and very good friends to my life, surfing also brought me and left a legacy of appreciation, a state of permanent consciousness and vigilant attention. That’s how I discovered that my old and new friend, the sea, was sick, polluted and delirious.

The constant search for places to practice surfing, took me to places that I had never in my life imagined arriving. Maybe would end my trip around the world without knowing those places, but it was thanks to surf that my comfort zone was over, no longer there was more of a comfort zone, the search for unknown waves and empty surf spots moved me to places that were unusual and unconventional. Places invisible to most people in Guatemalan society, perhaps because they were far away places, where there even roads to get there. Or perhaps because there was no infrastructure in place to receive visitors; places where an ecological catastrophe was occurring due to human-caused pollution, far away from beaches and coasts, upstream in cities.

Every time I had to return to the city, it was more visible that the degradation of natural environments had a direct impact on the quality of life of Guatemalan society. It was clear to me that as the environment and ecological environments were healthy, that well-being would be transmitted to people and therefore to societies. From that experience I was born the idea of sharing with people my learning with surf, and how this life experience allowed me to be aware of a situation that directly and indirectly, directly because in some seasons of the year, especially in winter when rivers carry waste and pollution generated in cities, towns, villages and hamlets, I have to surf surrounded by garbage. Indirectly because of the sick contamination of marine ecosystems and in general the environment.

Contaminant effects of garbage, Puerto de Iztapa, Guatemala-

“The World Through the Tide” learning day is a conversatory that aims to share the individual surf experience that allowed Mílton to be aware of the environmental catastrophe that is taking place in Guatemala City; as well as the importance for the environment of the individual and family actions that favor their conservation and improvement, which results in generalized social welfare.

Values such as dedication and surrender are necessary in the face of the commitment that we as citizens and humans must assume in the task of preserving the environment, so that it is a good and a value that can bequeath to future generations for their enjoyment and not a problem to which they have to find late solutions.

The conversatory “The World Through the Tide” is structured in the development of two major important issues. The first one is about the life cycle of wastes commonly generated from households and the effects are of the interaction of this waste with the environment. The second seeks to address the development of strategies (family-regional) for responsible waste management, thereby seeking to change the widespread idea about waste and the treatment that should be given to the same.

During the event, Mílton shared the personal experience of surfing knowledge and how this world allowed him to witness the problem and lack of plans in the treatment of waste materials such as plastic and its derivatives such as PET (polyethylene terephthalate), HDPE (high density polyethylene), PVC (polyvinyl chloride), which are used mainly for the production of beverage bottles, milk containers or detergents, motor vehicle oil, kitchen oil containers, fast food, among others; as well as household wastes such as disposable diapers and women’s towels, batteries, glass containers and in general those wastes that are generated within the daily activities in the houses.

In the first minutes of the conversation the objective of the 100 Days of Learning program was explained, emphasizing that I can learn to make this world a better place, that I can or need to do to bequeath a better place to present and future generations. Since most of the participants do not speak English, the Age of Wonderland 2017, 100 Days of Learning: A Manifesto, was read in Spanish.
 Then the report “Río las Vacas” was projected, in which the environmental problem derived from the contamination of the tributary of one of the rivers that crosses the city of Guatemala is visualized; the objective of the video was to be able to illustrate to the participants about the magnitude of the problem of the environmental contamination that crosses Guatemala, specifically in relation to the contamination of the water bodies, since according to information of one of the participants of the event, who works for the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, an institution responsible for environmental issues in Guatemala, the country has more than 550 rivers and streams, 38 watersheds, 194 bodies of water, divided into 7 lakes; 49 lagoons, 109 small lagoons, 19 coastal lagoons and 3 temporary lagoons, and that 90% of the rivers are heavily polluted by solid wastes, sewage, industrial waters and other wastes.

The time taken by some debris to disintegrate was taken into account, taking into consideration that the time it takes for the garbage to degrade depends on several factors, such as the physical composition of the waste and the environmental conditions in which it is found (heat, humidity, air, etc.). Organic waste in the only fully biodegradable, and nature takes to disintegrate between 1 and 6 months; in addition it was shown that the advantage of organic waste is that with it can be composted that can be used for fertilization of the land or, if appropriate, for organic fertilizer in plantations and orchards in the homes.

On the other hand, it was explained that inorganic wastes, depending on the chemical components of their materials and where they are found, have a very variable degradation time, ranging from about 1 year in the case of paper, to the 4 thousand years or more it takes the glass to disintegrate. In the example of the plastic boat found in the Port of Iztapa, where it is observed that in the oysters grew, and taking into consideration that the time required for an oyster to reach its development takes between 3 to 4 years, the time taken by inorganic wastes to degrade is extremely high, and the impact they have on the environment are equally high.

Finally, based on the information provided on the time it takes to degrade the garbage, it was discussed what strategies could be developed at different levels. Personal, family and community levels so as to be able to deal adequately with the garbage produced both in the homes and the work activities of the participants, being it agreed that as a starting point in the process of the proper treatment of waste, from the waste house, in: organic and inorganic, within the inorganic plastics, paper, glass and metals, in that order of ideas it was suggested that existing platforms be used to collect wastes such as RECICLEMOS.GT, can arrive at their collection centers to deposit the waste already classified. One of the participants, who works in a mechanical and painting workshop, shared his experience in recycling material that he uses to work, explaining that he knows recycling centers for metals in which they buy materials such as steel, aluminum, and other metals, also from places where they buy the batteries of vehicles that no longer serve, which it shared with the other participants.

About 100 Days of Learning

Age of Wonderland 2017 presents 100 DAYS OF LEARNING, a global learning event to exchange valuable life experiences with peers. Doers and thinkers from around the world — innovators, scientists, engineers, artists, designers, social entrepreneurs — are invited to share their personal stories, ideas, and practice, not to be found in textbooks. Aim is to rediscover knowledge, challenge beliefs, and exchange life lessons with others. To make the world a better place, we need to embrace change on an individual level, and inspire others to do the same.