We should be able to swim wherever we like without risk of illness or injury from pollution or environmental damage
As outdoor swimmers, we get up close and personal with the environment, often with very little to protect us. It’s almost impossible, for example, to swim front crawl without getting water in your mouth and up your nose. I’d therefore prefer it to be as clean as possible. I’m sure other swimmers feel the same. I suspect many of you have experienced that heart-pounding feeling of disgust when you swim into a slimy discarded plastic drinking bottle or accidentally plunged your hand into an old plastic bag containing who knows what.
It’s not only litter that’s the problem. Our waterways are under pressure from multiple sources including climate change, invasive species, agriculture run-off, road drainage and untreated or partially treated sewage. Swimmers are in the front line. This means not only should we be more concerned than non-swimmers about the state of our waterways, we should also be pro-active in protecting them. And, as we spend so much time in or near the water, we’re in a unique position to spot changes and threats.
I’m writing this on 8 June, which is World Oceans Day. The day serves to remind us how important oceans are to all life on earth and encourage people to do what they can to help protect them. The theme for 2017 is “our oceans, our future” and the focus is on plastic pollution prevention and cleaning the ocean of marine litter. On 24 September, it’s World Rivers Day, which strives to “encourage the improved stewardship of rivers around the world.” As far as I know, there isn’t a World Lakes Day, but maybe there should be.
These days serve a valuable purpose in bringing people together around a cause and often taking practical steps such as beach or stream clean-ups. By the time you read this, it will be too late for World Oceans Day 2017 but look out for activities related to World Rivers Day that you can take part in. If you can’t make events on those particular days, then there are plenty of others, such as those organised by the Marine Conservation Society, or just do your own. Even picking up and removing a small amount of litter from your swim spot will make a difference.
If you live in England or Scotland, it’s also worth knowing that the Environment Agency has an incident hotline (0800 80 70 60) you can use to report pollution or other threats to the environment. In Wales, you can report them to the Natural Resources Wales (0300 065 3000).
We have a vested interest in keeping our rivers, lakes and oceans clean, so let’s do whatever can, however small, to contribute. Our vision is a world where we can swim wherever we like without risk of illness or injury due to pollution or environmental damage. We want a planet fit for swimming. Surely, a planet fit for swimming is a planet fit for living.
What about us?
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Simon Griffiths is the founder and publisher of Outdoor Swimmer. Email Simon at: firstname.lastname@example.org