FEATURES,  View from the Water

View from the water – Dreaming of a planet fit for swimming

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?

If you’re a subscriber, your magazine will have been delivered in a polyethylene wrap. We don’t like, and discourage the use of, single use plastics such as this. Yet here we are, putting thousands of them into the post. We have researched alternatives such as recycled paper envelopes and biodegradable wrap but these are not viable alternatives. The advice from the Professional Publishers Association is therefore to use the polyethylene wrap and encourage readers to recycle it rather than putting it with general waste. The magazine is printed on paper from sustainable sources and can be recycled.

Simon Griffiths is the founder and publisher of Outdoor Swimmer. Email Simon at: simon@outdoorswimmer.com

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I created Outdoor Swimmer in 2011 (initially as H2Open Magazine) as an outlet for my passion for swimming outdoors. I've been a swimmer and outdoor swimmer for as long as I remember. Swimming has made a huge difference to my life and I want to share its joys and benefits with as many people as possible. I am also the author of Swim Wild & Free: A Practical Guide to Swimming Outdoors 365 a Year and I provide one-to-one support to swimmers through Swim Mentoring.