Now that it’s September, this means we’ve not only officially stepped into the “-ber” months (cue Jose Mari Chan Christmas carols), but we also join Pope Francis in praying for a new and special intention.
September 2019’s prayer intention is The Protection of the Oceans, specifically, “that politicians, scientists, and economists work together to protect the world’s seas and oceans,” as stated in the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network.
It’s a relevant prayer intention for the Philippines––an archipelago of over 7,000 islands surrounded by seas. In 2015, a report by the Ocean Conservatory and McKinsey Center for Business and Environment named the Philippines as the third of five countries responsible for more than half of the plastic leaking into the ocean. While on the decline, dynamite fishing is still being practiced in some parts of the country, resulting in the destruction of reefs and the deaths of animals, including rare species, within the blast’s radius.
“The Bishops of the Philippines once asked: ‘Who has turned the wonder world of the seas into underwater cemeteries bereft of color and life?’ We who are causing this destruction can and must reverse our direction and come to the aid of our planet. Following the lead of Pope Francis, we must protect and preserve our oceans,” wrote Fr. Peter Schineller, SJ, of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network in his reflection on September 2019’s prayer intention.
Just thinking about the pollution problems of our seas and oceans is enough to make you throw in the towel before you even start!
But every little bit counts, and our concerted efforts can make a huge difference. Here are some easy, everyday ways to help save our seas:
Lessen your use of plastic.
One million marine animals (from mammals, fish, and sharks to turtles and birds) are killed each year due to plastic debris in the ocean, reports conserveturtles.org. Don’t add to the 10 million tons of plastic in the ocean! Bring reusable bags with you to the grocery or while shopping. Instead of buying water in individual plastic bottles, bring your own water bottle and have servers pour your drink into it. And invest in reusable straws (usually made of metal or bamboo) so you don’t have to use plastic straws.
Make wise seafood choices.
Love tawilis? Well, you’ll have to hold off eating your favorite dish when you’re in Tagaytay, as the freshwater sardine has been included in the list of endangered species since January 2019. Meanwhile, please say no to anything shark fin (soup and dumpling). In the brutal practice of finning, fishermen routinely slice off the fins of sharks then throw the bleeding sharks back into the sea.
Don’t purchase items from the ocean.
At least the ones that exploit marine life. That means refusing accessories made from stingray skin, coral, tortoiseshell, and shark.
Join cleanup drives.
Coastal cleanups are aplenty and available all over the country. (Tripzilla.ph has a list that will take you to Cebu, Boracay, Palawan, and Zambales!) Indeed, when you’re working together with individuals who share your passion and concern for the ocean, it makes any effort so much easier.
“Water is a gift of God that makes life possible and yet millions of people do not have access to safe drinking water, and rivers, seas, and oceans continue to be polluted,” said Pope Francis. “Care for water sources and water basins is an urgent imperative. Access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival, and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights.”