Dear Bob the Turtle

By October 5, 2017Activism

Dear Bob,You are a beautiful creature! I can see why Sandy the new female turtle at the Aquarium was hanging around you when I was visiting! I reckon she’s into you for sure!

It was such a great honour to meet you today at the Two Oceans Aquarium which has been your home since the end of 2014 when you were found stranded on the beach at De Hoop Nature Reserve. Some said you were beyond the brink of death.

I am so glad you were able to somehow stay alive and the nice people at the Aquarium were able to help you. I can only imagine how strange a place the Aquarium must have felt having come from the ocean. I am sure you still long for the ocean every day and the life you once had. (Even if it means dodging great white sharks – rather you than me brother!)

I have tears rolling down my cheeks Bob as I write this to you as I must tell you that I was part of the problem that nearly killed you and has confined you to a life in a massive fish bowl since then.

(Two months after arriving at the Aquarium Bob pooed out a whole pile of plastic. This included pieces of balloons, some still attached to their string and several other large and smaller bits of plastic.

This is what Bob pooed out:Turtles often mistake floating plastic for food. Marine debris from discarded plastics is building up in our oceans and poses a significant threat to turtles and other wildlife. Ingested plastic causes bowel obstructions and has caused fatalities in whales, birds and turtles while many other marine animals are also at risk.)

The truth is Bob I have used single-use plastic my whole life. I have shopped with plastic bags, I have drunk with straws, I have ordered coffees in take-away cups, I love eating crisps out of packets and I have run in countless road marathons and races where we have thrown single-use plastic all over the place and allowed the wind to take it to places where beautiful beings like you eat it by mistake. This is the same plastic that nearly killed you and has confined your life ever since to away from the ocean where you belong. I have known about this destructive behaviour for a while but have continued to run in these races.

I am so sorry Bob. I promise I have tried to get us to stop doing this. After meeting you I realise trying is not good enough. While we are trying, more animals are dying.

I went to see the people who organize and make the rules about the Two Oceans Marathon back in 2015. They made a promise in 2013 that they would be plastic free by 2018. I’m not sure why it had to take so long allowing more of your friends to die (the ones we don’t hear about). The good news is that this is next year. Hopefully the death toll will not be too great.

The Two Oceans race organizers are quick to point out the great job they are doing for education in South Africa with the left over plastic they are making into green desks. I know you will be happy to hear that education is being supported as perhaps the youth will be taught to stop using this single-use plastic in the first place? This would be the kind of news that would make a difference to your friends out there in the ocean and give you the confidence to return there yourself one day. In truth Bob all their good work and recognition they receive depends on the ongoing use of plastic and doesn’t help your friends at all. I’m not confident the Two Oceans Marathon will indeed be plastic free by 2018 like they said they would be. It seems we are going to knowingly allow more of your friends to die. I’m sorry Bob, so far your struggle and continued confinement has been in vain and nothing has really changed.

It’s a sad fact that we collected just as many plastic sachets and small pieces of bitten off corners after the Two Oceans Marathon in 2017 as were collected in 2015! This was after all their super hero clean up teams “made a difference” to #RunClean #GoGreen. Everyone seems really chuffed with this campaign so it must be really great. But I know what you are thinking Bob, “you humans made the mess in the first place so you are not making a difference you are just reducing the mess you made and plastic still ends up in the ocean and more of my friends end up dying”. I feel the same way.

These are the little bits collected after the 2017 Two Oceans Marathon from a small stretch at the top of Chapman’s Peak right next to the ocean. These are the bits that runners bite off and spit out. I bet they look so tasty when they are floating in the sea.Bob, there was a really good meeting that happened recently organized by the Two Oceans Marathon. It was groundbreaking. Lots of important stakeholders came to talk about the plastic issue and there seemed to be great progress. I know Bob, while they were talking more of your friends died. Time for talking is over. Now is the time to act.

The worst thing about this letter to you is I keep supporting these races too. I ran in the Hamburg Marathon earlier this year. I was hoping for a clean race. At the start line I watched hundreds of balloons being released into the sky. I felt sick and just carried on and enjoyed my day. People told me I was great. Well done John. I didn’t feel like I deserved any congratulations. A German Bob may be going through exactly the same struggles as you and may not be so lucky.

I also ran in the 2017 Sanlam Cape Town Marathon. A really amazing man who you may remember. The guy who captained the 2007 Rugby World Cup winning South Africa team to victory. John Smit. He agreed to run the Cape Town Marathon to raise funds and awareness for Unogwaja Charitable Trust which supports education in South Africa. He is a truly great human being. You would dig him. And I really believe in what Unogwaja is doing. You would approve of that too I know. So I felt this was a good enough reason to run. But I realise now this doesn’t help any of your friends who are still dying because of the plastic. It only makes it worse. I can see that now.

I have special friends Elana and Francois who are both integral parts of the amazing Cape Town Marathon team and have a beautiful vision that will be very positive for the City and has already achieved so much. I am so proud of them. They have also been really supportive to me in my life as well as being incredible inspirations to me and our nation. So it’s hard for me to tell them this but I know it’s never the wrong time to do the right thing and they should respect that very much. I hope they do.

The organisers of the 2017 Sanlam Cape Town Marathon keep talking about being the first event to receive official carbon neutral status and 110% Green Flagship Event status from the Western Cape Government. I’m not sure how they came up with this figure and being carbon neutral but the best way for me to explain this to you is that they do lots of good in order to outweigh the bad. The bad, I’m afraid is that your friends are still dying as single-use plastic was thrown all over the place again during the 2017 Sanlam Cape Town Marathon. (I have lots of photos if you want to see but I don’t want this to be too traumatic for you) Beneath the smiles I hated it. I am done pretending. I don’t know why runner’s (we) think this is ok? And the organizers keep defending its use? And the sponsors keep sponsoring these events that are responsible for killing your friends?

Look beyond our smiles. On the ground.What should I do Bob? What should we do? I don’t want to lie to you. Your friends are still dying. I can see that now.

I can’t face continuing to be part of the problem. I already have blood on my hands. And who knows however many more of your friends have to die before we will realize what we are contributing to by taking part in these races that issue out single-use plastic sachets along the way. But today is where it ends for me. I have stopped using plastic bags, straws and drinking coffee from single-use throw away cups. I have also stopped eating any of your buddies who live in the sea as well as your land dwelling friends. I know it’s not much but at least it’s a start. We are in this together Bob! We share the same air and ocean and earth!

From today I will never take part in a road marathon or race again until single-use plastics have been banned completely. Perhaps I will run in the Milkwood Race in Cape Town as they have banned single-use plastics. They are doing you proud. I know if I was running a race tomorrow and I knew we weren’t getting drinks I would run with my own bottle or pack and maybe organize a friend or two along the way to fill me up. I’m sure the organizers can easily arrange filling stations that don’t pollute the route and the surrounding environment with any single-use plastic. Nothing has to be thrown on the ground at all and if someone does it will be easy to identify and disqualify that person and ban them from taking part in any race in the future.

I hope your struggle and your confinement will not be in vain. And no more of your friends will have to die.

“Never give up and good luck will find you”

Your life is testament to that Bob.

Now it’s our turn.

I love you Bob. Take care man and say hi to Sandy. I hope you get to experience the feeling of freedom against your shell again in this lifetime. Maybe even some sexy time with Sandy without people watching and taking photos.

Right now I’m feeling responsible if you don’t.

John McInroy

Sign your name in the comments section below if you are willing to join me in asking sponsors of road races and marathons to pull out of their sponsorship until the marathon commits to stop using single-use plastic to prevent more animals like Bob suffering and dying for our running enjoyment. 

Let’s start with Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon, Sanlam Cape Town Marathon and Haspa Hamburg Marathon.

IMAGINE THE JOY OF RUNNING AND SPONSORING THESE WONDERFUL EVENTS PLASTIC FREE. EVEN BOB WILL BE CHEERING!

John

About John

John McInroy is a South African born social activist, philanthropist, social entrepreneur, ultra endurance athlete, international field hockey player, actor and vegan yogi.

40 Comments

  • BEEF says:

    Dear World, please take note from the NZ All-Blacks and one of their key principles.

    They believe that when they represent the All Blacks and their country, the jersey they wear is simply “on loan”, they only have it for a relatively short period of time and they must leave it in a better place than when they were given it.

    Surely that principle goes the same for our time on this planet?

    shoOops!

  • grant harper says:

    great initiative! stop drink at the water table and move on or carry your own hydration. simple

  • Ryan says:

    Ryan Sandes
    Vanessa Sandes

  • chris mcinroy says:

    so easy to do something meaningful if we ALL took a stand. we are all so busy facing many other issues we have to deal with but cannot just keep ignoring what we are doing to the environment around us. if we look after the environment a little better we may even start to treat our fellow humans better ! imagine that !

  • Nikki Smal says:

    So heavily in support of this!

    Nikki Smal x

  • Major corporate sponsors can no longer afford to TARNISH their images by supporting unsustainable events, in this case those destroying nature through mindless plastic waste. The general public are fast waking up to and DEMANDING better practices when it comes to the treatment of what is, essentially, our LIFE SUPPORT SYSTEM. Let’s pool our creativity and shift the existing, destructive norm to one that is rather beneficial to ALL life on earth. This world is FULL of solutions, surely we all long to be a part of that…. I know I do.

  • Karen says:

    Huge support🐢💙😢 Already cut out single use take-away coffee cups (love my ecoffee cup and it’s my standard bday gift to mates now), straws, plastic cutlery, shopping packets…next on my list is plastic bottles, take-away containers and I’ve just added plastic sachets👍🏼 Keep doing what your doing…it’s working!!!

  • Shirley Elliott says:

    For Bob!!

  • Marcelle Keet says:

    Awesome awesome!! For Bob the turtle 🙂 Marcelle Keet

  • Aurelien says:

    Love it!

    The thing that strikes me is peoples mentality behind any and all rubbish.
    Thought about it this morning when I saw a guy chucking his (I think) half still-lit cigarette randomly away because he was about to walk into a store.

    This got me thinking about how to change that mentality. (although I admit the underlying problem is the actual production of all this crap now that I think about it again)
    My idea would have been to buy a plot, have it tended to and grow plants and make it a small forest with plants to live off. Cue start of social experiment: Bring humans in with their crap and see how long the place would last/ take to die. Hopeful outcome that people would realise their shit is killing their sustenance and hence change their habits because they care about the environment. Their environment.

    Cue the link to runners: Almost all littering during runs that I have experienced has happened 99% of the time on Road Runs. Being a trail runner myself I am aware of our environment and make a big effort to keep any run I join clean as best I can. (granted I can still improve)
    But, as soon as I hit a trail run, littering drops by 90% if not completely. I’ve worked for Magnetic South for a few years now (they host the Otter Trail Run) and at last years Otter the organiser Mark showed the rubbish that was picked up from the 2 days of running: a total of 3 to 5 pieces of rubbish, barely a handful.
    A bit of a ramble, but this has proven to me time and again that Trail Runners give a fucking shit about the world while road runners DO_NOT_CARE! That responsibility is on the organisers not only to remove the despicable and disgusting plastic water packets, but to enforce the mentality of cleaning up after runners themselves!

  • John,

    There are people and there are authentic people, you sir, are one of them, a rare breed in this world, a giver, not a consumer. Until we can teach people that the currency of life is a gift to be shared and given, not consumed, it’s an uphill task, but one I know you will never give in.

    It’s now time we all decided to not give in, switch from being a consumer to a giver, a sharer and a saver of life on earth, Earth does not need saving, the Animal kingdom and Humans do. We are the problem, it’s humans that need to stop being voracious consumers, to genuinely care about their community, the world they live and contribute in a more positive way, we can all do it, even in smaller ways.

    I stopped eating meat and fish over 3 years ago, after reading countless scientific research that plastic has entered the food chain, not too mention the huge percentage of Carbon Dioxide created by the meat consumption cycle. I even got rid of my car 10 years ago, simple to do in London and researched ways of getting more involved in our local recycling processes and how it can be improved, this includes stopping racing where plastics are used, not using gels or spending time looking for product that can be recycled, it’s an uphill struggle, but if we all did it, it makes a profound difference.

    Personally, I feel we need to stop fishing and use the fisherman to clean the oceans, we need a different political and social driver to achieve it/

    People like you make people like me want to change, thank you.

    Christopher Brisley
    Take a Challenge & the Motivation Group

  • Alexis Olds says:

    What a sad yet beautiful letter to dearest Bob. Thanks John for writing this very necessary piece. We are behind you all the way. Please add my name to your list.

    Keep on fighting!!

    Alexis

  • Robyn Horwitz says:

    Signed.

  • Connie says:

    Connie Mkhize

    😢 Love you Bob and friends.

  • Chris says:

    Signed, sealed, delivered.

  • Tarryn Povey says:

    Tarryn Povey!!!!

  • Jess says:

    Thanks John. I’m currently in Uganda working to restore a wetland. I visited the wetland today and when I got out the car I had to get clarity on where the thing was. There was no way it could have been under all the piles and piles of waste and plastic I saw in front of me. Your post talks to a bigger issue of waste management in general. I am all too familiar with starting small and then up scaling but honestly South Africa….and the world needs to ban plastic in general. So many countries are coming on board. Places like Zanzibar even check your bags as you enter the county, removing all plastics of a certain quality. With so many alternatives that can be used instead there really isn’t another argument other than pure laziness, selfishness and a complete disregard for others (humans and animals)…my two cents worth.

  • Marsha says:

    Not just for Bob, for the other little and big creatures too!
    Agree with Chris McInroy… maybe we will also start treating humans better too!
    Peace & Love

  • Kristen says:

    Signed 👊🏼🙂

  • Connie says:

    I was so touched. What an eye opener. I teared up when I realised how much damage I was causing in the name of convenience 😔

    Now I know better and can make better choices. Thank you so very much.

  • Vaughn Smit says:

    Besides the single use plastics, many road races do not even provide bins! It’s just crazy. Great blog John. Keep up the good work and hopefully such a small change from race organisers and runners can be made to make such a big difference.

  • Costanza Giagnoni says:

    Ban the bottle 👌🏻🌊

  • Alisha popat says:

    Now that’s a love letter.

  • Amy Anstey says:

    Amy Anstey for Team Bob ❤

  • Reeva says:

    Love to Bob and his friends.

    Reeva Misra xox

  • Pura Vida says:

    Long life to Bob!

  • Dana Sertel says:

    clean oceans for all the Bobs!

  • Rana Helou says:

    Rana Helou

  • Landie says:

    Landie Greyling
    Christiaan Greyling

    Full support from our side!! This has to stop!

  • Jay Anstey says:

    You’re a good friend to Bob. I love this❤️

  • Victoria Leonardo says:

    YES! Go the distance not only for a marathon, but for our planet and all it’s beautiful animals. WE ARE ONE!

  • You have all my support Bodhi !

  • Luke Powers says:

    Full support.
    Luke Powers

  • Cuan Burton-Moore says:

    Spot on, plastic is without a doubt the greatest threat to the natural world, the oceans specifically. I’m certainly with you Mack.

    Cuan Burton-Moore

  • Christine Cozien says:

    There is no good reason, with the advent of hydration packs and vests, why we should still have water points. Trail runners carry their own water and food. Road runners can do the same. Tokai Manor house 16k was one of the first to do away with all water tables, sadly that event hasn’t run since the fires. Very few other races have bothered to follow suit. I fully support putting this kind pressure on all race organisers, especially the heavy weights – to do away with all single-use plastic. IMO they should just do away with water stations altogether. In general we need to reduce the amount of waste, non-biodegrable and biodegrable, that we leave behind in one lifetime. I don’t run Two Oceans because their efforts towards running clean are pathetic at best and because they’re too bloody expensive – why should it only be for middle to upper income Saffa’s or foreigners?

    Thank you for bringing it to people’s attention that Bob is in confinement. Many people think of aquariums as magic, happy places. They aren’t, they’re hospitals and rehabilitation centres. Those creatures aren’t there because they want to be, they’re there because otherwise they’d be dead.

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