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.
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!