I used to live in a house that backed onto a famous trout fishing river. The fishing rights were held by a local estate and there was a decade long waiting list for permits.
Each weekend I’d see fly fishermen making their way along the other side of the riverbank. For a bunch of illegal poachers, they were a cheery sight. Hats were adorned with an array of colourful flies, Hunter wellies seemed mandatory and wax jackets kept off the spring rain.
Sometimes there was a cocker spaniel.
It was a picture perfect postcard of a sedate, British pastime.
And no one ever blew-up the fish with dynamite.
On the other side of the world there’s a small fishing village on an island called Manlot. It's in the Philippines, where a community of local people have been campaigning against the destruction of their environment for over a decade. It’s been no small task. When they’re not campaigning against the effects of climate change, they’re dealing with the after effects of the most violent storm in history. Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in 2013, destroying most things in its path. It set everything and everyone back.
They’re a community who traditionally relied on their ability to fish sustainably in local waters but after Haiyan, illegal fishing crews moved in. These groups used blast fishing - dropping dynamite to the sea bed and scooping up whatever floats to the surface after detonation. It’s effective but brutally overpowered. The dynamite destroys the sea bed, totally wiping out the underwater habitat. It’s like carpet bombing. Nothing survives and as such the fish population either moves elsewhere or is quickly wiped out.
Something had to be done.
Lope is a community leader and environmental activist. He’s passionate about where he lives and so began campaigning to put a stop to the illegal fishing.
Today he and his community is thriving.
Lope was elected president of his community and led on the construction of an artificial reef which completely regenerated fish stocks in the area. He’s also overseen the planting of mangroves to protect his village from storm surges and other unpredictable weather. He’s a titan.
“Due to the illegal fishing we couldn’t catch enough fish to eat or sell. The dynamite fishing kills everything; even small fish and drives away the presence of other fish. Poverty stops many, particularly here. Fishing is the only option. There was no justice so we rallied as one to create a force to be listened to. We are happy with the effort we’ve put in. Patrolling the seas and creating a reef has enabled the return of fish.”
Despite these victories Lope’s story contains a warning.
“Even after Yolanda (Typhoon Haiyan) we are experiencing extreme heat; it’s not normal anymore. I’m appealing to developed countries and climate change deniers to put a stop to pollutive factories that emit gases. We are now experiencing the abundance of marine resources. Patrolling the seas and creating a reef has enabled the return of fish. I don’t want money and wealth, I just want enough for my family – good health and education and to serve the community”
The story here isn’t just about a small community rising to meet a local challenge.
It’s not even just about stupid people cutting corners by blowing stuff up.
This is a story about climate change and the very real line we can draw between our thoughtless actions and these devastating consequences.
This is a story about how we’re directly responsible for much of the harm inflicted on our fragile planet.
We need to do more. We need to work faster.
Otherwise we're lighting the fuse with one hand and covering our eyes with the other.