The next time you decide to go on a picnic to the beach and litter it, stop and think for a second, 'isn't the environment your responsibility too'? Isin't it is our duty to take care of it for ourselves and for posterity?
Fortunately, more and more people are realising this. Jeanne Bedard Brown is one such person who decided to take upon herself this responsibility by starting a group in May 2017 called Doha Environmental Actions Project (DEAP) that cleans up beaches in the country.
Brown said that as a child, she wanted to be an ocean biologist but her love for food led her to become a professional dietitian. Also, a passion for snorkelling and scuba-diving kept her connected to the water.
"My love for snorkelling led me to the beach a few times a week. Sadly, I saw more trash than fish, so I decided to pick up bottles from the beach on each visit and recycle the plastic I found. We are in an era of information. When we want to learn about something we can. After reading and watching documentaries about ocean plastic and knowing about plastic presence in the food chain, I felt I knew enough to do something.
"Often we feel powerless when faced by big problems, natural disasters and wars that happen far from us. When I saw the plastic on the beaches, it was right here and there and I could do something about it. I knew it would not fix the problem right away, but cleaning beaches weekly gave us the momentum to speak up and ask people to be responsible. Ultimately, I wanted to take more action than just 'liking' posts on the internet," she said.
Knowing the power of social media, Brown started off with a DEAP Facebook page which she believed was her tool to gauge if others were willing to get out and take action. She was just hoping to find a few like-minded friends to snorkel with."Initially, a couple of people joined, then a few more, and gradually it snowballed into many more than I anticipated.
"Our group now exceeds 1,600 members on Facebook, of which around 50 people meet up every week. This unique community comes from over 20 different countries with different backgrounds, beliefs, religions, job titles and economic status, yet, we have a common goal," she explained.
The group is open to all people and the events of the group are posted on a weekly basis on their Facebook page Doha Environmental Actions Project.
While DEAP's main purpose is to clean up beaches, for its volunteers, the group holds different purposes. For some, the group is like a family, for others it's a chance to learn about different cultures, to be physically active, for some others it is about protecting wildlife and sea creatures, or doing something good for Qatar.
"I do it for all of the above and to remove as much plastic as possible from our food chain and water sources," Brown said.
"Regardless of why we do it, together we take responsibility for those who litter. Our goal is to lead by example and invite people to take their responsibility so that we can all enjoy clean beaches."
Over time DEAP has gained the support of the Department of Beaches and Islands of the Ministry of Municipality and Environment. It has also joined hands with well-established groups, companies and schools.
"Our group has received support from companies like Top Moto which organised a Quad bike experience, Qatar International Adventures (QIA) who sponsored 100 of our volunteers to go clean a remote beach in the Inland Sea with professional transportation. We also received the support of Sora Marine Training and Nomadik Hub which introduced 30 volunteers to scuba-diving to clean beneath the waves!
"In exchange for our commitment and environmental manpower, these companies allowed our volunteers to experience some of Qatar's finest tourism activities. We all share the same sentiment: a cleaner environment for the sake of sustainable health and tourism," she said.
Besides cleaning up different beaches each week, DEAP has launched the first volunteer campaign against littering in Qatar called 'More than Sand & Sea'. Brown collaborated with Nabil Darwish, a Palestinian photographer and visual storyteller of international acclaim, to launch its anti-littering campaign."Through the video, I wanted to share our love for Qatar's natural beauty and encourage citizens and residents to be their better selves and dispose their trash of responsibly," explained Brown. The video can be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=neCMO8ZNGE8
So far, DEAP has held over 45 clean-ups and visited over 20 different beaches in Qatar. Currently, she is trying to move away from the public beaches, as they are serviced by the Ministry of Municipality and Environment."However, we sometimes like to go to the public beaches to raise awareness. I have a special motivation to clean the west coast of Qatar. There are some precious abandoned fishing villages like Al Zubarah, Al Jemail and Al Areesh and they have been badly littered by people, and with the trash brought in by the tides," she said.
Despite forming DEAP and getting a great response, she feels a sense of remorse at the way people continue to litter. She said that Law #18 prohibits littering public places and dumping of waste on rooftops, balconies and corridors of buildings, including private establishments. Brown said,"We hope the law will be seriously implemented and enforced. On the beach, pretty often, we see people going as far as putting their trash in a bag, but then leaving the bag there. People think that it is somebody else's job to put the trash in the bin. But is it really? The answer is 'No'."
Future projects, Brown has many."I want to start yet another anti-littering campaign, support recycling companies like Elite Paper, Global Metals, Rasas, Al Haya and Binovations. I would like to see every sport event in Doha offer a refill bottle station, as well as recycled water bottles and other disposable plastic. I also want to be able to inspire and encourage schools and companies to promote 'zero-waste lunch boxes', organise regular activities to decrease the amount of waste they produce, or take the next step to make their workplace to recycle. I am also promoting the use of reusable bags, bottles and mugs following the global trend of banning plastic bags."