The only difference is that the fools on the bottom of the sea are not jumping, dancing and kissing each other to the frenetic and deafening sound of the bands. Instead they are rolling from side to side in a morbid choreography, silently moved by the waves of the sea, without any dance, without any fun, without any life and without any poetry.
Salvador, Bahia (Brazil), 04 March 2010
Ten days after Carnival, I decided to dive with two of my friends in the area of Farol da Barra Beach to confirm the news that an absurd quantity of garbage was spread along the bottom of the sea in that area.
Despite the fact that the water was a little dirty due to rainfalls on the previous day, we identified the spot right away. Actually, the garbage was not spread but concentrated in a canal, probably as a result of the tide movements. What a pathetic scene! There were at least 1500 metal cans and plastic bottles!
From the surface, the picture seemed like one of these aerial images that we see of the Carnival floats during Mardi Gras. The only difference is that the fools on the bottom of the sea are not jumping, dancing and kissing each other to the frenetic and deafening sound of the bands. Instead they are rolling from side to side in a morbid choreography, silently moved by the waves of the sea, without any dance, without any fun, without any life and without any poetry.
We were terrified, yet we hesitated to remove the garbage that day, hoping to be able to entice some of the media to report about this horrific problem and to include underwater images. Our hope was to share these Carnival after effects with our people and the masters of folly.
We contacted at least three broadcasting stations and they all asked us to send them emails with pictures, which we did immediately. We waited for two days in vain for a response. Finally after no reply to our documentation, we decided to remove the garbage in order to avoid any further damage.
Our consciences weighed heavy during the days we waited for a reply from the media. But we couldn’t simply remove the garbage before trying to publicize the details. We believed media coverage would have a stronger impact than our immediate solution of a physical garbage clean up.
We believed that the repercussion would raise awareness among Carnival entrepreneurs and artists, among public authorities, the press, funding companies and our people. It was a good try but it did not happen…
So, three days after contacting the media, we dove to remove the garbage. Before setting off, we contacted a friend in order to film our removal efforts and memorialize the event for future works and maybe even a news report on TV.
With no oxygen cylinders and equipped with only two Stand Up Paddle boards and some large bags, four brave divers set about removing as much garbage from the sea bottom as we could on that afternoon.
Some time before sunset, we finally managed to put all the garbage on the sidewalk next to the beach.
Many curious people, residents and tourists, gave us offended looks and continued to ask us where all of this garbage came from? Our immediate answer: Carnival!
I will tell my gracious readers right away that I am not against Carnival. On the contrary, I am a supporter for many reasons, but I think that the reality of the party does not accurately correlate with the beautiful scenes and positive press the media promotes.
I know that the commitment from the sponsors and the old war of vanities against the other carnivals in Brazilian states, such as Pernambuco and Rio de Janeiro, contribute to this. What I see is an outdated and oversized model, with no socially positive contribution, headed in the opposite direction of the sustainable development of our City of Salvador.
That submarine garbage is a very small symbol of a much larger problem. What makes things even worse is the fact that Carnival is sponsored in solidarity by big business, artists and, most of all, by public entities, which have the duty to improve our security, our health and our education.
I will use this opportunity to express similar indignation about the summer events occuring at Porto da Barra Beach.
The events “Música no Porto” and “Espicha Verão” have not brought any good to our city, besides the opportunity to see performing artists live and for free. Apart from that, the garbage, the bad smell, the environmental degradation, and the urine in the streets is tragic. Equally devastating is the impressing quantity of street sellers in all public spaces and the carelessness with historic patrimonies causing irritation for those “quality tourists” we should welcome to our city with open arms.
It’s like looking at a beautiful apple with a beautiful, shiny skin but when eaten, is brown and rotten on the inside…
After our cleanup dive, we saw a very different sunset. The pile of garbage on the sidewalk of Farol da Barra had become an attraction. And with God’s help, the final disposal was handled by valuable, professional garbage removers.
And now the garbage is gone from the sea bottom and all that remains is the video documenting our efforts. It remains to be said that the masters of Carnival and of the events at Porto da Barra; and our dear fools should wake up and realize that something needs to change.
The bottom of the sea does not deserve this shiny pile of garbage. It should be noted that the ocean usually violently retaliates against the aggressions it has suffered.
There is no fun at all after the folly!
Photos: Francisco Pedro/Global Garbage
Photos of Espicha Verão 2010: João Ramos / Bahiatursa and Luciano da Matta / Agência A Tarde
Other articles by Bernardo Mussi
Translation: Global Garbage and Kimberley Jardine