Diver Films a Sea of Plastic Off Coast of Bali

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Diver filming plastic floating off Penida Island
Diver Rich Horner is surrounded by plastic waste in waters off Bali.

Cheeseandjamsandwich / YouTube Screencapture

If you haven't taken plastic pollution seriously before, this revolting video will be a turning point.

A British diver has captured horrifying footage of plastic pollution while swimming in coastal waters near Bali. On March 3rd, Rich Horner posted a 2.5-minute clip on Facebook and YouTube, and it's had nearly 1 million views since then. Horner wrote on his Facebook page:

"The ocean currents brought us in a lovely gift of a slick of jellyfish, plankton, leaves, branches, fronds, sticks, etc.... Oh, and some plastic. Some plastic bags, plastic bottles, plastic cups, plastic sheets, plastic buckets, plastic sachets, plastic straws, plastic baskets, plastic bags, more plastic bags, plastic, plastic, so much plastic!"

Surprises in Paridise

The place where Horner was swimming is called Manta Point, off the coast of an island called Nusa Penida, located 20 km from Bali. Manta Point is a famous cleaning station for manta rays who go there to be rid of parasites by smaller fish, but the video shows only one lone ray in the background. As Horner wrote, "Surprise, surprise, there weren't many Mantas there at the cleaning station today... They mostly decided not to bother."

The footage is revolting, with Horner swimming through a literal sea of plastic. Pieces of plastic brush up against his body and catch on his camera. The water looks clouded and the surface of the water above is clogged with a mat of junk. Some of this is a natural material, he explains on Facebook:

"The organic matter, the palm fronds, coconuts, branches, leaves, sticks, roots, tree trunks, etc, also of course seaweeds like the Sargassum seaweed... they're completely natural, and have been washed out of the rivers since forever... But the plastic mixed in with it is not!"

The following day, the 'slick' was gone, but Horner said it's merely on its way elsewhere: "Great for the mantas coming in for a clean at the station, but, sadly the plastic is continuing on its journey, off into the Indian Ocean, to slowly break up into smaller and smaller pieces, into microplastics. But not going away."

Indonesia is now considered the second most polluted nation in the world, next to China. Bali, which has long been viewed as a paradisiacal destination, has been developing a reputation for excessive pollution, resulting in many tourists not wanting to return. Beach cleanups are gaining traction, but this is a problem that cleaning will not solve; it must be addressed at the source.

But What Exactly Is That Source?

I was intrigued to read Horner's pessimistic stance. He does not think that changing consumer habits will make any difference and that the far bigger culprit is overpopulation.

"Reducing, reusing, recycling is obviously a way to help, but it's always dwarfed by the root cause of all these issues, that the world is overpopulated by a factor of like 3 to 5 times. Having fewer kids is always the most environmentally friendly act any human can do at the moment. '2 Is Enough' as they say here in Indonesia."

I agree that overpopulation is something that needs to be addressed, but I don't think we should give up so easily on consumers' ability to change things. The anti-plastic sentiment is gaining momentum worldwide and I think we're poised to see a tremendous change in upcoming years. Horner's video is precisely the kind of thing we need to be watching to stay on track and remain inspired. It will be a lot harder to forget reusables bags and containers next time you go to the grocery store, after watching this video.

One Year Later

Bali and people are fighting back against plastic pollution.