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"Puliamo la sella" 2019, when a community protects the sea

Under the blinding light of June it takes a few moments to grasp that the huge pink flamingo topped on the back with half a quintal of waste is not a hallucination. The pedal boat of the Cooperative Golfo degli Angeli approaches the pier of the port of Marina Piccola. The MEDSEA team puts on the gloves and swarms towards the weird barge. A line of dockers deposits the booty a few meters away: a long gutter, bottles, what advances from a deckchair, pieces of wood as coming from a shipwreck, tiles. Father and son, amazed under the shadow of a straw hat, ask for a pair of gloves and join the bunch. The flamingo floats around, directs its beak and starts off again. The snorkelers, the boards of Tutt'in sup and the kayaks of the GS Aquila Cagliari led by Carlo Coni (fundamental for the organization of the initiative) in the meantime continue to intercept the floating waste or that lying on the shores and rocks, among the inlets of the Sella del Diavolo promontory. Everything is peacefully monitored by the semi-submarine of Nemo Sub, opened with its transparent structures on the bottom of the Gulf of Cagliari.

After weeks of organization and online registrations, the army of volunteers gathered at 9 am on Saturday 29 June in the port's amphitheater, greeted by Alessio Satta, the MEDSEA president. Then, once the bags, the nets, the gloves and the bibs have been grabbed, each team, led by the representative of one of the many associations that took part in "Puliamo la Sella 2019", headed towards a strategic goal. Twenty of them have joined the guides of Sardegna Sottosopra, an association of hiking and trekking, to explore the parking lots and the promontory. They climb the path and go up to see the Poetto beach stretched between the sea and the Molentargius Park. Precisely where other volunteers advance between umbrellas and towels, accompanied by the group "Don't be sorry, do something". Just below, instead, the specialists of the "Air sub" associations led by Giorgia Sicbaldi and "Blue Tribüne - Apnea Sector" immerse themselves in the emerald of the water with wetsuits and tanks, to fathom the bottom, suffocated by nets and other fishing material. Their presence is a great novelty of this year’s edition.

To find younger ones at work you have to go into the "Windsurfing club Cagliari". Around a table they are deeply concentrated on the representations led by Maria Pala of MEDSEA, a doctor in environmental sciences with long experience in environmental education for children. Beatrice, 4 year old, is very focused on her masterpiece. What do you draw? "A tremendous shark that escapes". What is it running away from? "From a plastic bottle," she replies. The workshop will then continue with Cristiana Marchesi of "Little Star", which brings creative activities in foreign languages to schools, playrooms and baby parking, and the ecological association "Points of view". A short distance away Kevin Bruce Law of Bike Lab Cagliari brought "Rock a bike" from Santa Monica, California. His device makes art out of a bicycle: a drum-shaped device houses a sheet of paper that swirls with pedaling. The children squeeze drops of color that turns the papers into amazing psychedelic frescoes.

“By now MEDSEA and Parley have been collaborating consistently for several years. We are engaged in a cleanup tour along the Italian coasts. It is part of the "Global clean up network", an "alliance" involving all organizations interested in removing plastic from rivers, beaches, high seas and remote islands, from Australia to the Americas, from Africa to Southeast Asia”, says Rosanna Bellomo, Italian coordinator of Parley For the Oceans, the great American group of artists, scientists, designers, journalists and architects united by the desire to find alternative development models that protect the sea. “I can say that the participation of Cagliari, and in this sense the work of MEDSEA has been fundamental, it is extraordinary" adds Bellomo, while in the amphitheater the first volunteers are back.

"We arrived until the fourth stop" say Alessandra and Rita, dripping with sweat under the weight of two large envelopes containing stubs, plastic of all kinds, tin and bottles. "Many on the beach have appreciated. Others are more skeptical, as if they lived a sense of guilt ... but they are few!" they say enthusiastically. Arianna instead comes from the parking lots and from the first part of the path on the promontory: “It is incredible how much garbage can be found, it just opens up your eyes. A disaster! The thing that strikes me most is that the waste seems to come mainly from the world of youth, bottles of beer, cans, butts to no end ". The floating flamingo reappears on the horizon. Sup, snorkelers and kayaks have filled bags and sacks in Calamosca and Cala Fighera: pots, a scuba buoy, polystyrene boxes, a tire, a steel beam. The divers moored the rubber dinghies, they unburden themselves of the wetsuits in the scorching heat: “We found many traps, tubes and iron mesh. But I have to say that the situation seems having improved compared to last year. Part of the objects on the bottom was brought by the sirocco during the great Easter storm", explains Fabio, as if to remind us that the Mediterranean is a lake where everything is shared.

"I am very happy and proud to see so many people coming to clean our coast. It is important to show others that in a few hours it is possible to make an important intervention. Plastic is everywhere, the polystyrene fragments look like pebbles" says the surf champion Francisco Porcella, who also came to lend a hand. Soon he will be in Tahiti, and not just to descend from mountains of water. There his surfing colleagues are replanting the corals, hit by a die-off caused by the unstoppable increase in water temperature.

"The situation is dramatic, and I am disgusted when I think that behind the promontory we have a paradise within paradise", says Roberto Tedde of Bike Lab, one of the great leaders of the initiative. "Today I led the sup team and finally managed to remove the mass of waste that I can't attack in my solo outings. We need a new education that starts within families and especially within the scholastic system. We need to grow a different youth ", concludes Tedde.

"This year we have definitely expanded the team," explains Andrea Alvito, marine biologist who coordinated the initiative for MEDSEA. "I had the honor of putting together all these wonderful associations that bring together sport, culture and environmental awareness. And the citizens, who this year participated with numbers that were difficult to predict. We’ve send a message to those who continue to pollute, and we will continue to send it ".

It's almost one o'clock when volunteers and associations gather in front of the mountain of waste after hours of effort and fun. Success and the feeling of sharing are also in those who arrived late, failed to join any group but put on the gloves and went alone. They now help the municipal collection service, which arrived with extreme punctuality, to overthrow the loot in a truck.

"We only had the merit of triggering the process," says the president of MEDSEA, Alessio Satta. "The instances of change are dispersed in our society. Sensitivity to environmental issues is widespread, it only needs to be concentrated on synergies, as it has happened today. Sports and cultural associations, citizens, the MEDSEA team and Parley. A mosaic of skills that has cleaned one of the most beautiful corners of the Mediterranean, proposing a model of eco-sustainable tourism development that takes nothing away from the economy, but substantiates it with the beauty of nature, and the harmony of the community"

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