DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — On a beach in Senegal with so much plastic litter covering much of the sand, one man is trying to raise awareness about the dangers of plastic — wearing as many of the bags, cups and other trash he can immediately become part of the garbage heaps.
Environmental activist Modou Fall, who many simply call “Plastic Man,” wears his uniform — “it’s not a suit,” he stresses — while telling anyone who will listen about the problems of plastics. As he walks, strands and pieces of plastic dangle from his arms and legs, rustling in the wind while some drag on the ground. On Faull’s chest, protruding from the plastic, is a sign in French that says “No to plastic bags.”
An ex-soldier, the 49-year-old father of three says plastic pollution, often exaggerated by people mindlessly picking things up anywhere, is an ecological disaster.
“It’s a poison for the health, for the ocean, for the population,” he said.
On this recent day, Fall walks along Yarakh Beach in Dakar, the capital of Senegal. But it could have been many other places: Autumn took his message national, visiting cities across the West African country for years. In 2011, during World Environment Day, he launched as Plastic Man.
He founded an environmental association, called Clean Senegal, which raises awareness through educational campaigns and encourages reuse and recycling.
As he walks, the children on the beach shout, “Kankurang! Kankurang is coming!”
Part of the cultural heritage of Senegal and The Gambia, the Kankurang symbolizes the spirit that provides order and justice and is considered a protector against evil.
On this day, this Kankurang tells children about plastic pollution and urges them to respect the environment.
“Climate change is real, so we have to try to change our lifestyles, change our behavior to better adapt to it,” he told them.
Mundu says some people see him as crazy, but often those people don’t know the extent of the plastics problem and can change their minds when given a chance to explain.
These days, says his wife and children, who sometimes watch him appear on local television to share his message, understand and respect his work, support he didn’t have at first.
In 2020, Senegal passed a law banning certain plastic products. But if the mountains of plastic trash on this beach are any indication, the country is struggling with enforcement.
Senegal is far from alone. Every year, the world produces a staggering amount of plastics, which sometimes end up clogging waterways, harming land and sea animals that may ingest the materials, and creating a myriad of eyesores. This pollution is in addition to all greenhouse gas emissions, the main cause of global warming, which is the result of plastic production. And things don’t seem to be moving in the right direction: Global plastic production is expected to more than quadruple by 2050, according to the United Nations Environment Program and GRID-Arendal in Norway.
So as world leaders gather this week in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, for the UN climate summit known as COP27, Fall hopes his message about plastics resonates.
“Africa’s leaders must wake up and work together to combat this phenomenon,” he said.
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