What I Saw in Ghana: Fashion Drowning the Water
Written by Isaiah Rio Schutz-Ramon
I’ll start with how I ended up in Ghana.
I am currently a student at CSU East Bay. When I first started college, I wanted to study abroad. I said to myself, “Ghana sounds cool”, and off I went. It was as simple as that. I attended the University of Ghana for what would be one of the most impactful semesters of my life, and what sparked this Business Marketing student’s interest in environmental health and sustainability.
Ghana is a beautiful country in West Africa, with breathtaking Northern Region savanna wildlands, to dense, tropical rainforests in the central and southern regions—finished by an extraordinary coastline to the south. I stayed in the capital city of Accra, where I witnessed an epidemic which truly took my breath away.
The people in Ghana are among the nicest I have ever met in my life. They treat visitors like family and will go out of their way to help in many circumstances. Sadly, these welcoming people are being plagued—with pollution & waste.
The first time I went to the beach in Ghana, I was mesmerized by the remote coastline while I sat on the sand. Within the first minute of stepping in the warm equatorial water, my feet became tangled and dragged down by the weight. As I crawled back to shore, I was shocked. I expected to see vegetation when looking down, as I have experienced before in the waters of my hometown— California’s North Coast. To my surprise, it was the entanglement of clothing articles and other fabrics that looked as if they could clothe several grown adults. When I told a local about my overdramatized “near death” experience, his response was one that stayed with me for the rest of my trip, “Well if the rain doesn’t allow sellers to burn it, they just throw it in the rivers with all of the other trash”. His tone was not angry, nor sad or helpless. His words were spoken with an eerie sense of normalcy and casualness, portraying that there was no alternative to this method of waste disposal.
This led me to became curious to what could’ve aroused such an acceptance for these practices. I began asking my professors about their thoughts on the subject, and they too brushed this off as normal. There is no official waste management system in Ghana. The trash is either burned or tossed into rivers and gutters. This attitude changed, though, when I asked other students. They wanted change badly. They all seemed to have a vision and desire for a cleaner future, and some were willing to dedicate their careers towards this epidemic.
A global revolution is coming. A cleaner future is becoming not only a want for all but a need. In Ghana, as well as other coastal West African countries, villages once thrived by fishing and selling their catch to fund education and maintenance of the community. Today, fishing trips that once took a few hours now take days out at sea. The fish (that make up the few) have fled to farther, deeper waters. The wooden boats that these villages possess are unable to access these depths, leaving them with just enough fish to survive, and not much else.
I returned home full of emotion. I quietly sat in deep thought in the car ride from SFO to my hometown, Fremont. I vividly remember the ride, as the change of lifestyle was so drastic, so soon. I looked around as I drove by hybrid cars, bridges, freeway interchanges and the headquarters of world-renowned tech companies like Oracle and Facebook. I was looking at what I have now, and what I had before in Ghana. As I drove, I had a new vision of what the world is, and what the world could and should be. I realized that adopting sustainable practice was not just Ghana’s problem, but a collective problem. In that car, I made a choice. I was going to help further the health of my community, for it was not until upon reflection that I realized the true importance of sustainability and environmental consciousness, and how we all a responsibility.
For more information on the impact of garment waste check out our article The Truth About Waste & Fashion
Isaiah Rio Schutz-Ramon is currently a 4th year business student at CSU East Bay, looking forward to graduating Fall ‘19. In addition to interning at Dhana Inc, he works at a restaurant in his hometown, Fremont, California. He is very social and loves playing sports and being outdoors. He is always down for a road trip and adventures. He grew up in the Bay Area, and loved it!
“There are so many new places to find here, and I’m always looking. I’m just a normal person looking to make a difference. I’m relatively new to being sustainable and conscious, and have a lot to learn, but any little step makes a difference… and it’s easy! It’s never too late to make a difference, so start today!” - Isaiah Rio Schutz-Ramon