The BIG Project
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Ed | Urca Beach | Brazil

The BIG Project is a photography initiative created to document and share stories about the environment and animal rights that are happening now and need to be told before they become past.

In a planet where water means life, it doesn’t seem we give the oceans the necessary attention. A good share of the trash that is irregularly disposed ends up in streams, rivers, seas, and eventually the oceans. From there, it lethally interferes in a delicate ecosystem which is Earth’s life support system.

Fortunately, some conscious citizens try to do the best they can to minimize and revert the damages caused by trash in the marine environment with beach and water cleanups. But the hurry to remove all that doesn’t belong there can kill millions of lives in a single day. That’s where Ed Bastos and his work come to the rescue.

Ed studied biology to learn he didn’t agree with his professors. He chose Urca Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to be his lab and dove into practical knowledge because many times theory didn’t have much sense. With hundreds of hours diving and tens of years of experience, Ed mapped the bottom of this small cove inside Guanabara Bay, identified its inhabitants, and today works rescuing the tiny animals that incorporated marine debris and many times are victims of the tides or attempts of good deeds.

These tiny animals are the biggest victims of trash in the oceans since they use pieces of fabric, cans, bottles and other solid waste as shelter. The problem is that they grow and stay trapped in these structures, not being able to feed and reproduce they end up dying. To Ed, all lives matter, and the size of an animal is not direct related to its importance. Besides, while these trash is in the water, it breaks apart into microscopic particles that contaminates even smaller creatures, polluting and infiltrating the food chain.

The solution that Ed developed is a very specific method to remove the trash rescuing the animals and reintroducing them to the wild, properly disposing the animal free trash. This way, he saves bristle worms, brittle stars, anemones, crabs, urchin, starfish, fish and many other species in just a few hours. But this is not easy since he lives in a different area of the city and his clients are animals that can’t offer him money in exchange of his services.

Ed is a full-time life defender with a part-time job as vegetarian cook to pay the bills. Every Monday he prepares lunch options for a local restaurant as part of the “Meatless Monday” international campaign. He complements his income giving environmental education classes to private schools about Urca’s marine wildlife and how trash affects it. His ethics don’t allow him to charge any fee from public schools and universities, so low income and students that are initiating their careers are not deprived of the precious knowledge about such present issue in everyone’s lives.

This way, the person became an organization, so Ed founded BG500 that counts on a few volunteers to perpetuate the work that is rescuing animals from marine debris. One of these volunteers is Giulia Giuberti. She’s a biology student that was fascinated by the results of this work, and now receives a long individual training about techniques and details of what is needed to make sure the trash removed from the water is recycled without killing any animals. Besides her, Paulo Júnior and Lúcio Vargas help BG500 with its classes, assembling and disassembling the beach classroom, and spreading the knowledge about wildlife and the influence trash has on it.

At least once a month, BG500 hosts a public event on which the two pillars of the organization is presented: Direct action and environmental education. In these events, Ed, friends and volunteers gather up for a beach cleanup, rescuing animals associated to the trash found, and they take the opportunity to educate beach goers about biodiversity and the importance of taking responsibility of our own garbage. Events like these bring immediate results in the behavior of the ones who participate, and also brought Ed and BG500 recognition through environmental awards, like the 2016 and 2017 Lions Awards for the Environment.

BG500 is short for Guanabara Bay - 500 Years of Abundant Life in Portuguese. The bay is internationally known for its pollution, especially after Rio 2016 Olympic Games that brought athletes from different countries to its waters. It washes 7 counties and has famous landscapes around, like the Sugarloaf and the Niterói Contemporary Art Museum. It’s also an extremely important area for Rio with many harbors, shipyards and intense boat traffic, as well as a great leisure and appreciation area for Cariocas. Over the years, Ed has seen great improvements in this piece of water he adopted. His desire is to share how abundant the wildlife is and how even better it can get if we all develop conscience and responsibility about our trash.

This story was documented between May and October, 2017.

 Guanabara Bay is one of the most important icons of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It was over these waters that European ships sailed on, some 515 years ago. The bay is home to many marine species, including the endangered Boto Cinza, but nowadays, pollution speaks louder than its beauty and historical importance. Because of that, beaches washed by its waters are not popular, but the animals that inhabit the area are the ones that suffer the most with this situation.

Guanabara Bay is one of the most important icons of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It was over these waters that European ships sailed on, some 515 years ago. The bay is home to many marine species, including the endangered Boto Cinza, but nowadays, pollution speaks louder than its beauty and historical importance. Because of that, beaches washed by its waters are not popular, but the animals that inhabit the area are the ones that suffer the most with this situation.

 For about 10 years, Ed Bastos dive into marine debris in a little cove on Guanabara Bay removing trash from the water, rescuing animals and protecting the ecosystem he adopted. His commitment allowed him to develop a unique method that encapsulates the removal of debris, a screening process, the rescue phase, the reintroduction of the animals back into the water, and the appropriate waste disposal.

For about 10 years, Ed Bastos dive into marine debris in a little cove on Guanabara Bay removing trash from the water, rescuing animals and protecting the ecosystem he adopted. His commitment allowed him to develop a unique method that encapsulates the removal of debris, a screening process, the rescue phase, the reintroduction of the animals back into the water, and the appropriate waste disposal.

 Urca Beach is just 200m wide and lies right below one of the most iconic Rio de Janeiro's spots: the Sugar Loaf. Located in the entrance of Guanabara Bay, it's where the Atlantic Ocean waters meet the bay. Due to that, the place is affected by the currents and tides in a unique way, bringing trash from adjacent areas.

Urca Beach is just 200m wide and lies right below one of the most iconic Rio de Janeiro's spots: the Sugar Loaf. Located in the entrance of Guanabara Bay, it's where the Atlantic Ocean waters meet the bay. Due to that, the place is affected by the currents and tides in a unique way, bringing trash from adjacent areas.

 In a few seconds dive, Ed can show how marine life associates with marine debris, creating a potentially dangerous bond. In this case, a sea snail grabbed the bottom of a beverage can that can easily be washed ashore with the tide, condemning the small animal.

In a few seconds dive, Ed can show how marine life associates with marine debris, creating a potentially dangerous bond. In this case, a sea snail grabbed the bottom of a beverage can that can easily be washed ashore with the tide, condemning the small animal.

 The dark, turbid and polluted water of Guanabara Bay hides its rich biodiversity. Curious fish of different species, bright colored starfish, and shy sea urchins that grab leaves, seaweed and trash are all over the place, at Urca Beach.

The dark, turbid and polluted water of Guanabara Bay hides its rich biodiversity. Curious fish of different species, bright colored starfish, and shy sea urchins that grab leaves, seaweed and trash are all over the place, at Urca Beach.

 For the last 33 years, Ed dives at Urca Beach. This experience made possible for him to create a detailed map of the bottom of the sea, and a complete catalog of species that live there, all in his head. The environmentalist and educator made the place his lab and classroom. Besides the work he does in the water, he also give environmental education classes. This way, many locals and tourists that go to Urca Beach have been made aware of the effects of the trash on the environment, and how to properly dispose their waste.

For the last 33 years, Ed dives at Urca Beach. This experience made possible for him to create a detailed map of the bottom of the sea, and a complete catalog of species that live there, all in his head. The environmentalist and educator made the place his lab and classroom. Besides the work he does in the water, he also give environmental education classes. This way, many locals and tourists that go to Urca Beach have been made aware of the effects of the trash on the environment, and how to properly dispose their waste.

 At least once every month, Ed sets up his tent in the middle of the crowded beach for a clean up, rescue operation and awareness campaign. Friends, volunteers and curious passersby get together to protect the environment and exchange useful knowledge about trash and the marine life that is affected by it. In a few hours, hundreds of animals are rescued, and dozens of people are encouraged to develop care and respect for the environment. Different from other events that might look similar, Ed's event is focused on the number of lives saved, not on the amount of trash taken out of the water. It's easy to find tens of animals in a single beverage can, for example, but very difficult to give a second chance to all of them in a pile of trash.

At least once every month, Ed sets up his tent in the middle of the crowded beach for a clean up, rescue operation and awareness campaign. Friends, volunteers and curious passersby get together to protect the environment and exchange useful knowledge about trash and the marine life that is affected by it. In a few hours, hundreds of animals are rescued, and dozens of people are encouraged to develop care and respect for the environment. Different from other events that might look similar, Ed's event is focused on the number of lives saved, not on the amount of trash taken out of the water. It's easy to find tens of animals in a single beverage can, for example, but very difficult to give a second chance to all of them in a pile of trash.

 BG500 (Guanabara Bay - 500 Years of Life, in Portuguese) was founded in 2005, and its goal is to alert and educate about marine debris, and also protect marine life associated to it. The NGO teaches the OPA (One Person Army) methodology created by Ed, where one person is trained to be able to act on his or her own in all fronts of the trash removal and rescuing work.

BG500 (Guanabara Bay - 500 Years of Life, in Portuguese) was founded in 2005, and its goal is to alert and educate about marine debris, and also protect marine life associated to it. The NGO teaches the OPA (One Person Army) methodology created by Ed, where one person is trained to be able to act on his or her own in all fronts of the trash removal and rescuing work.

 Under BG500 tent, volunteers apply the OPA methodology individually, forming an efficient rescue team. They search the trash that was removed from the water for tiny animals. Many times, this animals are ignored or unknown, but they have a fundamental role in the region's ecosystem. At this stage, each second is extremely important because the less time the animals are out of the water, the more chances they have to survive and be reintroduced to their habitat.

Under BG500 tent, volunteers apply the OPA methodology individually, forming an efficient rescue team. They search the trash that was removed from the water for tiny animals. Many times, this animals are ignored or unknown, but they have a fundamental role in the region's ecosystem. At this stage, each second is extremely important because the less time the animals are out of the water, the more chances they have to survive and be reintroduced to their habitat.

 Provided with gloves and knives, volunteers are taught to separate animals into different containers according to the species found. Many times, these creatures find a home in marine debris, and it wouldn't be ethical to take them from their shelter and put them with potential predators. Ed strongly explain this values to anyone who makes themselves available to help.

Provided with gloves and knives, volunteers are taught to separate animals into different containers according to the species found. Many times, these creatures find a home in marine debris, and it wouldn't be ethical to take them from their shelter and put them with potential predators. Ed strongly explain this values to anyone who makes themselves available to help.

 The rescue training takes a lot of time for practice because it's necessary to develop a particular vision to identify tiny animals associated to marine debris. The OPA methodology reinforces the importance of any life form, regardless of size, since there are specific roles played by each individual in an ecosystem.

The rescue training takes a lot of time for practice because it's necessary to develop a particular vision to identify tiny animals associated to marine debris. The OPA methodology reinforces the importance of any life form, regardless of size, since there are specific roles played by each individual in an ecosystem.

 A common victim of one of the most popular trash found in the sea is the crab. They enter cans and bottles that land on the ocean floor, and establish their home, safe from predators, feeding and growing.  Over time, their size won't let them pass through the can or bottle opening, trapping them. Knowing this, BG500 volunteers carefully open aluminium cans searching this and other little creatures.

A common victim of one of the most popular trash found in the sea is the crab. They enter cans and bottles that land on the ocean floor, and establish their home, safe from predators, feeding and growing.  Over time, their size won't let them pass through the can or bottle opening, trapping them. Knowing this, BG500 volunteers carefully open aluminium cans searching this and other little creatures.

 All of the stages of the OPA methodology are extremely important, but the reintroduction of the rescued animals is the heaviest one. It's when all the hours of meticulous work is crowned with the return of the animals to their habitat. The smallest mistake at this stage can result in many lives lost, so focus is paramount. Between all of the rocks and cracks around Urca Beach, Ed chooses the ones that are going to provide better chances to the small animals. All care is necessary, when pufferfish and other bigger animals surround him for an easy meal.

All of the stages of the OPA methodology are extremely important, but the reintroduction of the rescued animals is the heaviest one. It's when all the hours of meticulous work is crowned with the return of the animals to their habitat. The smallest mistake at this stage can result in many lives lost, so focus is paramount. Between all of the rocks and cracks around Urca Beach, Ed chooses the ones that are going to provide better chances to the small animals. All care is necessary, when pufferfish and other bigger animals surround him for an easy meal.

 After the animals rescue and reintroduction, the trash is separated by Ed and his volunteers, and it's properly disposed, according to each material found. When it comes to aluminium cans, they are given to Bigode, in a gesture of camaraderie and proper recycling. José Geraldo Ferreira, also known as Bigode (Portuguese word for mustache), works at Urca Beach for 18 years selling food and beverage, and renting beach chairs and umbrellas. For some extra income, he recycles aluminium cans Ed find in his dives.

After the animals rescue and reintroduction, the trash is separated by Ed and his volunteers, and it's properly disposed, according to each material found. When it comes to aluminium cans, they are given to Bigode, in a gesture of camaraderie and proper recycling. José Geraldo Ferreira, also known as Bigode (Portuguese word for mustache), works at Urca Beach for 18 years selling food and beverage, and renting beach chairs and umbrellas. For some extra income, he recycles aluminium cans Ed find in his dives.

 BG500 was originally founded to work on many levels of environmental education. Ed gives classes to children of all ages, developing their sensibility to marine live. Many times, play activities awaken curiosity and encourage children to understand and get closer to the environmental cause, since early age.

BG500 was originally founded to work on many levels of environmental education. Ed gives classes to children of all ages, developing their sensibility to marine live. Many times, play activities awaken curiosity and encourage children to understand and get closer to the environmental cause, since early age.

 The environmental education classes are prepared to reach many publics, including teenagers and college students. In these cases, they're taught about some species behavior, invasive species reproduction, and the relationship between some animals and marine debris, for example.

The environmental education classes are prepared to reach many publics, including teenagers and college students. In these cases, they're taught about some species behavior, invasive species reproduction, and the relationship between some animals and marine debris, for example.

 With the great responsibility of ethically educate new generations, Ed counts with the help of a couple of partners, like Lúcio Vargas, 45, and Paulo Júnior, 40. They share the different tasks during larger classes. When students come from public schools or universities, Ed teaches them for free. He says it doesn't match with his principles to deny knowledge and education to the ones who can't afford it. What helps keeping the organization active are the private school classes, which are the only ones he charges a small price to cover the activities costs.

With the great responsibility of ethically educate new generations, Ed counts with the help of a couple of partners, like Lúcio Vargas, 45, and Paulo Júnior, 40. They share the different tasks during larger classes. When students come from public schools or universities, Ed teaches them for free. He says it doesn't match with his principles to deny knowledge and education to the ones who can't afford it. What helps keeping the organization active are the private school classes, which are the only ones he charges a small price to cover the activities costs.

 To facilitate the understanding and strengthen the bond between students and the environment, Ed uses visual appeals in his classes. To exemplify local marine life and explain physical qualities and some behaviors, a pufferfish is put in a aquarium for a few minutes. This handling is done with much care, considering the stress the animal goes through. The same way, a pair of sunglasses found in the water is shown to exemplify what can be found there.

To facilitate the understanding and strengthen the bond between students and the environment, Ed uses visual appeals in his classes. To exemplify local marine life and explain physical qualities and some behaviors, a pufferfish is put in a aquarium for a few minutes. This handling is done with much care, considering the stress the animal goes through. The same way, a pair of sunglasses found in the water is shown to exemplify what can be found there.

 Outside the beach, Ed uses his time to cook. Known for his vegan and vegetarian dishes, he makes money catering for events or cooking for friends. With little or no animal ingredients, he takes his activism to the kitchen and never uses any kind of meat.

Outside the beach, Ed uses his time to cook. Known for his vegan and vegetarian dishes, he makes money catering for events or cooking for friends. With little or no animal ingredients, he takes his activism to the kitchen and never uses any kind of meat.

 Between the north region of Rio de Janeiro, where Ed lives, and the south region, where Urca Beach is located, is the downtown, where he works collaborating with a restaurant. For him, the sense of community and cooperation are very important, not caring for localism and borders.

Between the north region of Rio de Janeiro, where Ed lives, and the south region, where Urca Beach is located, is the downtown, where he works collaborating with a restaurant. For him, the sense of community and cooperation are very important, not caring for localism and borders.

 Mercado Fundição is a general store that serves some food at Lapa, the bohemian neighborhood of Rio. It's there where Ed introduces vegetarian cuisine on the menu every Monday, as part of the Meatless Monday global campaign.

Mercado Fundição is a general store that serves some food at Lapa, the bohemian neighborhood of Rio. It's there where Ed introduces vegetarian cuisine on the menu every Monday, as part of the Meatless Monday global campaign.

 With activism running through his veins, comes recognition for the work Ed does for marine life. In 2016, he received the Lions Award for the Environment. In the next year, he received it again, and BG500 was also awarded as an organization. Although he doesn't work for recognition, he says this kind of thing pushes him to follow the path he believes to be the best.

With activism running through his veins, comes recognition for the work Ed does for marine life. In 2016, he received the Lions Award for the Environment. In the next year, he received it again, and BG500 was also awarded as an organization. Although he doesn't work for recognition, he says this kind of thing pushes him to follow the path he believes to be the best.

 Giulia Giuberti, 20, is a biology student and attended to a speech Ed gave at her university. Since that moment, she got interested and dedicates her time to a special training to be the NGO's second in command. One of the most important lessons is how to choose what's to be taken out of the water, considering the contamination and lethality degree. They only remove from the water what needs to be removed, or what can be removed saving lives. So before anything, they analyze and remove any animals that can be easily detached from a certain piece of trash.

Giulia Giuberti, 20, is a biology student and attended to a speech Ed gave at her university. Since that moment, she got interested and dedicates her time to a special training to be the NGO's second in command. One of the most important lessons is how to choose what's to be taken out of the water, considering the contamination and lethality degree. They only remove from the water what needs to be removed, or what can be removed saving lives. So before anything, they analyze and remove any animals that can be easily detached from a certain piece of trash.

 Ed's role at Urca Beach goes beyond his classes and marine debris. He's also a sort of guardian, monitoring fishing activities and confronting the ones who don't abide by the law. For him, marine life is what really matters, and his activism puts him in some dangerous situations on a daily basis.

Ed's role at Urca Beach goes beyond his classes and marine debris. He's also a sort of guardian, monitoring fishing activities and confronting the ones who don't abide by the law. For him, marine life is what really matters, and his activism puts him in some dangerous situations on a daily basis.

 The waters around the beach are heavily exploited by recreational fishermen. It's not unusual to see them with their rods, even when very close to BG500 team during a clean up or animal reintroduction. Because of that, it's even more common to find abandoned fishing gear in the water, which is a constant threat to marine live and beachgoers.

The waters around the beach are heavily exploited by recreational fishermen. It's not unusual to see them with their rods, even when very close to BG500 team during a clean up or animal reintroduction. Because of that, it's even more common to find abandoned fishing gear in the water, which is a constant threat to marine live and beachgoers.

 Sometimes, confrontation with fishermen is not something negative. In this especific case, a beachgoer who brought his net is alerted about the illegality of that kind of fishing in that area. With good knowledge of the law, Ed explains and talks to the ones who breaks or don't know them.

Sometimes, confrontation with fishermen is not something negative. In this especific case, a beachgoer who brought his net is alerted about the illegality of that kind of fishing in that area. With good knowledge of the law, Ed explains and talks to the ones who breaks or don't know them.

 Even unfit for swimming, Urca Beach is one of the cleanest beaches of Guanabara Bay, attracting divers and beachgoers everyday. This is because the geography of the place, the tidal movements, and the for being located in one the safest neighborhoods of Rio de Janeiro.

Even unfit for swimming, Urca Beach is one of the cleanest beaches of Guanabara Bay, attracting divers and beachgoers everyday. This is because the geography of the place, the tidal movements, and the for being located in one the safest neighborhoods of Rio de Janeiro.

 Some animals chose Urca Beach to be their home. Between seahorses, starfish and anemones, the sea turtle named Cow (because of her behavior) is one of these creatures Ed follows for over 5 years. The privilege to be able to swim with animals and see them thrive in such hostile environment is an indication of the success of the work done in that area.

Some animals chose Urca Beach to be their home. Between seahorses, starfish and anemones, the sea turtle named Cow (because of her behavior) is one of these creatures Ed follows for over 5 years. The privilege to be able to swim with animals and see them thrive in such hostile environment is an indication of the success of the work done in that area.