Rich Hardy has been a professional environment and animal protection activist for twenty-five years. From his involvement in the early days of Surfers Against Sewage to awards for investigative journalism exposing animal rights abuses, his passion for the environment has shaped his life and work.
Reflecting on his connection to the ocean, Rich kindly penned the words below for us, exploring what the sea means to him personally and how that relationship has shifted over the years.
It’s odd to think of the sea as a constant with its shifting form and that spending time in its water can make us feel grounded.
For me, its reliability in just being there, no matter what, allows me to keep smiling - to keep perspective - even when nature is taking one almighty bashing from the human activity all around us.
For many years, I was known as a protector of the sea. Just as the sea shifts with the ebb and flow of the tide, so too has that relationship. I believe the sea now protects me.
As an investigative journalist, assigned to work undercover by charities to document the damage we are doing to nature, I’ve spent long periods away from the coast. The only saltwater I’ve come into contact with is the sweat that runs down my forehead in the face of adversity.
But, no matter where you are, follow a road for long enough and the landmass will end, bringing you back to the sea. That was the road I would take at the end of every assignment. Sometimes to surf, sometimes to paddle, sometimes just to sit and stare at its immenseness.
Just taking the time to take everything in.
Listening to the hoots of the surfers after the exhilaration of a little cover-up. Watching the kids splashing water at each other and their screams of joy as the cold droplets hit their faces. Laughing at the scampering dogs, spraying sand on their owners as they skid to a halt. And the beach cleaners, meticulously sifting sand to take the smallest fragment of plastic away from the high tide line.
These are the moments to cherish. The moments when we shine. Where we take care of ourselves and the places which allow us to experience joy and pleasure.
Look after the sea, and it will look after us.
Rich Hardy has led campaigns for some of Britain’s most creative and successful non-profits including Surfers Against Sewage, cleaning up Europe’s coastlines and starting their fight against ocean plastic; and Veganuary, a pledge campaign that inspired a quarter of a million people worldwide to try a vegan diet in 2019.
All the while, over the course of two decades, he’s been going undercover to document how nature and animals are suffering for human gain. A Daily Mirror ‘Animal Hero’ award winner he has recently published his first book ‘Not As Nature Intended’, with Unbound publications.
Words & Images by Rich Hardy