Whenever I was in a bad mood as a child, my parents would toss me into the sea. It was the one thing, they said, that snapped me out of a temper. I grew up a 10-minute walk from the ocean in Wembury, a picture-postcard village in the southwest of England—an area popular for surfing, swimming, and rockpooling.
My father still lives in Wembury, and I still love to get in the water when I’m back home (I now live in London). One day in June 2021, however, I learned from a community Facebook page that going for a swim would not be possible. A blackboard had been erected at the beach with a message scrawled across it in white letters: BEACH CLOSED DUE TO POLLUTION INCIDENT.