In Mauritius, Locals United to Keep an Oil Spill at Bay

Night had fallen on Mahebourg, a bustling trade town on the southeast coast of Mauritius, when what would come to be called the “people’s factory zone” met for the first time. It was an enterprise born of necessity: A crisis was unfolding only a few miles offshore, in the pristine waters from which many of Mahebourg’s residents earn their livelihoods. That first August night, just a handful of locals showed up to rally around what seemed like a dubious idea. To protect the coast from a devastating oil spill, they would make booms from whatever they could find: single-use plastic bottles, fibrous sugar cane waste, even human hair. Word of the DIY initiative spread. Within hours, hundreds of…

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