A good friend of mine often comes up and walks the beach with me. Sometimes he brings his two daughters. One of his daughters decided to write about her experiences cleaning up the beach for her english class. Her writing skills rival her skills at combing the beach for man-made trash to collect. Enjoy.
8th Grade Student
Bay Area, California
March 15, 2011
Though I’ve never seen the movie “Goodnight and Good Luck,” I’ve always liked the name. To me it says to a person, you are going into an unknown situation, the results hidden by a veil of darkness. I know you are going, and hate to see you go, but wish you a journey weaved with a strand of luck. I care enough about them to wish them luck, just like some people care about shoes, clothes, the T.V., or their jobs. These days though, people are overcome with apathy, not having the capacity to care. I’ve read essays saying that to stop apathy is to solve all problems in the world. I think though, that when people are out of practice at things like caring, they need to start small. If people had the capacity to care about something small like local litter, we could solve pollution. If people had the capacity to care about something small like that, they could care about bigger things. So may I ask the harm in trying?
For some reason, I try to be a good person. When I’m walking around the school campus, I pick up trash I see and put it in the trash can. I do this so that the campus will be cleaner, and so that maybe some other kid will see me and think, hey I could do that too! Sadly, all that happens when someone sees me picking up trash is they give me a weird look and walk away. They don’t care that I’m picking up trash as long as they don’t have to. So if I’m a doubter in monkey see, monkey do, I don’t think you can blame me. My hopes lie elsewhere for the world.
Walking down the street, people look at their shoes or their phones completely absorbed in their own problems. They may frown as they pass a piece of litter, and then are swept away by the crowd and their own thoughts. When I’m unhappy and see trash all over the place, my mood drops even further. But if I’m in a bad mood and see a little kid playing in a clean park, a smile crosses my lips. A clean world is a refreshing and relieving thought. If people were busy with their own problems and saw a clean street, maybe, just maybe they would be happier with one less problem to think about. And honestly, if you think one person can’t make a difference, think again.
Richard James is my dad’s friend from college. Almost every day Richard walks for miles up and down Tomales Beach on Point Reyes. With a backpack, he packs out 40 to 60lbs of trash each trip and hikes up to 8 miles round trip to and from the nearest parking lot. Richard doesn’t get paid for what he does; he does it because he cares. After 3 years of doing this, Richard decided it was time that other people cared too. He has started up coastodian.org to help raise awareness of the trash that pollutes our oceans and washes up on our beaches. He’s decided to focus on art awareness. With the trash he picks up, he makes art and takes professional photos of it in different places. Knowing Richard and having helped him several times, he sent me an email with the website and his photos. I forwarded this email to as many people as could, and suggested the people I sent it to send it on. If this email becomes a chain email, it could do major damage raising awareness.
So to litter, or not to litter. World, art thou world, I’m not sure how else to ask you to care. If I’ve gotten one person to care by writing this essay, I shall not have lived in vain. One person can make a difference. If you want to, log on to coastodian.org tonight and check it out. On the off chance you do, know I wish you this. Goodnight and good luck.
Goodnight and good luck~ the movie Goodnight and Good Luck
To litter, or not to litter~ Hamlet
World, art thou world~ Romeo and Juliet
I shall not have lived in vain~ Emily Dickinson
Of the thousands of plastic water bottles I picked up and packed out during 2010, only one of them was an empty, sand encrusted SmartWater bottle.
So far during 2011 I have found three. A twelve-hundred percent increase over last year. With so much smart drinking going on, people will soon realize they have been doing it all wrong with respect to drinking water.
Water, the old-fashioned stuff that flows down rivers once flush with wild salmon is composed of two hydrogen molecules and one oxygen molecule. Ideally not much else.
SmartWater is so much more.
SmartWater is distilled tap water, with electrolytes (likely salt) added. Nothing more. Enhanced water in the parlance of the marketing gurus that peddle it.
Much energy has been expended to school this dullard. After so costly an education, this water is too good to run from a simple tap. A petroleum-based plastic bottle is produced to contain this erudite brew. Only now can you, the thirsty consumer be expected to pay more than ten dollars per gallon for it.
If this water is so smart, then I should never find a single misplaced bottle on the beach. All of them should be getting recycled, right?
Unwilling to afford this crazy, Coca-Cola owned concoction, I wonder if I can home school my tap?
Click on the title of this post to read it and see a related image.
The beaches of Point Reyes National Seashore are striking.
I often walk these beaches in search of interesting subjects to photograph, as well as to soothe my soul, collecting trash along the way.
In 3 years I have packed out on my back over three tons of trash, mostly plastic and styrofoam bits of all sizes.
After a couple of years of packing 80+ pound packs of foam and boat bits off Tomales Point and the area beaches, it was suggested to me more than once that I ought to store one years’ worth of trash, then display it downtown for all to see. My response evolved into, “That is a great idea, may I store it at your place?” Always, this was met with a grin and a no-thanks.
Having this exchange a few times prompted me to decide to store a year’s worth of drink bottles and display them somehow, with the hope of encouraging people to use a refillable metal bottle and stop buying plastic. The folks at Point Reyes National Seashore kindly allowed me to store my material in a park barn.
I constructed what I call meta-bottles. Bottles of bottles. The contents and the caps (two-gallon buckets) are beach debris. The chicken wire was donated, then purchased when that ran out. It is all held together with, sigh, plastic tie-wraps. I tried to sew the chicken wire with found rope. It was not do-able in the manner I tried, though I plan to re-examine this for future bottles.
Each bottle is 8.5 feet tall and 30 inches in diameter. The five bottles comprise roughly 172 cubic feet of mostly uncompressed plastic bottles.
Intact labels show countries of origin including: Japan, China, Korea, Russia, Malaysia, Greece. A small percentage are clearly “home-grown in the US of A”. The currents of the sea bring others’ trash to us, perhaps our trash to them. The sea creatures see it all, often thinking it is food to eat.
What I have learned from my many hours on the beach is that it does not so much matter how many people pick up the trash that is coming in, 24/7/365 from the sea. Myself and 1000 others could work each and every day and not keep up with the new trash arriving each day.
More importantly, we all need to stop adding to the mess by making wiser, more sustainable hydration and other purchase choices.
These meta-bottles show what one person can pick up on a fraction of the earth’s coastline in one short year. Imagine what is trapped in the many gyres in all the seas! The earth cannot metabolize what man keeps dumping in the sea. These bottles eventually break down and are eaten by fish, that are eaten by fish and eventually eaten by man.
Please consider never buying another plastic bottle of water. Tell a friend, too!
Thanks go out to Lacey, Joe, Madeleine, Gordon, Samantha, Micaela, Katrina, Sean, Katie, Jesse, Chris, Angie, Gabe, Melanie, Randy, Carissa and especially Vicki for helping me along the way. Thanks everyone!
More news from the coast is coming.