Humans are hard on the planet, but we can learn how to be less so, if we care to.

In the post below this one, “Fishing is hard on the sea …” I shared images of trash I packed off my local beaches from one storm.

I need to expand a bit on what I wrote. The items you saw in those images are mistaken for food and eaten by hundreds of thousands of birds all over our planet each day. Some of these birds fly thousands of miles to gather food for their offspring. After being fed a belly full of plastic, they die.

Look at this image showing oyster farming detritus:

NOT albatross food

Now look at this image by Chris Jordan of a dead albatross on the Midway Atoll:

Dead Albatross by Chris Jordan – See the oyster spacer tube in there!

Here is a live albatross for comparison:

See all the disposable lighters in this image:

Disposable, hmmmm……where do they go?

And again, a dead albatross by Chris Jordan:

Dead Albatross by Chris Jordan – where disposable lighters end up.

More human waste from Point Reyes beaches:

Discarded toys – NOT albatross food!

Another dead bird from Midway courtesy Chris Jordan:

Dead Albatross by Chris Jordan

Chris has been documenting the deaths of thousands of birds on Midway for several years. A movie is coming soon. You can see more of his work here

There, I wanted to draw a line between what I pick up off the beach and the impact it has on our planet.

Can you think of how you might adjust your daily living patterns a little so that you generate less stuff that may end up killing some hapless bird trying to put some food on the table?

So what is a Park for anyway?

To me, it is a place where I go to be away from the internet, curmudgeons, war, pointless consumerism. I go to places like the back-country of Kings Canyon National Park and remote beaches of Point Reyes National Seashore to be soothed by a planet unspoiled by the contrivances of humans. I go to these places to remember what life is all about. I’ve been blessed to be able to see all that I have seen.

It is important to protect these special places and I am glad (mostly) that we have the park service to do so.

I’ve been packing about 1 ton of trash off the beaches of Point Reyes each year since late 2008. My knees remember each stoop to pick up another bottle cap, another plastic wrapper, each step back up the hill onto to the Pierce Point trail.

When I started this cleaning, I secured permission to deposit what I gather in the park dumpsters. I’ve learned more about dumpsters than I care to know. When I find that the South Beach dumpster is so rusted out, that items placed in it fall out the bottom and are blown back on the beach, an email/call or two, or three will usually get it replaced. The same for South Beach and Drakes Beach. Thank you Cicely.

Lately I’ve become frustrated with the park service. OK, I have been frustrated with them for quite some time now. For example, seeing that the fellow who services the bathrooms at the many beach parking lots tosses large cardboard boxes into the dumpster instead of recycling them bothers me. If I, a volunteer, can sort and recycle the items I pluck off the beach, the paid staff can surely recycle the tools of their trade. I have been fishing them out, crushing them and recycling them at my house for sometime now.

I’ve told a number of NPS people, hoping to get the paid staff to do the right thing. It took a while until a small recycling bin eventually showed up at one site for staff to use instead of the dumpster. Bravo. Now, to get them all to use it…

Though, after hearing that one supervisor, having learned of me pulling cardboard out of trash bins again and again, said to another employee “I’m going to super-glue a box in the bottom of the dumpster so he has to crawl inside to get it,” a light went off for me.

I no longer track my hundreds of hours and submit them so the park can receive money for their volunteer program.

This may seem trivial on its own. But the above example is only one of many instances (nor is it the most troubling) I saw firsthand of “do as we say, not as we do” within the NPS.

I may still gather human trash off the otherwise pristine beaches around here. But I’ll do it for me, selfish bastard that I am.

And for those that come after us.

Fishing is hard on the sea, living is hard on my heart

Click on the title of this post to read it and see a related header image.

The debris shown in the images below was collected after the first big storm of 2012 in early February.

Over two days I spent 10 hours and covered about three miles of Drakes Beach and South Beach. Just imagine what all the beaches of Point Reyes were covered with from just one storm!

The plan was to have posted these images in February. Due to painful distractions, I am finally getting around to sharing what I hope you find are compelling images. That is, I hope they compel you to give some thought to all that happens in order to bring seafood to your table.

Tomorrow is the commercial crab opener of 2012. Thousands of crab pots have been dropped in the sea attached to miles and miles of petroleum based rope, foam floats and plastic bait jars. Much of this gear will be lost due to storm, propeller strike or other activities. While scraping and grinding along the bottom of the sea, or abrading on the beach sand, many thousands of pounds of plastic will be pulverized and deposited into the food chain.

Does society have any idea what is undertaken to put seafood on their table? The time, expense and effort of the fishermen, the vast amount of gear lost at sea each season, or stolen by unscrupulous crab fishermen? A local fishermen once told me, after sharing with me the many ways in which fishermen “do unto others” in not such golden ways, “Crab fishing makes ya crabby!”

Be sure to have a look at the last picture. There you will get a close look at about 75 oyster spacer tubes from Drakes Bay Oyster Company (DBOC) in the foreground. I have found well over 5000 of these in the last five years. From as far north as the tip of Tomales Point and south to Slide Ranch.

Click on image for bigger picture – Debris recovered over two days work, about ten hours effort

Click on image for bigger picture – Should the price of crab reflect the cost to the planet?

Click on image for bigger picture – Maybe some of this is yours?

Click on image for bigger picture

Click on image for bigger picture – Heroin, nicotine and caffeine….slower, faster, anywhere but here and now…

Click on image for bigger picture – If all dogs at the seashore are on leash….how come I find 100’s of tennis balls and ball tossers each year?

Click on image for bigger picture

Click on image for bigger picture – Each one of those orange tags represents about $200 in lost gear for a crab fisherman. What if they paid a deposit on each trap set? To offset the cost of picking up after all their gear that litters the ocean and beaches.

Click on image for bigger picture – Black PVC pipe oyster spacers used by Drakes Bay Oyster Company. You see 75 or so here. I have found over 5000 of these on Point Reyes beaches, as well as dozens oyster grow-out bags and the foam from inside grow-out bags.

All forms of commercial fishing take a huge toll on our planet.

Is it asking too much to set aside portions of the planet as areas we tread upon lightly, or tread upon not at all?

Many say we must do all we can to produce food locally, sustainably to feed the 7 billion humans on earth.

Others say we need to slow the growth of the human population, keep it more in line with the carrying capacity of earth.

This planet is fragile. Humans, only one of the many species on this blue sphere, have developed the means to do great good and great harm. As we ever more quickly modify our nest, it is less able to feed an ever growing population. Does this make sense? Does a growing family move into ever smaller and smaller housing?

I think The Dude said it best:

Three is a good number

Click on the title of this post to read it and see a related header image.

Sometimes I come across much more pleasant sights than a beach covered with plastic.

Here are three peregrine falcons on Kehoe Beach. The middle bird is a chick that has fledged.

Three peregrines

Three peregrines, one cleared for take-off

Three peregrines, one aloft

I imagine the other two are proud parents.

Here are the customary three chicks in a western snowy plover clutch on North Beach.

Three precocious plover chicks

Hagard plover dad and chicks

Happy father's day little plover


What I hope is a soon to be extinct plastic pink sea-horse.

If it has so little worth it can be left behind, as most of these cheap plastic toys are, why buy it in the first place?

WIth a little imagination, one can use sticks, kelp, and other natural items found on the beach to entertain a young child.

Sending money to China so petroleum can be turned into what will become poisonous trash makes no sense. To me at least.

I wonder if an iMagination app for the iphone is available?