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:
Now look at this image by Chris Jordan of a dead albatross on the Midway Atoll:
Here is a live albatross for comparison:
See all the disposable lighters in this image:
And again, a dead albatross by Chris Jordan:
More human waste from Point Reyes beaches:
Another dead bird from Midway courtesy Chris Jordan:
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.