America might run on Dunkin’, but the oceans don’t.
I wish the picture above was a Photoshopped or staged image. But, sadly, it is not. Sadly, it is what you will find simply walking up too many beaches in too many parts of the world, as long as you have your eyes open.
There is no doubt. We are facing a self-made apocalypse. This seemingly dour realization has not come easily to me, but it is the undeniable conclusion based on honest research and observation. I write not about impending nuclear conflicts, but rather the much more mundane, the much more common, and much more individually avoidable: waste.
Someone’s excited to get into the trash!
There are entire dissertations to be written on a topic this broad, so I’ll instead focus on my own experience picking up trash on a warm but rainy February Sunday afternoon at my local beach in Long Island, NY. Anyone can do it. Most people probably should. And you can even bring an adorable pup with you like I did. As with most things worth doing in life, why not have fun while your at it?
Our beach does have an annual clean up, but when you consider that this well meaning event comprises only 1/365 days of the year, you start to realize as I did that such an effort is far from enough in the larger scheme of things. The other 364 days is plenty of time for plastics to degrade into the sand and then water, poisoning the world rather than simply vanishing into it. Some pieces will even become buried where they’ll continue to decay or be eventually washed out to sea.
Took less than an hour to fill this full size garbage bag 😦
Combing the beach with my happy companion, we stumbled across all manner of objects that have no place in any environment, let alone a marine one. Some were more puzzling as to how in the hell they got there, like shotgun shell casings, auto parts, and balloon carcasses. But others were simply dismaying to see, like beer cans, coffee cups, and more bottle caps than I could count. The latter most of these items are frustrating to find because they seem so easy to recycle, or even just put in the trash as an absolute worse case scenario. Yet there they lay, half-buried and already blending in with the rocks around them.
I did get thirsty, but was worried this might make me sick.
Much of the refuse seemed to collect in the dunes or among the tide lines of tangled seaweed and beach grass. Within these tufts were all manner of tinier objects, and these perhaps were the most depressing of all, such as already worn Styrofoam that crumbled when I went to pluck it out, blowing off in the wind before I could snatch the little bits out of the air.
Even smaller pieces, some as small as the tiniest pebbles or even grains of sand, were an even more disturbing sight. For these bits it was too late to really even tell them apart from what should be there. They were now a part of the landscape.
My point isn’t to lecture here from some sort of moral high ground. I’m just as guilty as anyone else of not being the most efficient and sustainable consumer. But it seems that there’s plenty of little things that we can all do in our lives, and so if this is just a first step, then I reckon it’s a damn good one.
Well, that doesn’t belong there…
But we need to try harder as a species if we’re going to make it through this current century relatively intact, and beyond. Whatever your beliefs, the truth is irrefutable: there’s no reason for any of us – or our society – to exist, to continue. It is up to us to maintain our planet, and by extension, society. This isn’t to suggest turning your life on its head and becoming an 100% efficient woodland hippie, but learn what you can, do what you can, and share that voice with others. There are certainly others who are much more knowledgeable on these issues than I am (see here for example), and so I implore you to do the research yourself. It will certainly confirm your observations the next time you do take a stroll on the beach.
For me, I’m looking forward to me and the doggo’s next beach cleaning adventure. Again, it’s just a start, but all good things need one.
But the fact remains: too long have we ignored what we waste. It’s time to open our eyes. Let’s unpocalypse this situation.
Someone sniffs trash…