That somebody was the mirror. A face that I've long known mouthed the words. Why pick up another trash bag, and visit the beach another time? What exactly did I hope to accomplish?
In the deep Pacific, some one out of every 10 fish now has plastic in its gut. In the far wild north, 85% of Arctic fulmars fly with plastic inside them. Fish in just one of the world's five ocean gyres eat 12-24,000 tons of plastic a year. A year.
The world smokes 5.5 trillion cigarettes each year. If even 90% make it to the landfill, that still means 55 billion filters littered to the ground/ocean. Each year. 1744 toxic, persistent, plastic cigarette butts littered to the ground every second of every day.
Here in Maine, our lobster industry loses tens of thousands of vinyl-coated steel lobster traps to the deep sea every year. 70,000 in 2010 alone! Each trap, as the steel slowly rusts, sheds its vinyl in a thousand+ fish-bite sized bits. Storms belch the vinyl -- and the sharp, rusted steel -- up all over our beautiful coastline; ruined hulks of trap litter islands up and down the Maine Island Trail.
I've picked up nearly 9,000 pieces of garbage from 1/10th of a mile of coastline, 80% plastic. Maine has 3,500 miles of coastline. And the world still makes ever more, more, & more plastic. Plastic recycling just downcycles the waste, forcing still more virgin plastic to replace the recycled products. Plastic bag lobbyists fight common-sense taxes & fees; bottling companies fight common-sense bottle-return bills. Convenience & profit of the moment rule the day. And the ocean continues to fill with plastic.
So back to my question. What can a guy, a trash bag, and a camera do to change any of this? I don't know.
But I took my daughter to Bay View today.
|The inheritor (with growing collection of found beach toys!)|
Ruby will inherit the world that I leave to her. I have to leave it better than I found it. That's my job.
So today, while she was making sand castles, I picked up my garbage bag and camera, and I walked the beach.
And you know what? On our way to this spot, there had been a plastic cup littered at the tide line. When our beach time was over, and we were walking back to the car, that cup was gone, thrown in the trash by a kindred spirit. Whatever it is you care about in this world, you're not alone.