Saturday, September 3, 2011

Good Reads

I picked up my first bag of trash off the beach in March 2010. I wrote my first blog post in May 2010. It seems like a lifetime ago. I guess in some ways it is.

One thing that's kept the fire burning has been discovering other amazing people also fighting to change their world. Nonprofits and organizations, sure. But most heartening has been regular folks, bloggers, other people with their own lives to balance, who nevertheless take their time to do something that reaches beyond them.

It's impossible, in one post, to note all the people whose writings have touched me and kept me going. But I feel it's high time to try, at least a little bit. So, here goes:
  • The first person I "met" was Sara Bayles. She writes The Daily Ocean. What started as finding -- and hating -- trash on her Santa Monica beach recently became an epic South Pacific voyage studying plastic pollution up close. She's now back home, and her serialized travelogue -- as well as the ongoing saga of hundreds of lbs. of beach debris -- is a must-read.
  • Through Sara I discovered Danielle Richardet of It Starts with Me. She and her family pick trash -- and cigarette butts -- off Wrightsville Beach, NC. To date, she is nearinghas reached 30,000 cigarette butts. 30,000 pulled off one beach, by one family! A true inspiration, and always a great read.
  • Closer to my part of the world, I follow the lazy (and not so lazy) courses of countless rivers & streams in central and eastern Massachusetts with Suasco Al, The Trash Paddler. Every trip, Al carts off dozens of cups, bottles, wrappers, etc. that others have left behind in pristine wilderness. Tens of thousands of pieces over 4 years now. Read it for the trash, read it for the beautiful scenery & descriptions, just read it!
  • I recently discovered Ellen of The House Behind the Other Houses. Hailing from eastern Massachusetts, Ellen is constantly cleaning up "The Ugly Strip" in her neighborhood. But she does much more. She posts plastic-bag walls of shame; gardens & cooks some mouth-watering looking yummies; and brings life back to her asphalt jungle one small garden plot at a time. It's good stuff, and makes me smile to read it.
  • My world is the coast, and yet until too recently I never really stopped to look at it. Or to understand it. But I've learned to appreciate the way that wind, wave, and dune live and breathe. And I've been grateful for things Somerset Coast, across the "Pond," has been able to teach and show me. A wonderful blog for anybody interested in how coastlines form, change, erode, adapt. How they live.
  • Earth Korps is another new find for me. Their goal is "simple": to save & heal the 300-mile, polluted Shenandoah River that runs through Virginia and West Virginia. These folks will pull over half a ton of debris out of the river in one cleanup day! They don't mind getting dirty, they bust their backsides to make a difference, and their story deserves to be told & spread.
  • In the same vein is Chad Pregracke's Living Lands and Waters project. Less a blog than a way of life, Pregracke runs barges up and down the Mississippi River and major tributaries, pulling out countless tons of debris, which is floated on barges to salvage shops and dumps. It started as just one guy, hoping to make a difference. As just one example of the difference he's made, to date he and his crews have pulled over 55,000 tires from the waters.
  • A delightful and enigmatic blog, Catch What a Whale Shouldn't Have to Eat is updated almost daily by an anonymous blogger living somewhere in coastal North Shore Massachusetts. The breadth of what they find, the artistry in the images, and the desire to know more about this person and their work will keep you coming back.
  • Massachusetts has the Trash Paddler, Washington state has Garbage Scows. Another explorer committed to "taking only trash, leaving only swirls." And from the looks of it, they've got their job cut out for them.
  • I can't finish without a nod of appreciation to the Two Hands Project. Australia-based, but touching the world, the concept is simple: return the idea of global coastal cleanups to the awesome power of one person and their own two hands. They're most active on their FaceBook page. Check it out, thumb through the photos & the stories, and get inspired to do big things, two hands and a few minutes at a time.
There are more, many more that I read gladly. But these sites above are the ones that I go back to over & over because they inspire me. They make me want to pick up my trash bag and camera and do what I can. They remind me of the key truth: If there's something you love, if there's something you care about, you're not alone.


  1. Hi Harry - thanks for visiting my blog. You are doing something amazing here! It's obviously a worldwide problem and you inspire us all to do our bit. Good on you!

  2. Harry, thanks for mentioning my blog! I was so surprised and excited when I came to that part! And I am so looking forward to reading the other blogs you mentioned that I hadn't heard of. As you said, reading about other people who are concerned about the same issues is inspiring and energizing. Thanks for the great bibliography!