May 2017: Michaeal McBride :Kachemak Bay Wilderness Lodge as posted in National Geographic Water Blog.
(Editor’s Note: Mahalo to the folks from Homer, Alaska who helped clean up the seacoast on the Big Island of Hawaii!)
Optimism versus pessimism, how do we find balance between the two when confronting the environmental challenges of today? The older generation has many opportunities to help young people to be optimistic about the future — by encouraging them to take action. The sea offers us inspiration to act (it is la mere in French, our mother). In Hawaii, a small volunteer shoreline cleanup was facilitated by elders, then a group of determined and optimistic young people demonstrated clearly that the one thing we must not do today, is to do nothing.
We were a small group of volunteers; among us, three fun loving Alaskan girls, Tammy, Daisy and Molly. They chose to do this hard work rather than bask on the beach. They were visitors to the Island who got one look at this lovely curve of shore and felt compelled to act. We sought advice from our cheer-leader, resident-grandfather-of -12-carpenter, Robin Reyes who was working nearby. He said though he respected and supported our work, the changing tides and winds will soon cover it with plastic garbage again. It appears that this mid-Pacific hook in the shoreline is acting as a collecting point of detritus from near and far. In spite of that, these hardworking members of the younger generation keep a sense of optimism about the future because they are doing the best they can with what is before them.
The fact is that the world’s beaches from Arctic to Antarctic are in many places, or most places, literally paved with plastic detritus.
Scientific American reports in this link that for every foot of shoreline around the world, there are the equivalent of 5 grocery bags of plastic debris, millions of tons of it adrift in the worlds rotating current gyres.
The big stuff is obvious and sometimes removable, but all of it is constantly being broken up into smaller and smaller bits by UV sunlight and the surf. The only thing we must not do in the face of this growing disaster or others like it, is to think it is not our problem. Humanity must take a serious look at the amount of plastic that we are allowing to get into the ocean. We must nurture optimism in our own hearts and the hearts of others, with the belief that anything we do for the common good really matters and does indeed make a difference.
It is shocking to see that this semi-isolated cliff -bracketed boulder beach on the north coast of the Big Island is littered with a nasty assortment of plastic objects large and small. There were many tons of plastic and commercial fishing net debris in this small cove. Volunteer beach combers could only scratch the surface.
There are ugly snarls of commercial fishing trawl net, some sections of which might weigh a ton. Floating nets like these are especially notorious because they attract fish; from little guys to giants who get tangled in them, die, and attract more creatures to these death traps. In a piece-count of commercial Japanese fishing floats we realize that 200’ of beach yielded almost 200 styro-foam floats and scores more, big and small, in a variety of shapes and colors. Friends reported seeing an entire small car washing back and forth in the surf perhaps kept afloat by the four tires. South Point on the opposite side of the Island has seen a lot of debris from the Nuclear Reactor disaster site at Fukushima Japan. The remote Aleutians, and much of Alaska’s coast is littered with this same debris. We wondered what dangers we might face from radiation dealing with these articles? This insidious risk is magnified by knowing that more than one cleaner of beach garbage has been swept away, gone forever with a single rogue wave, indeed, there was a fatality on a nearby island recently. Beach-combers beware !
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