Sunday, August 28, 2011

Susan Miller's Grand Finale

Well, my last day of monitoring for turtle tracks this summer was definitely a climactic one! The ocean was looking quite angry this morning. There were some visitors on the beach who seemed to be getting in their last dose of the Atlantic before hunkering down for the storm. I expected to see a lot of surfers, but as conditions are quite dangerous at this time, there were only a brave few.

Normally, on Fridays, I find a good deal of evidence from the week's beach goers in the sand. Today that was not really the case. There were some scattered beer cans here and there, and only 2 sand toys. However, because Irene is churning and the tide is coming in very high, there was already a great deal of litter along the tide line. In fact, I would say the amount of litter that has already washed in from the sea is quite shocking.

 I stuck solely to picking items up from the tide line, and completely filled my reusable bag. Towards the end, I was kind of smooshing everything down to try to make more room. I'd say this was probably equivalent to about 4 and 1/2 grocery bags.

Since the litter had already been tossed around in the sea then washed up, a lot of it was indistinguishable. There was so much plastic-- really just plastic, plastic everywhere. I also found balloons in several different colors. The biggest surprise for the day was a single Haviana flip flop that I found. Here's the crazy thing... I picked up its mate last Friday! I know that sounds nuts, but it's true. I found the right flip flop today, and it had obviously been out at sea for a while because it was wet and had pieces of sea grass on it. If you look at this photo that I have cropped from last week, you can see the left flip flop on my patio.

As I was walking today, one thing that I found really overwhelming was the number of cigarette butts. There were so many that I couldn't even focus on picking them up-- I didn't know where to start. It got me thinking about how Mother Teresa once said, "If I look at all this mass, I will never act."

 Dr. Melanie Joy, the author of "Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows" theorizes that this idea is why the meat industry continues to operate in such an inhumane manner in the United States; because in a system where 10 billion land animals are killed each year, where does one even begin in stopping it? How can we even begin to comprehend the slaughter of 10 billion living things each year? Anyway... the connection I am trying to make is that if we see one cigarette butt on an otherwise pristine beach, it is easy to pick it up, throw it away, blame the sole smoker for being careless, and move on. But when we walk down the beach and see 1,000 cigarette butts, which ones do we pick up? Where do we start? And whom do we blame? I think this is why so many people walk past the cigarette butts and don't stop to pick them up. The enormity of the problem is so great. It takes people like us to say, "hey, you can start by just picking up one." We are the Mother Teresas of the beach. ;)

Okay, now for the grand finale today... are you ready? Between Johnnie Mercer's Pier and beach access #32 today the number of plastic bottle caps I picked up was... 122! Yep, 122 plastic bottle caps were scattered along the tide line. Wow.

Peace to everyone. Stay safe this weekend!


Susan Z. Miller
Freelance Writer and Editor

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