Monday, February 4, 2008

Wow! What a success!

Right before 2, when people were just starting to show up, I was watching the big storm cloud travel over Nevis and right towards Majors Bay, but luck was on our side, and I think we had under 3 minutes of rain total. The day turned out beautifully - perfect for cleaning a beach!

Over 50 folks of all ages turned out Saturday, February 2, to join St. Kitts Reef Ecology Watch Group in its 4th beach clean. Like all the beaches on the peninsula, Majors Bay offers breathtaking views, but it is pretty polluted with garbage left behind by humans.

A lack of dumpsters and trash receptacles certainly contributes to the problem, but encouraging people to pack out their trash when they leave for the day is an important part of the solution.

At about 3:30pm, everyone was slowing down, tired from bending over in the hot sun, when suddenly, someone screamed!

"I need 10 people at the end of the beach! NOW! It looks like a dumpsite!" Ten people grabbed bags and made their way across the stretch of sand to the east end, a place where cars can drive around the salt pond and have big parties under the shade of the manchaneels.

But there was garbage everywhere, in every direction. The group was distressed. "Why did people leave this here?" Certainly, a well-placed trash can might have helped, but we can't think that a trash can is a solution for all littering.

If no trash can exists, then people should take their trash with them, and dispose of it at home.

The group cleaned and cleaned until every bag was full, but there was still trash on the ground. We've decided to go back to Majors Bay in March and continue our work there.

Meanwhile, snorkelers had just come out of the water and were heard grumbling on the beach. "Unbelievable!" one said, astounded at the amount of garbage in the water. They pulled out tarps, plastic bags, ripped nets, broken tackle, bottles, corrugated tin, shreds of tires- you name it! Like the folks at the east end, the snorkelers were disheartened: they couldn't get all the trash out. The water was too deep, and with each held breath, they only had enough time to get one or two pieces of garbage. Bigger pieces were harder to get and took more energy. "We need tanks," someone suggested, so that's the plan for next month: we want to get some scuba divers in the water to finish cleaning the bay.

Why is it so important that we get the trash off the beach and out of the water?

That's a great question. Here's what happens to trash left on the beach: it becomes part of the system. Plastics don't break down into organic compounds. Instead, they break up into tiny bits, and animals eat them. And sometimes, other animals eat those animals. And sometimes, humans eat those animals! The plastic won't go away. Tiny bits found on the beach become microscopic bits that marine life eat. So that plastic bottle that you walked by last year and didn't pick up because you weren't the one to leave it there? You maybe ate part of it for dinner the last time you had some local fish. Scientists are still unaware of the full effects of these microscopic pieces of plastic, but I have a hunch whatever they turn up isn't going to be good news!

Also, turtles nest on these beaches, and all of this trash left around endangers the turtles and makes it more difficult for them to lay their eggs. And it makes it really tricky for the freshly-hatched babies to find their way back to sea when they've got huge tires and broken beach chairs and plastic bags to navigate around or get stuck in.

Sometimes people think that the ocean will wash the trash away and we don't have to worry about it anymore. Wrong! It's still there, under the waves. It gets caught in the reefs, killing them. When the reefs die, the fish go away.

Other people think, "Well, it wasn't me who littered, so why should I pick it up?" That's another good question. The best answer I can come up with is that while that piece of paper blowing along the ground or that plastic grocery bag you see floating in the water isn't yours, the Earth is yours. It belongs to all of us.

If a hurricane blew a tree branch into your home, you'd remove it because it's your home, and you don't want to live with a tree branch on your table! Try to think of garbage that way: you need to remove any trash you see because you don't want your planet to be a mess.

It's as simple as that!

One of the most wonderful things about this beach clean was the presence of so many wee ones!
A whole lot of kiddos from the Children's Home arrived as well, ready to help out! They participated in an Un-Treasure Hunt, where they had to find something broken, something recyclable, something biodegradable, etc., in order to win the coveted titles of King and Queen of Trash! And of course candy, hot dogs, and soda were all part of the fun, too! Here are some pictures from the big day!

gogoshire's Majors Bay Flickr Badge photosetgogoshire's Majors Bay Flickr Badge photoset

I'd like to thank everyone who participated in this special day, and I hope that everyone can make it back for Majors Bay Part 2 next month!

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