I have a few thoughts on beach cleanup efforts, debris that washes up, and effective ways of beautifying and keeping our environment clean over the long term. I clean beaches because a polluted beach offends me.
However, I’m not fooling myself. Cleaning a beach is not doing much to halt pollution.
In fact, the people who visit the clean beach enjoy it without an awareness of the marine debris problem, and how we all, including myself, contribute to it. They blissfully come and go, with a smile and without a clue as to how littered the beach was and how much effort was spent on cleaning it.
So how should we proceed if our immediate aim is to beautify our beaches on the Cayman Islands? We can have a competition to encourage participation of residents. I hope that succeeds, really, because beach cleaners will at least become aware that marine debris exists in huge, unmanageable amounts. But I think that a competition misses the more important target of creating long-term clean beaches.
Shouldn’t we be addressing the causes of marine debris on the Cayman Islands? And can’t we come up with better ways of involving people, especially our youth, in efforts to not only clean it up, but to live in a way that does not contribute further to the problem?
I am not a resident of the Cayman Islands. My regular beach clean-up efforts will not win me any points. However, even if I were eligible for this current incentive, and please pardon the pun; I would not stoop to pick up beach trash for a competition. I do it for free, just to enjoy a clean beach that others may also enjoy. I am a resident of this planet.
It occurs to me that our target should be finding a long-term solution to marine debris. One way to address that personally is to limit purchases of single-serve or single-use plastic containers.
Companies will continue to produce plastic containers as long as we buy them. But we consumers have the power now to limit plastic production. We can help today by making our own beverages, or bringing along our own water, and carrying the drinks in reusable containers. This is inconvenient; but not difficult.
Granted, it is not the single solution to the problem of marine debris. However it will lessen the amount of plastic that pollutes our oceans and remains in them, or floats up onto our beaches. It’s something you and I can begin to do today.
Pause every time before purchasing a plastic container, and think of your options. If you have none, buy it! But if you can create an option, do that! Help today to address the causes of marine debris. And as for inconvenience; must we wait until the oceans have died to fully understand what inconvenient really means?
Another way to target the real problem, long term, is through education of our children. They bring the lessons home to their parents and communities. It is for our children that we must create, maintain and preserve clean environments. And the children can even lead the way, teaching families how to develop habits that serve to protect, not destroy, our islands.
Competition may involve residents of the Cayman Islands in cleaning up our beaches. But how many competitions are we willing to pay for? And when the new winds come to blow more trash up onto our beaches, who will get out there and pick it up for nothing?
It will be those citizens of the world who care about the planet. Isn’t a beautiful and habitable environment enough of a reward? For there is no one who will put forth greater effort for protecting our environment than those who have learned to love the land and oceans.
Our children’s participation in preservation efforts is inspired best through opportunities for personal experience of natural beauty and by adults mentoring and modeling effective action. Give each child a personal reason to take on the responsibility of becoming a caretaker, not an exploiter, of our islands and our world.
Who can care for that which he does not love? By instilling a love for the environment in the new generation, we truly address the causes of this currently “inconvenient,” and eventually life-threatening, marine debris disaster.