Shoes, sunglasses, shovels, all strung from driftwood at Popham Beach.
The whimsy of this display makes me smile. And isn’t it fun to imagine who might have left these treasures behind? What sort of day did they have? Were they locals or tourists? Toys have a knack for getting lost in the shuffle of wave jumping and castle building. It is enough for an adult to keep track of a single child, never mind multiple youngsters and every last bit of beach gear. A sand toy spirited away by the surf is a small price to pay for a day at the beach.
Or is it?
As much as I get a kick out of this beach art, I’d be falling down on the job (of self-appointed earth police, evidently) if I didn’t point out that ocean pollution is a serious problem. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), approximately 1.4 billion pounds of trash enters the ocean each year.
Marine debris is another persistent pollution problem in our ocean. Marine debris injures and kills marine life, interferes with navigation safety, and poses a threat to human health. Our oceans and waterways are polluted with a wide variety of marine debris ranging from soda cans and plastic bags to derelict fishing gear and abandoned vessels. Today, there is no place on Earth immune to this problem. A majority of the trash and debris that covers our beaches comes from storm drains and sewers, as well as from shoreline and recreational activities. Abandoned or discarded fishing gear is also a major problem because this trash can entangle, injure, maim, and drown marine wildlife and damage property.
Check out NOAA’s educational tips on how to take better care of our oceans at: http://response.restoration.noaa.gov/marine-debris. Here, for example, here NOAA’s tips for beachgoers:
Sand, surf, sun and fun – these are just some reasons you love going to the shore. Unfortunately, marine debris can trash your day at the beach. In addition to being unsightly, debris can also pose threats to beachgoers just like you. Here are some steps that you can take to help keep oceans, waterways and beaches free of debris:
- Think about the materials and packaging you might be taking to the beach. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Choose reusable items and use fewer disposable ones.
- Keep streets, sidewalks, parking lots and storm drains free of trash – they can empty into our oceans and waterways.
- At the beach, park or playground, dispose of all trash in the proper receptacles or take your trash home with you. Pick up any debris you see while out.
- Serve as an example to others. Get involved in cleanups in your area and encourage others to help keep the beaches and oceans clean.
It may seem strange to talk about beaches when we aren’t yet in March, but clearly winter weather isn’t keeping people from getting out to enjoy our shared spaces.
In 1942, the great American writer E.B. White (think Charlotte’s Web) said:
“The earth is common ground and. . .
gradually the idea is taking form
that the land must be held in safekeeping,
that one generation is to some extent
responsible to the next. . .”
White died in 1985. I wonder how much longer it will take for us to realize that one generation truly is responsible to the next?