My mom and I usually walk the beach 2-3 times a week during the delightful summer months in Los Angeles. Our typical walk is from Lifeguard Tower 26 on the border of Venice and Santa Monica, to the Pier and back. It takes us about 35 minutes or less.
The first day of August brought a change in our usual agenda, and in the spirit of keeping the beach clean, decided to do a clean up while we walked. We were armed with reusable tote bags, rubber gloves, and a camera to document the event.
The walk started off smoothly because the tide was extremely low. The sand was flat and it was warm and glorious. We started picking up trash from the moment we set our feet on the damp sand. Pieces of plastic, tiny and large, lay ahead of us glittering in the sun. We were amazed at how much we found, like little gems half hidden, half out in the open.
As we walked, picking up the usual and unusual beach litter, the summer brought many half broken toys lying near where the water touched the light sand, from bucket handles to children’s shoes, and even more random bits.
As we reached our halfway point, Santa Monica Pier, our bags were half full. People lined the beach playing in the water, resting on their crisp towels, unaware of our mission. Our walk continued as the tide came in.
As the water gradually rushed back onto the shore, we found a lot, and I mean, a lot of plastic bags. There were plastic bags being brought in by the water by themselves. And plastic bags trapped in seaweed. In many cases, we had to put our bags down and disentangled plastic bags that had been wrapped and twisted in a million different ways to free the plant life from the human made mess that tainted their wellbeing.
At the conclusion of the walk, we had 2 reusable tote bags full of beach trash. We had water bottles mixed with straws and cigarette butts next to balloons. It seemed that our assortment of trash was compiled of the typical day at the beach leftovers as well as other random articles like sneaker insoles and small balls of Styrofoam.
Our realization, at the end, was the truth to the idea of “the human impact on the ocean”. If we didn’t take the time, an hour in a half as it turned out, to clean up this trash, what would have happened to it? We saw birds coming out to grab dinner in the water as we walked, and even on the sand, as we made our way back to the car. Would they have eaten our trash? Or would have it been taken by the ocean back into the depths?
Our impact as two that day was good. But, I could not help thinking that we were not making up for the impact of the casual beachgoers there that day,and others. Did they leave their trash thinking, oh well, someone will pick it up? Were they too busy to realize that some of their excess was still lying in the place where they had picnicked earlier that day?
The most important thing I took away from that evening was the reality of the human impact on the ocean. It can be positive and it can be negative. It can help clean up the trash that is ruining our beautiful blue waters, but then again, one must think, who put that trash there? We did.
So, all in all it comes full circle. Are you going to be conscious when you go to the beach? Or are you going to turn a blind eye and pretend that mess you left doesn’t exist?
In the end, we collected 4 pounds of trash. That’s 4 pounds of waste, collected by 2 people, that will not enter and hurt our ocean and it’s wonderful inhabitants.
The future is in our hands. Truly.
Sea•thos Supporter and Intern