Shoreline cleanup starts this weekend
Volunteers to sweep water's edge across Canada
Take your trash with you, folks. Guest post by Blair Eveleigh, senior associate editor.
We all know that water is vital to life, and central to cottaging, but we often take our water and our waterways for granted. Once, on a trip to Mexico, I noticed on a map a river running through the city we were in. It more or less followed the route my companions and I were taking to a museum we were going to visit and I thought it would be pleasant to walk along the water. Nuh-uh. We got to the river but it was no longer a river: It had been turned into an open sewer, flowing right through the heart of the city, a full-on, incredibly smelly, I-think-I’m-going-to-puke sewer. We quickly detoured to another less-fragrant route.
The river-cum-sewer is an extreme example, of course. But I think we’ve all had some sort of similar experience. You head for a beach, the shore of a lake, or the bank of a river, expecting to have an uplifting encounter with nature, with that border between fluid and solid, where water and land meet. Instead you arrive to find the juncture despoiled, defiled by garbage, castaway leftovers from careless previous visitors. Why would anyone leave a natural setting looking like this, you wonder, why couldn’t they have cleaned up after themselves? Unfortunately, people don’t always take their mess with them. They bring too much stuff with them and leave too much of it behind.
If you want to spend some time helping to clean up the seemingly never-ending mess, this week you can do so with other like-minded people. The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup takes place from Sept. 17 to 25 in locations across the country. The GCSC website has a map showing where and when groups are picking up litter. You could also start your own cleanup. It’s all part of the International Coastal Cleanup, organized by the Ocean Conservancy, with nearly nine million volunteers tidying up shorelines in 152 countries on the same day (this year, on Sept. 17).
It all started in 1994 when a small group of volunteers, coordinated by the Vancouver Aquarium, did a shoreline sweep in Stanley Park. The event went national in 2002 and last year 47,027 participants cleaned up 2,235 km of shoreline at more than 1,200 Canadian sites. The volunteers picked up a lot of cigarette butts (yes, 227,830 of them, making ciggies the number one item on the list of dirty discards), food wrappers and containers (83,660), and plastic bags (55,880), to name a few items. One year, someone found a gold ring; last year, RCMP divers removed a submerged car from a river in Surrey, BC. (More facts and figures on the GCSC website.)
What bothers me is that we have to organize a special day to do all this cleaning up. Why can’t people who hang out in natural environments just pick up after themselves, take their litter with them when they go, and leave as little of themselves behind as possible? That’s what I do, as best as I can. It’s discouraging to think that our waterways can get so dirty. They’re not exactly sewers yet, but there’s still a lot of crap.