Recently, a friend shared a link to an article she thought I might find interesting. The article was clearly something that would speak to my environmental side as the photo in the link showed a long-stretching line of trash on a beach.
But I dove right into reading it because the title - “What if We All Quit Judging this Scene as ‘Sad’” – and the image didn’t seem to line up. I was, admittedly, intrigued.
My gut reaction
My instinct was to read objectively and I started out doing so because I like to view things as impartially as possible where other’s opinions are concerned. But the further I got into her post full of a moderately lackadaisical attitude toward her environment masked behind a Zen attitude about our planet, my objectivity went right out the window.
My gut reaction to this woman’s words and images was an emotional one, I will admit. The planet loving (especially the beach loving) side of me felt like it had been donkey-kicked in the side of the head after getting through the post.
If you haven’t already clicked the link above to read the article, please do so now.
Like I said, my emotional ‘punched-in-the-face’ meter was skyrocketing after getting through her tale and photos. I intended to post a comment back to my friend who had shared the link with me but it became far too long winded for a simple comment.
Word for word
Here’s what I was planning to say in response:
“Interesting article. I had no idea this extent of trash was washing up on beaches in the Yucatan. On the one hand I see her point about letting go of looking at it in a bad light, that it is what it is so we need to live with it as part of our everyday lives.
On the other hand that attitude reads as complacency and ignorance.
To just shovel directly through an obvious issue, without doing anything about it is sad; it’s a sad commentary on the human condition. At least that family’s human condition.
What would her take be if all that trash suddenly showed up inside her home and spread itself out across her living room floor? Would she just shovel a pathway to the kitchen and decide to see the filthy waste in front of her as an adventure for her kids to explore?
That beach is the home of some form of wildlife. And we humans screwed it up for those other living creatures. We trashed their living room. And now she wants all of us to embrace it?
In this case, it isn't as much the debris on the shore that's sad, it’s the attitude toward seeing it but not looking at it as an issue that's the sad part to me.”
Like any good blogger I did a little digging on the area where her photos were taken – Tulum, Mexico – to see if there was more to the story.
Turns out there isn’t much information out there on the beach trash in Tulum but the few links I did find were even more eye opening.
First, I came across this announcement:
It’s a year and a half old but I know the issue isn’t miraculously solved considering ‘Not Sad’ article writer posted her thoughts yesterday.
Then I came across a couple more beach cleanup posters – one from 2011 and another on a blog, owned by a Tulum resident, called I Go CentralAmerica:
The fact that this much debris is still washing up on the beaches there after at least 3 years’ worth of cleanup efforts got me thinking even more about the words and images in the original article.
And I realized she was right. I was no longer sad. I was mad. Furious in fact. What was I so angry about? This line from the original article:
“Then for safety’s sake, plowed a path from our picnic to the water…”
After reading this other resident’s polar opposite take on the issue and learning there could be all manner of items in the debris, up to and including needles, I was outraged at the lack of compassion present in that one statement.
They cleared a path to the water. Not that they brought trash bags and gloves to get rid of even some of the debris on their way out to enjoy the perfect beach day at the water’s edge in their own community. No. They knew the trash could be unsafe so they cleared it out of their way to access the ocean.
The very same ocean that had regurgitated all of that debris onto the shoreline in the first place.
The sad part is their few trash bags, had they filled them, are something that could easily be dropped off at the Centro de Acopio de Tulum (Tulum’s Recycling Center).
Everyone is entitled to their opinion…
But all I could think was that complacency breeds indifference.
The one thing I will agree with her on is that trash is there and that is simple fact. Accepting the fact that trash washes up on shore shouldn’t make a person sad.
Because we should be mad about it; mad enough to effect positive change.
I don’t live in Tulum and don’t suspect I’d be able to get myself there anytime soon to physically help clean up their beaches. So instead I’m writing this article in hopes that more people will be made aware of the bigger issue.
Based on the post I understand that our choices in life did open the door to products made from plastics that enrich our everyday lives. I’m typing this on a laptop right now. But that doesn’t make me okay with knowing hundreds of laptops might be sitting at the bottom of the ocean. How could I ever just accept that?
So when I’m done with my plastic product I don’t intend for it to end up there. Can I stop it if it does? I’d like to think that if my voice joined in with others we could bring about that change eventually. I guess I just can’t come to terms with shifting my perspective to one of acceptance & awareness but lack of action on an issue like this.
I hope everyone gets mad. Then instead of offering your anger to the sea in Zen-like reflection, how about you go and channel your anger into taking care of the problem. Raise awareness however you can and be the change you want to see.
Unless you’re comfortable with seeing that change come in the form of millions of tons of petroleum based plastic washing around in the ocean for years before ending up inside fish you’ll be eating later. Or perhaps in the middle of your living room.
In that case, feel free to do nothing but accept it and move on.
I Go Central America (photos 1 & 3)
In the Roo (photo 2)
• • • • • • • • • • • Content Marketing Strategist and Blogger for hire, Jenn has over 12 years of freelancing experience. Let her write your next webpage, blog post, article or newsletter. Get in touch with her today info [at] copywritethat [dot] com • • • • • • • • • • •