It is mid day on Turtle beach on Siesta Key. A moderate amount of tourists and locals are on the beach. There are plenty of folks here but this shoreline is not as well known and therefore not as busy as some others on the Gulf Coast. I find myself walking with a bag in hand looking for the trash and refuse that I know is bound to be here in some measure. But it is not just some measure that confronts me today. As I walk along glancing at turtle nests and tourists and scanning the sand for the tell tale signs of human degradation, it is not long before I begin to find what I am looking for. A candybar wrapper, a baggie, plastic bits and peices, wrappers, broken plastic, a can, plastic bottles, a golf ball, kids beach toys, a single flip flop, paper, fishing line with a half rusted hook, a torn up large rubber lure, a bottle of suntan lotion encrusted with sand and almost entirely full, styrofoam from a torn up cooler, plastic ribbons, cigarette butts, celaphane, aluminum foil, icecream sticks from some popcycles, a small wrench, bottle caps, and more.
The small bag was soon full. How full? 9 Lbs of garbage in a mile walk. And often I picked up trash just a few feet from tourists and beach goers. Some looked at me with smiles that were obviously meant to convey their approval of my "green consciousness". But I am sure that my eyes could not hide my disgust and contempt for them. I kept my glances brief and did not meet their stares. I hide my inner thoughts better when I contain such loathing and reprehension toward these small people.
I cannot fathom how one can sit in a beach chair under an umbrella with your kids playing in the sand and digging next to bits of trash and debris? On the one hand it screams about your laziness and lack of environmental conscientiousness. On the other hand it says "Look at us, we are pigs who may well be responsible for the trash that is sitting all around us". Even if they did not generate it, it is the impression that is given to some of the folks passing by.
It takes so little effort to clean up a few things right around you. I am not saying that every tourist should be walking for miles up and down the beach cleaning the area up. I understand that they are on vacation. But for Pete sake, at least clean up the immediate area around you. If you walk down the beach looking for shells, carry 2 bags. One for shells and one for trash. It's a simple concept. But people are lazy and slobs.
I walked down the beach in a huge flurry of widely divergent emotions. Part of me was in a rage. I wanted to scream at the folks. "What in the Hell is wrong with you? Get up off your lazy ass and pick up the area right around you!" ( Of course I would not behave like this ). Part of me was contemptuous. I looked at those around me as low creatures beneath my dignity and pride to converse with or think of in any sort of positive light. I saw scum and degenerate creatures. Disgusting and pathetic!
I also felt a strange pang of sadness. Hopelessness as well. I looked about me and I thought, if all of these folks can fish and play in the water and lay out in the sand and walk the beach with obliviousness to the trash and debris, then what is the bigger picture like at beaches around the world? Humanity is so filthy and self engrossed. I felt hope for our future fade within my heart for a short time. I felt a painful darkness as I thought of what our chances are. I thought about how few folks proportionally were working on this. How many were working to make a difference against the giants and the oblivious masses. For a while there was that feeling of sadness.
But something else filled me too. Rage channeled into determination. Anger and arrogance fuels my pride into a spirit of indominible effort! I realized then that someone must step forward to take up the challenge. I know that there are more like me. I am not alone. I know this. There are others. We are what I like to refer to as Siafu. The African Driver Ant. My analogy from "The Sixth Extinction" about the power that we all have as individuals.
The Siafu kill everything from insects to elephants. They are 20-50 million strong and they act as one super organism. Anything that cannot get out of their way is overcome and killed. The ant sisterhood is entirely blind. Each ant cannot see any of the others. They rely on chemical signals to communicate with each other. They never worry about what the other ants are doing when they find a prey animal. They just do their thing. And together they conquer even elephants!
Like the Siafu we who are conservationists are part of a grand colony. It is growing all the time. And like the Siafu you do not need to see what all the other members of the group are doing. We only need to do our individual part and together we will bring down that giant elephant. Our giant target is no elephant, but the principle is the same.
Today the reality check filled my mind and heart with questions and a call to push on. A drive to sweep aside the slobs and disgusting lazy masses. A wish to make a greater impact in spite of those who sit in blind sloth. It is a commitment that I have always had, but today it has renewed itself with a new understanding. That the need for what I do and what those like me do is greater than ever. Seeing the lazy masses has only strengthened my drive. I will never let go. We will win the fight for the worlds oceans, or we will loose the planet and humanity will come to a rather abrupt and less than glorious end.