The surf has been crap for weeks - either a ridiculous holiday crowd on the rare shifty wave inside the point or blowing it's guts out onshore slop further around the bay where I like to get away from everyone. But I've decided to make the most of my daily pilgimage to the beach by doing a 200 metre walk to the inlet and back to get some exercise and pick up rubbish.
I started out furtively a few months ago - feeling like the local pariah, after all, it's only the dregs of society that handle other people's shit no matter how many brownies (of beer) you give your nice garbo for Christmas. But then I decided to make myself very visible, because I wanted people to see that someone cared enough to do something about the degradation. This issue has reached epidemic proportions - recently images of plankton that have ingested plastic have been posted on Facebook.
I can't be angry at those who walk past me empty-handed and stare blankly - after all, that is what I have been doing for most of my life too. They probably don't even notice the rubbish, or if they do, think there isn't much point in picking it up - the problem is just too big.
Recently I was on my way back up the beach and stopped to chat with one of the local legend surfers - a very cool young board-shaper with blonde dreadlocks and an equally cool name: Xanda. By way of a slightly embarassed apology I explained why I was carrying a handful of blue and green rope fragments and other bits of detritus. He laughed out loud and said: 'I do that too!! And I have to pick up every tiny bit - it drives me nuts but I just have to'. Now I don't need this guy's approval, but it felt brilliant to be sharing my obsession with someone from a very different time and demographic to myself. Later the local surf instructor also saw me picking up rubbish and echoed Xanda's comment: 'I pick up rubbish too'. It felt good having a couple of allies.
This is today's stash. I'll admit this is a bit more than usual because the raging onshore wind has thrown up lots of floating plastic on the high tide. Which is good, because I can grab it before the tide takes it out again. When I bend down I say to myself - 'well that is one more bit of plastic that won't end up in some poor fish or bird's stomach'. Sure it's just a drop in the ocean, but at least I feel like I am doing something. The worst thing about watching the destruction of my beloved nature is feeling impotent - although I will probably make little overall impact, I am relying on the flow-on effect. I am modelling the behaviour I want others to follow - kids see me doing it and look quizzically at me, but until today, nobody has commented. Today a woman walking up the beach smiled at me and said: 'Good on you'. And another, a female surfer entering the water, said: 'Bless you'.
Lately I have noticed a trend in social behaviour and attitudes. It is become clearer to many of us that we can't rely on 'the government' to fix things any more. On many issues the people are taking back the power and the responsibility. Again on Facebook, someone recently posted a video of a group of militant muslims promoting Shariah law being shouted down by another group shouting even louder: 'bullshit' and 'where are the women?' It was brilliant to see apathetic Aussies standing up and being counted - we are all going to have to be more personally accountable if we are to maintain some level of equity in this country.
Sure, what I am doing is just a 'drop in the ocean', in retaliation against those who 'drop stuff in the ocean', but I'm going to make a prediction. I reckon, within time, I will see more people picking up rubbish at my local beach.