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Enemies of the Environment

Have you ever thought of yourself as an enemy of the environment? I haven’t. Nevertheless, sometimes things happen to remind me that any of us can make an innocent or not so innocent mistake that could kill or endanger a helpless critter or pollute the environment.

Sometimes as we zip down a lake in our boat, a candy wrapper, potato chip bag, or soda can flies out — or a $200 pair of sunglasses. This may not seem too bad compared to a dirty diaper, cooler, or garbage bag, though it’s sometimes costly if it’s your sunglasses.

I’m still amazed when I see piles of garbage on the shorelines of our beaches and lakes. I wonder who in the world leaves that stuff behind and who they think will pick it up. If the critters don’t spread it around first, the rising water levels and surf will move it in every direction. All the culprits had to do was bend over - which they would do for a dime - put their stuff in a bag and dispose of it in a trash can, or take it home and dump it.

 As you may know, plastic bags and cups tend to last forever when left in the water or on shore. We have found huge stashes of cans dating back to the days of removable pull-tabs, alive and well, on lake bottoms and shorelines. And glass bottles … they never die! How many times have you seen a bobbing beer bottle on a lake waiting for a jet ski or boat to hit it? Eventually it will fill with water and sink to eternal life.

I think there are simple things we can do to change all of this. Whenever and wherever you go, when you see unnatural stuff in a natural setting, simply pick it up and throw it away properly. We should always have a stowed garbage bag on our boats or jet skis or in our beach bags.

It’s amazing how people will do the right thing if someone is watching. By watching people who might be thinking about tossing or leaving trash behind, you may intimidate them into using a trashcan, purse, or pocket. It’s cruel, but I have actually picked up someone else’s trash while they watched me. It’s embarrassing, but I think they learn a lesson.

Years ago, I was sitting at the dinner table of a friend in Big Bear, CA. There was a line of cars in front of her house waiting to buy gas at the station a block away. This was during the gas crisis. A woman rolled her car window down a couple of inches and pushed out a paper wrapper that landed in my friend’s front yard. We watched in amazement as my friend bolted out of her chair, ran outside, picked up the paper, and stuffed it back into the lady’s window. That was one surprised litterbug. I doubt if she ever did something like that again. I certainly wouldn’t. The incident made a real impression on me.

If you’re an angler, it’s vital that you dispose of fishing line properly. Hardly a trip to the lake goes by without seeing some poor duck or bird strangled by fishing line. When we break off our line on a rock or tree, it’s sometimes impossible to retrieve it. But when your line catches the old stuff, and you pull it up to get a hold of it, try to get it out of the water and thrown away properly. You’ll save some poor critter from becoming maimed, crippled, or even killed.

My husband loved to collect cans wherever we would go. I sometimes complained when he stuck them into all of his pockets while we were out walking. In days gone by, he was known to get off the boat for a short hike while I was fishing and reappear with a shirt full of cans. Picture this: One time my husband returned to the boat with his usual shirt full, plus cans sticking out of his pockets and socks. When he ran out of room, he tucked more cans into his underwear. He looked like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz. He had over 50 crushed cans on his body, and that’s when I decided to start carrying a bag on my boat! He spent so much time at the recycle center, they offered him a job. Seriously, we do cash in all the cans we collect. You’d be surprised how fast the money adds up.

Here’s another tip: When you’re fueling your jet ski on the water, don’t! If possible, refuel while on shore or before removing your watercraft from the trailer. If you must refuel on the water, do so very carefully to avoid spillage in the water. It’s sad to say, but I have known people that ignore oil or gasoline leaks in their hoses for months, polluting every time they go out until the leak is fixed properly. On the lighter side, they complained the fish weren’t biting, and it didn’t take me long to figure out why.

Most of us are aware of ocean polluters such as sewage, medical debris, and oil spills. Even some cruise ships have been observed throwing their trash over the sides of their ships. When we hear about these incidents, it might seem that any effort we put forth individually is insignificant. If we should find ourselves feeling that way, we’re wrong. Just one plastic bag or piece of glass can severely injure a person or animal. With that in mind, it makes sense to me to properly dispose of every possible item.

Food and fun go together for lots of people. Unfortunately, they lose their enthusiasm when it’s time to clean up after the picnic, barbecue, or fast-food feast. That’s when many folks are overwhelmed with generosity and a desire to share their leftovers with the local wildlife. This can cause all kinds of problems. For example, if you think it’s okay to throw out your food in the parking lot for the birds, just remember it might not agree with them – and end up on your car! Get my drift?

We all love our lakes, rivers, and oceans and look forward to the times we can be there to enjoy them. If we make a conscious effort every time we go out, to bring back more than we take, we will make a difference and enjoy the benefits of a cleaner recreational environment. We’ll also set a good example for our children and others that are with us.

It makes me happy when I see the names of people or organizations who participate in the Adopt-A-Road program. What better way to work off community service hours or a prison term than picking up trash off the shoulders of our roads and highways? You might consider taking a group some morning and cleaning up around your neighborhood. You could start something. If no one else notices, you will, and you’ll get a happy face from me.

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  • Last modified on Wednesday, 18 November 2015 21:56
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Featured Member

 Lara Kaylor

My name is Lara Kaylor and I have worked as a journalist for more than a decade covering everything from the outdoors to small town politics. I joined OWAC in 2007.