I work for the birds

This time, I landed on a small beach just north of Pacifica for my short beach cleanup excursion. There’s something to be said about just getting in the car and driving, with no idea where you’re going to end up at until you pull over and park the car. The best little discoveries happen that way.

Photography by Kristine Cummins.

Plastic bags account for over 10 percent of the debris washed up on the U.S. coastline. It takes 10 – 20 years for plastic bags to photodegrade by sunlight.

I climbed down a very steep and narrow ravine, carved out for hikers. At first glance, it was a quiet and relatively clean beach with at least three different sea bird species just hangin’ out on the sand, watching the waves crash. Of course I picked up the classic plastic bag from the wet sand and put it in my paper bag and made my way up the beach surrounded by steep cliffs. At the north end, large boulders covered the bluff to the ocean, I assume to fortify the fragile landscape.

Bird cliques. Photo by Kristine Cummins.

Bird cliques.

Amusing myself, I described the feathered scene as bird “cliques” as the birds seemed to coexist but separately in little groups next to each other, enjoying the ocean scenery – except for the rebel seagulls; the gulls mingled. It was fun watching the little birds, Sandpipers, run back and forth with the ebb and flow of the current. When the the wave ebbed, the little birds would run out to discover new edible deposits to pull out of the sand and less than thirty seconds later, run from the wave. It looked like their form of bird games to see how much they could get before the next wave hit.

Small bits of garbage mixed in with dried seaweed. Photo by Kristine Cummins.

Small bits of garbage mixed in with dried seaweed and driftwood.

Getting down to work, I made my way to the back of the beach where the sand met the cliff wall. There were clumps of dried seaweed scattered about with entangled debris. Crouching down, I picked up the clumps of seaweed and shook them out to dislodge possible trash. These piles were filled with tiny bits of styrofoam, plastic pieces, cigarette butts, plastic and aluminum bottle caps, two cigarette lighters, and monofilament fishing line (which made my Jerk Awards list). There was even a part of a shipwrecked boat – wood with fiberglass. For a moment, I felt like I was a scientist on some special debris research assignment. All I needed was some paperwork and a clipboard.

Part of a shipwrecked boat. Photo by Kristine Cummins.

Part of a boat.

As always, I had so many thoughts on my mind like, “if San Francisco is dumping garbage at the “Deep Ocean Disposal Site (DODS)”, fifty miles from San Francisco, how on earth am I going to make an impact, picking up tiny bits of garbage on a small beach in Pacifica? How does the DODS garbage not float up and wash back up on the shore via the currents? I know that that it’s “deep ocean” that they dump in, but still. A feeling of powerlessness washed over me – like my efforts, in the end, will be futile. I knew that I could not do my cleanup deed with this type of fatalistic thinking so I thought, “I am cleaning the birds’ house. I am making sure that they do not accidentally ingest the garbage us lame humans left behind.” I think a good part of life, is shifting one’s perspective in this holographic universe, where reality is how you perceive it.

To be perfectly honest, I really do not care about other humans and their experience of the beach is anymore. I only care about the environment that we are leaving for other species we share the planet with at this point. It is us humans that are ruining it for other sentient beings. We are all connected anyway. If my concern is the animals and I work to protect them, it ultimately affects humanity too – even if it is a very small impact. So, it does come back around but in the meantime, I work for the animals. After all, I am thoroughly convinced that the animals of planet earth, are way more intelligent than us, and we have a lot to learn from them.


One thought on “I work for the birds

  1. Interesting, when I used to surf Ocean Beach religiously back in the 80s and 90s, I’d see a lot of garbage on the beach. Then in about 1991 Surfrider Foundation bugged out and people started cleaning the beach. It was awesome – the pollution on the beach went down and it seemed like it was overnight, but then we started getting skin diseases from the water. 😳 Oh well.

    Liked by 1 person

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