Littering at marine sanctuaries? Keep your butts home then.

Photo by Kristine Cummins.

The entrance to Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in Moss Beach, California. Photo by Kristine Cummins

The entrance to Fitzgerald Marine Reserve at Moss Beach, California.

Twilight zone – feel like I woke up to the twilight zone. A week ago I was nearing homeless and now I got an abode that is an eight-minute walk (not drive) to a marine sanctuary. Yes, I will be paying a bit more in gas and I will have to wake up at an ungodly hour in the morning – especially on impending stormy El Niño days – to get back up to the city in time. But how could it be any different for me at this juncture? I now spend so much time at the ocean.

Moss Beach is where I now live – which is located about 16 miles south of San Francisco. I live on the beach! Nah, that’s just the name of the small town with a population of 3,100 (2010 census). I feel like I am out in the middle of nowhere in this sleepy town, where people zoom through to someplace else on the famous Highway 1. I now get to see the ocean to and from my jaunt to the city every day, as well as, go through the well known Devil’s Slide tunnels where I feel like I am entering an inter-dimensional portal to another reality – they’re so futuristic looking!

Fitzgerald Marine Reserve at low tide - feeding time - October 8, 2015.

Fitzgerald Marine Reserve at low tide – feeding time – October 8, 2015.

I thought I’d start my Sunday by taking a walk to Fitzgerald Marine Reserve and while there, conduct my beach cleanup work. After the momentary adrenaline rush of being like a frog in the game, Frogger to get across Highway 1 on foot, I was home-free to the placid ocean (as that is how I last remembered it). But it was not placid at all. The tide was rolling in fast and furiously. The thunderous waves were crashing on shore and the ocean had a completely different vibe than Thursday night when I was waiting for my new landlord to rent to me. My last experience of this same exact spot was low tide and hundreds of gulls and pelicans feeding on tasty morsels washing up from gentle waves. Wondrous nature – ever changing and always full of surprises.

I made my way down to what beach was left from the high tide and picked up mostly plastic garbage. I went as far as I could go safely without waves snatching me. I remember last Thursday, I was able to walk so much further down the beach, but now the tide was taking it back. I stopped for a bit and became mesmerized by the powerful waves.

Seal givin' me the eyeball as high tide was rolling in.

Seal givin’ me the eyeball during high tide.

When the water ebbed, a seal would pop up and stare at me. I always take note of these things as I firmly believe nature and animals are our teachers and speak to us if we are willing to listen. Ina Woolcott of Shamanic Journey writes, “Seal’s medicine includes protection during change, . . . protection from danger, movement through emotions, the inner voice.” Those words definitely hit home for me after my experience at the beach and applicable for my life in general. Intuitively, I heeded the seal’s protective message and with gratitude, I made my way back to solid ground where it was safe. After picking up garbage and seeing the seal, I vowed to continue my environmental protection work indefinitely. If only humanity could start perceiving nature as a part of them and not separate, then perhaps we would treat Earth with respect.

My glove on the ground pointing to evil butt!

My glove on the ground pointing to evil cigarette butt, located directly beneath the sign that reads, “leave no trace of your visit”.

While on my way out from the beach, a woman asked me if I had found any garbage and I said, “yes” and she said, “It is amazing to me how people still litter when it’s a marine sanctuary”. I agreed. I couldn’t help but notice the BIG sign that reads, “Marine Protected Area” and a cigarette butt littered right in front of it. I really do not understand how humanity can be so unconscious. We are so lucky to have free access to incredible sanctuaries such as the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. What part of the Marine Protected Area sign do people not understand? Perhaps if environmentalists like me understood the psychology of smokers better, we would have better solutions. Are we supposed to make it even more convenient for smokers to dispose of their butts and place garbage cans every ten feet? However, right behind the big sign (photo above), there were two garbage cans – both landfill and recycling. What is it that keeps smokers from putting their butts in the right spot? Well, if you ask me, I think their butts should stay home.

At the bluff overlooking Fitzgerald Marine Reserve.

At the bluff overlooking Fitzgerald Marine Reserve (where I found two cigarette butts).

Anyway, I back-tracked and hiked up a trail that leads to a bluff overlooking the ocean, complete with a mysterious-looking foggy forest that looks like it could be fit for elves. And yet more cigarette butts littered. They got cleaned up and I made my long walking commute back home that took all of eight minutes.

For this journal, I get to brag about the beautiful place I now live by sharing my photo gallery (below), spanning from last Tuesday when I was waiting to view my potential rental – to today for my first cleanup excursion at the sanctuary. When you’re done being envious, check out the informational video about the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve (also below).

And finally, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below, such as answering my burning question why smokers still litter their butts when there are big signs posted and garbage cans close by!

Photo Gallery

Fitzgerald Marine Reserve Video

Garbage found at the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve:
Garbage found at the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve.


2 thoughts on “Littering at marine sanctuaries? Keep your butts home then.

  1. I love that marine reserve with all its beauty! It’s a gem. You’re lucky to live there.

    What you wrote (especially “Wondrous nature – ever changing and always full of surprises.”) reminded me of the conclusion to Charles Darwin’s *The Origin of Species*:

    “There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”

    As for smokers, perhaps it’s become part of smoking culture to litter without thinking of it as littering; perhaps smokers are selfish and don’t care; perhaps they don’t respect their own health and therefore themselves, so they don’t respect others and the environment, as well.

    Liked by 1 person

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