Saturday, December 7, 2013
Visiting a Maine beach in March 2010, Harold Johnson was shocked by the ocean-borne debris left by recent storms. He grabbed a garbage bag and a camera, and hasn’t looked back.
Since then he has spent most of his free time studying marine pollution, coastal ecosystems, and the mysteries and science of ocean and shore.
Copyeditor and writer by trade, historian and archaeologist at heart, Johnson’s philosophy is simple: Dig below the surface, travel the currents, make the connections, learn. Then share what you learn. He lives in Saco with his wife and young daughter. Follow on Twitter @FlotsamDiaries.
This weekend I went to the funeral for my aunt down in New Jersey. She was 87.
In many ways she was a pillar of our family. 4th of July BBQs in her backyard are legendary among us, and whenever anyone needed family news she was where we could turn.
In July, as her health failed, her immediate family gathered from across the country to spend time with her. Frail though she was, she was up for a trip out.
They didn’t take her to the bright lights of the big city. Or to the rolling fields of Amish country, or the hills and mountains.
Some time back, our family took a little summer trip up Maine’s coast, all the way to Lubec -- the end of the line.
Along the journey, we stopped at a remarkable place, Jasper Beach in Machiasport.
At Curtis Cove, Biddeford, where I collect washed-in debris, an amazing thing happens in the summertime. That’s when the beach tells us exactly what we’re doing to the Gulf of Maine.
We think of brutal winter storms carrying wreckage to our shores. Waves foaming & pounding, dumping junk high on the backshore and into the dunes.
And yes, winter storms do bring big junk to Curtis Cove. Rope, lobster trap vents & bait bags, Coke and water bottles, car consoles!
But here at the cove, it’s actually the gentle ripple of summer waters that shines the hottest light on the gulf’s pollution.
Labor Day marks an end for many beachgoers. For me, it marks a beginning.
In the height of summer, a beach loses itself. It becomes a sea of people.
The umbrellas & blankets & littered bottles & red skin all look the same from place to place. And the character of the place itself fades into the background.
In a world full of challenges, it can feel overwhelming to try and make a difference. No matter what it is that you care about.
Obviously for me, I care about a clean & healthy ocean. But the world’s oceans cover 139 million square miles. They’re all fouled with plastic to some extent, and the plastic industry juggernaut pumps out billions of tons of new packaging/wrap/furniture/toys every year.
What can one person do?
Do one thing. One thing at a time.