“There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew.” — Marshall McLuah, 1964
What if Earth Day were every day, not just once a year?
I was out of town for Laguna’s Earth Day celebration, but I heard from friends and family that the event was celebrated in the true spirit of the founders of the event. My mind drifts back to the early years — the dreamy-eyed gaze of my 20-something mind — that if we all worked together, we could really make a difference.
I still believe that to be true. As a child of the ’60s, it’s not surprising that I feel connected to the early efforts to effect change. What Sen. Gaylord Nelson achieved in 1970, with the first celebration, continues to circle the globe — slowly waking a still sleeping population.
Earth Day 2009 marked the third celebration in Loreto, Baja California Sur. The day dawned with clear skies and the gathering of a small army of volunteers.
More than 150 people — ages 3 to 80 — joined together to pick up and move trash from an arroyo (dry river bed) and to make a difference in their community and each other’s lives.
Children and teenagers joined their parents and friends in the huge task of picking up mountains of garbage and trash. Garbage bags were distributed, and the crew moved into the arroyo.
During tropical storms, the arroyo becomes a raging river, sweeping the uncollected waste into the waters of the Sea of Cortez.
This year’s cleanup included tires, broken furniture, construction material, hundreds of plastic and glass bottles, tin cans, cardboard boxes, auto parts, an infinite amount of plastic bags, along with vats of spent oil and other substances toxic to marine life. This man-made pollution endangers the vibrancy of the Bay of Loreto National Park and World Heritage site, an area recognized worldwide as an area rich in biodiversity.
Tractors, dump trucks, wheel barrows, shovels and rakes joined the ranks of bent-over humans picking up cast off trash. Small children paraded behind their parents, their tiny hands discovering bits and pieces of plastic or paper and adding them to the collecting bags. Their involvement establishes a strong foothold toward future environmental stewardship.
Members of the local basketball team, nicknamed “Green Team” because of their ongoing participation in local educational and outreach programs, joined the crew. It was great to see a group of teenagers dedicating their Sunday morning to their community.
It’s amazing what a group of determined individuals can accomplish in one morning. About 772 pounds of refuse was removed from the arroyo. At least 80 overloaded trucks snaked their way up and back the dusty road to deposit the collected refuse at the dump.
A hot and sweaty group combed the side gullies and bushes out to the highway and back again, picking up everything in their sight. Laughter mingled with groans. Sweat with sneezes. When all was done, a tremendous sense of pride filled the air. It had been a strenuous task, but the results outstripped all the hard work.
When there was nary a speck of gunk left to be carted away, the group of weary, sweaty and hungry crew made their way to Rancho Jaral for a sumptuous barbecue luncheon on the beach. Under the cool shade of umbrellas, conversation turned from what we had accomplished to what was still on the horizon.
It is the hope of both the sponsors and the participants that the example set by the cleaning celebration opens an awareness of community pride in all residents of Loreto.
Education is one of the cornerstones of our behavior, and actions are always more effective than words. If each of us acts as a member of that Earth-based “crew” that McLuhan wrote about — then there will be one less piece of garbage sitting on the side of the road or in an arroyo.
What we learn when we come together, is that we can make a difference, and that our actions function as a guide for others to follow. We can’t immediately change decades of behavior, but bag by bag, can by can, bottle by bottle, we can pick and dispose properly our refuse, and in doing so, provide a visual pathway for others to follow.
Also involved in the cleanup were students from the University, CONAP (the Marine Park), and ZOFEMAT (Municipal Government). The event was sponsored by Eco-Alianza (whose board includes local residents Linda Kinninger and Erik Cutter) and coincided with their “Loreto Pride Campaign.”
Eco-Alianza de Loreto, A.C. is a nonprofit membership organization committed to working collaboratively to protect and preserve the coastal, marine and terrestrial eco-systems of the Municipality of Loreto, while promoting smart growth strategies and viable communities in the region.
For more information on membership and participation in their programs, visit www.ecoalianzaloreto.org.
CATHARINE COOPER is a local designer, photographer and writer who thrives off beaten trails. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (949) 497-5081.