Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Environment: 2 Views of Human Impact on the Water

This post will be a short one. 

Recently, I was at the mouth of the Merrimack River in Newburyport, MA and I ran across two views of human activity that displayed our impact on waterways, and on the environment in general. Washed up on the riverbank (and very close to the open ocean) was trash of all sorts - but mainly bottles (mostly plastic, some glass). These had been lost, or more likely, discarded into the water or left on the beach for a high tide to wash away. As this is the mouth of a substantial river, some of the detritus could have floated downstream from several upstream communities.

Trash on the banks at the mouth of the Merrimack River
Washed up trash at the mouth of the Merrimack River

This trash ran on for 50 yards at least, with clusters of items every few feet. When I saw this, I thought of every instance of thoughtlessness each item represented. I was disgusted. 

Very close nearby, I noticed some sections of the dunes that had been roped off, and within these areas, grasses had been planted as part of a dune restoration effort. These efforts have become common along coastlines, and especially on barrier islands, which Plum Island is. The driving force behind these efforts is often as much about saving property (beach houses in this case) from the ever encroaching ocean and increasingly severe storms, as it is about improving the environment. Nevertheless, it is an example of humans working with nature to recreate natural environments that will benefit many species, including our own.
Grass plantings for dune restoration near the mouth of the Merrimack River, on Plum Island
Dune restoration grass plantings adjacent to the Merrimack River

Now, consider these two images of areas literally feet from each other. Then, think about the different motivations (or lack of motivations) that led to each result. It isn't hard to see which actions led to which conditions.

I'm confident the trash on the riverbank will be cleaned up before beach going season is in full swing in these parts. This particular area is popular with families and fisherman - who surf cast for striped bass. What I have no confidence in, however, is that the trash will be cleaned up by the same people who left it - or that more won't follow.  

Please, don't pollute. Don't make someone else, or something else, suffer the consequences of your actions. It's often easier to tear something down or apart than it is to build it. So, do the hard thing, do the right thing. Be part of the solution, not a source of the problem.

And, for all of you who are doing the right thing - thanks!

- TB on the Water

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