Caring for the Earth Cleanses the Soul

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtfully committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” —Margaret Mead

Why not Earth Day every day? The focus we pour into our planetary conscious at our once-a-year celebration is transformative in nature. How can we propagate the energy and good will generated that day and carry it forward? How best can we learn to maneuver in the midst of political jockeying and vying interests?

Earth Day provides a framework for acknowledging we are all connected. It acts as a magnifying glass upon our actions — what we do in one place has an effect in another. We are not isolated, but all citizens of one unified global playing field. We share the same air. Our ocean waters travel sea to sea.

This year, I was thrilled to be part of Earth Day in Loreto, Baja California Sur. We celebrated on Sunday, the 20th, with a community effort to cleanup the Arroyo Candeleria north of the city. More than 100 people, including children and teenagers, registered for the event that began at 7:30 a.m.

For years the arroyo had been an unchecked dumping ground of garbage, trash, broken furniture and fish waste. The extent of the collected garbage was a putrid mixture of decay and non-biodegradable matter. This was no place for the faint of heart.
In years past, the community had joined together to do beach cleanup, and there was some local grumbling about the selection of the arroyo rather than a section of the shoreline. During the rainy season, though, the dry riverbed turns into a raging torrent, sweeping all the waste materials into the waters of the Sea of Cortez.

This year’s cleanup included untold number of tires, hundreds of plastic and glass bottles, tin cans, cardboard boxes, auto parts, an uncountable amount of plastic bags, along with vats of spent oil and other substances toxic to marine life.

At first glance, the task of clean up seemed overwhelming, but as the small army of volunteers spread through the littered ground, an amazing energy seemed to overtake the work.

Laughter mingled with sweat as trash bag after trash bag was filled, mounded into piles, loaded into the back of pickup trucks and trailers and hauled in over 25 trips to the city dump. Even the horrific mountains of used disposable diapers didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the cleaning crews.

Bulldozers broke concrete and asphalt refuse too large to be removed into smaller chunks and buried them. Volunteers lent their trucks, bulldozers and muscles to the job, alongside enthusiastic members of the Bay of Loreto National Park.

Just before noon, a tired and hungry crowd turned back to admire their efforts. Instead of litter, a sparkling clean arroyo greeted their eyes. Beyond the reward of the results, a grand barbecue luncheon awaited the crews on the beach in front of Rancho Jaral.
The cleanup and ensuing party were sponsored by Eco Alianza de Loreto, A.C. with participation by Baja Life Magazine. Eco-Alianza is a nonprofit membership organization 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.

Pessimists abound in any effort, and some responses to the event ran along the line of, “Just how long do you think that will last? An hour?”

The answer was simple and straightforward, “As long as possible — but even an hour was worth the clean-up.”

Reporter Tim Faulkner wrote, “Earth Day teaches us that collective action is more powerful than individual initiative.”

What we learn when we come together, is that we can make a difference, and 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 so doing, provide a visual education for others to follow.

It is our planet – our home base and our house to care for and keep clean. Once upon a time, the British threw their offal into the street. They didn’t know better. But over time they learned. Slowly, messages begin to burn into our brains. Care for earth. Care for earth.

When you see a piece of trash … pick it up. What can it hurt? And wow — it sure can make a difference.

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