Coastal Cleanup Day 9/16/17: ‘Cleaning Our Minds, Cleaning the Beach’
A report from Maeve Murphy, Beach Captain
As Thich Nhat Hanh put it so simply, “We must be aware of the real problems of the world. Then, with mindfulness, we will know what to do and what not to do to be of help. If we maintain awareness of our breathing and continue to practice smiling, even in difficult situations, many people, animals, and plants will benefit from our way of doing things.”
In this spirit, Green Sangha kicked off a new action, ‘Engaged Meditation,’ choosing the occasion of the 33rd annual Coastal Cleanup Day, Saturday, September 16, 2017, at McNear’s Beach in San Rafael, where Green Sangha has coordinated the clean-up since 2005. We meditated in public to ‘bear witness’ to the ugly problem of litter and to help focus our minds on positive action.
Bernard Bouis, Tom Flynn, and I sat quietly together, just feet away from the rhythmic lapping of the waves on the beach. We breathed, listened to the soft sound of the surf and the harsh cry of the gulls, and felt the gentle breeze on our faces. After thus “cleaning our minds,” we acknowledged and felt solidarity with the thousands of other volunteers all across California, and the world, who were out cleaning their own local coasts and waterways that day.
Soon we were joined by 14 enthusiastic volunteers of all ages who combed the beach and brought back bucket-loads of plastic, fishing line, bottles and all manner of discards – 29 pounds in all. The most charming item? A tiny plastic toy goose. The biggest/most unwieldy? A box spring mattress (we flagged that one for the rangers to collect later, exceeding the weight of everything else we collected). Volunteer Hailey came back again this year with her Girl Scout pals to celebrate her 11th birthday – she celebrated her 10th here last year, too.
Litter in our Bay, on our beaches and in our waterways is a very serious problem for the health and well being of humans and of wildlife. Coastal Cleanup Day not only calls public attention to the problem of litter, especially ubiquitous and non-biodegradable plastic litter; it also offers people the opportunity to make a real difference to the safety and aesthetics of their local beach or coastline, and to contribute hard data which inform public policy efforts to help stem the flow of trash finding its way into the environment.
Journalist Stephanie Weldy and photographer Alan Dep from the Marin Independent Journal chose McNear’s Beach to cover Coastal Cleanup Day and highlighted what draws local volunteers to clean up the shoreline. Read their story here: Marin volunteers collect 4-tons.
A shout-out to the Sausalito chapter of the Lion’s Club, who each year lay on a tasty free barbecue for all volunteers each year at the Bay Model in Sausalito after the cleanup. They now provide veggie burgers, which means that hungry vegetarian volunteers are well catered for and also enables smaller-carbon-footprint lunches!
A heartfelt thank you for ALL our volunteers who used their hearts, hands and minds to improve our coastline. You are the best!