It’s Saturday morning, the wind is blowing strong around the Dutch coastline, and the sky is full of dark grey clouds. No matter this uninviting weather, there is a group of people getting out of their beds and out of their warm homes to face the storm and walk towards the beach to the meeting next to the Vissersvrouw on the boulevard of Scheveningen. A 45 knot wind is blowing around them, but they don’t care. They have a mission! They have a vision! They want to clean up the beach and pick up the trash before it’s too late.
Our planet earth is at a point where its survival is unclear. It has only been a couple of years in comparison to the age of our planet that we haven’t stopped to produce, exploit and consume everything we could find on this planet. And now: The climate is changing. The land-system transformation is inevitable. The genetic diversity is close to extinction. Biochemical flows such as nitrogen and phosphorus are overstepped. The boundaries our planet has given to humanity have been largely crossed.
But for us it is hard to see the big picture of our ecosphere. It is even harder to be aware of our personal impact. We are told to reflect more, to care more, and therefore to consume less. But it is hard. Too much contradictory information tends to be used as an excuse to just do nothing.
Nevertheless, there is one thing that people can do actively. Something that not only is beneficial to environment, but is also encouraging and valuable for everybody. We are talking about picking up trash, thrown away in ignorance.
At the rate most people in the Netherlands consume and dispose waste, humankind would need two additional planets in the future to sustain its lifestyle. A country so organized, so developed, so educated, is still one of the biggest waste producers on earth. With an approximately 290 km-long coastline, the country also offers a wide space for the trash to be immediately eaten up by the sea. From that moment on, it is beyond our control. The harm can’t be undone. And besides all education, not all waste ends up in a waste bin. People, either by ignorance, or by laziness or laisse-faire, throw their waste in our nature.
Nonetheless, there is hope. There is always place for improvement. In Scheveningen, even on such a stormy day, in less then one hour, with the human power of 45 individuals, over 110 kg of trash has been picked up. The motivation is high to get even more. The movement creates a trash hunt avalanche because this is not an individual case.
In 2019, trash hunters are collecting waste all around the world. Humans are picking up trash and motivating each other to save the planet and its environment. These actions are bringing back life and optimism to stem the destructive momentum. With every bit of trash that is not decaying in the natural environment, we get one step further.
Picking up litter is such a powerful tool. Everyone can lead as an example to encourage others to be responsible about their waste. Everyone can inspire others to propel forward to a global change. The movement is fighting back the turn of the plastic tide. People across the globe are stepping up and joining the battle by cleaning up.
It is not too late. We are stepping in the right direction. The most important thing for us is not to bounce back, not to surrender, and not to let predictions come true.
We must reflect more, care more and consume less. But in addition, we should all go out and take steps to save our planet. In the words of Neil Armstrong as he stepped onto the moon: “That is one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Picking up a single unit of plastic waste from a beach is a giant leap for the future of our planet.