stephanie jones

Clean up the beach while on vacation?? Come on…

In critical literacy, justice, professional development resources, social action, teacher education resources on August 5, 2008 at 3:11 pm

Last week I was on vacation in Ft. Morgan, Alabama. It was gorgeous, especially the breeze in the evenings and the bright stars hanging over the Gulf of Mexico. Seashells were everywhere and so were some of the natural wonders of the oceans: fish, rays, crabs, dolphin, and jellyfish. In fact we saw dozens and dozens of huge, gorgeous jellyfish with long tentacles effortlessly pushing themselves through the shallow waters near the sand.

But wait. I’ve never seen one of those things in real life, only in National Geographic-like television programs and photographs. How could that be?

They were stinging people every day. Hayden refused to go in the water. Her daddy refused to stay out – landing him with several bad stings.

In addition to the massive amounts of live and dead jellyfish that we’ve never seen before, I was also surprised by the amount of litter on the beach.

Hayden and I decided to do a couple clean-up mornings as we searched for shells. We had a contest to see who could end up with the heaviest bag of beach litter (coke cans, beer bottles, shoes, old toys, string, plastic pieces, ceramic tile, fireworks debris, and on and on). She’s six years old – she won:).

When we returned to Georgia we read this article in the New York Times about the worldwide problem of jellyfish.

Could pollution and climate change be the problem in Ft. Morgan too?

What if everyone spent just 20 minutes each day picking up litter instead of walking by it?

I helped Hayden write a letter to the Tourism folks in Alabama and Ft. Morgan encouraging them to encourage their visitors to spend a little time on their vacation taking care of the beaches so that we will have beautiful, healthy places to enjoy for years – and decades – and generations – to come.

For any of you folks teaching near the coast, this would make for a fabulous local inquiry and potential social/eco action project. This is both a social and ecological problem – not only are our oceans’ health diminishing, but closed beaches means fewer visitors which means smaller amounts of money pumped into local economies which means fewer jobs and more economic struggle for families depending on tourism. It’s all connected…

What could kids of all ages come up with as creative solutions to this – and other – social/eco injustices? I’d love to find out.

And for vacationers – if you don’t do it, who will do it to ensure that pretty beach is there for you next time, much less for generations to come? It’s everyone’s responsibility to care for our physical world.

  1. Thanks. Very good ways to teach the importance of getting involved in local politics and be conscious of the environment. The rule: always leave it better than you found it. My cousin was schooling me on “poop karma” of all things; being a dog owner, she takes more than her share because she knows she cannot see every little bit that her dog has done!
    I hope that these little habits also pervade my son’s consciousness as we try to get away from the habits of consumption and move toward simplicity.

  2. I love the idea of poop karma! When I was telling my mom about the beach story her response was, “always building karma…” I’d love to hear how your son does with moving away from consumption and toward simplicity. I find it a challenge in my home with Hayden sometimes. Although she has adopted Goodwill as her favorite store (good cause; good buys; and better for the environment), and she has started using recycling/reusing arguments of all things to justify her buying brand new toys (I can pass them on to my little cousins when I’m finished. They don’t have to go in the garbage!). Still…it’s very hard on this end.

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