Every positive action matters and every negative action matters, regardless of how ‘small.’ They all add up. A plastic wrapper flapped in the current, like a leaf pinned against a rock. It annoyed me. I was in a pristine mountain stream, at least as pristine as they come around here. And I find garbage here, too. I tried to ignore it, but I couldn’t swim past it. I just wanted to watch the trout and sculpin, but could see the purple and silver wrapper flutter in my periphery.
I usually pick stuff up when I snorkel. Makes me feel better. I have a hard time leaving crap there that doesn’t belong. It’s a small positive step I can take towards restoring our rivers and streams. I know there are larger issues than litter facing our surface waters…sedimentation, eutrophication or over fertilization, exotic species invasions, serious threats from fracking and mining. And sometimes it feels like there isn’t a whole lot I can do about those other things, while in fact there are. I can drive less which produces less nitrogen, one of the major nutrients that causes eutrophication. I can control the runoff coming from my roof top and driveway by installing rain gardens and barrels. I can make sure I am not serving as a vector for exotic species. I can reduce my energy footprint and I can support organizations like the river advocacy organizations. But it’s hard for me to see the direct result of these actions and so the satisfaction isn’t always there. Removing trash provides the instant gratification and the hope I need to know that we can all make the word a better place.
I snagged the wrapper and continued on my exploration of this creek. I looked towards an undercut bank with a good amount of woody structure hanging into the hole. Excellent habitat for trout. Instead I found plastic tangled in the branches and roots of a hemlock. I snorkeled into the hole, and removed the trash.
I saw some young trout and an amazingly colorful sculpin on this trip. And these fish made this experience memorable. But what really impacted me was the empowerment that came from removing a few pieces of trash from this beautiful creek, and how those actions can translate into others that will also protect our rivers and streams. Get out there, enjoy your local creek, and take a few steps to protect it. Whether that means driving less, getting involved in issues that affect it, or even just picking up a few pieces of garbage. It all adds up, and it all matters.