Last Sunday, we joined hundreds and thousands of Australians donning yellow rubber gloves and grabbing a rubbish bag for Clean up Australia Day, where the community comes together to remove mountains of rubbish and trash from our sparkling waterways and gloriously golden, sandy beaches.
“If we’re destroying our trees and destroying our environment and hurting animals and hurting one another and all that stuff, there’s got to be a very powerful energy to fight that. I think we need more love in the world. We need more kindness, more compassion, more joy, more laughter. I definitely want to contribute to that.”
Clean up Australia Day , Clean up Australia whose mission is “To inspire and work with communities to clean up and fix up our Earth”, is the brain child of Ian Kiernan AO. In 1986/87 Keirnan represented Australia in the BOC Challenge solo around-the-world yacht race and during this event he was disgusted by the huge amount of trash he observed floating around in the world’s oceans. In particular, having waited years to see the Sargasso Sea’s legendary long golden seaweed, Kiernan’s excited anticipation turned to anger and disappointment when he found them polluted and tangled with rubbish.
“Just before it was dark, as they passed a great island of Sargasso weed that heaved and swung in the light sea as though the ocean were making love with something under a yellow blanket, his small line was taken by a dolphin. He saw it first when it jumped in the air, true gold in the last of the sun and bending and flapping wildly in the air.”
― Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea
You see, the Sargasso Sea is the huge, slowly rotating eye of the North Atlantic Gyre, where the currents not only attract the beautiful golden seaweed but also the world’s trash. While not as big as the Pacific Trash Vortex, it’s still not pretty and yet another reminder of humanity’s brutal impact on our beautiful, precious and increasingly precarious planet.
You can read about blogger Sebastian Smith’s trip to the Sargasso Sea here and appreciate it’s beauty: http://blogs.afp.com/correspondent/?post/Swimming-in-the-abyss-of-the-Sargasso-Sea
Fired up on his return to Sydney, Kiernan took action and launched a clean up of Sydney Harbour. Clean Up Sydney Harbour Day in 1989 received an enormous public response with more than 40,000 Sydney siders joining in to help. Rusted car bodies, plastics of all kinds, glass bottles and cigarette butts were removed by the tonne. Success fueled success and the following year, Clean Up Australia Day was born.
“Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.”
I actually met Ian Kiernan back in my past life working in environmental marketing and Ian Kiernan presented the awards at a function I’d organised. I was in my 20s at the time and had to ring him on his mobile to confirm and I was shaking in my boots. Imagine ringing up the man Australians fondly call “Mr Yucky Poo”. He was lovely but I was more than just a little nervous!!
Fast-forwarding to 2015, I was thankful we were doing Clean Up Australia Day with the kids’ scout group.
You see, left to my own devices, I wouldn’t know where to start cleaning up.
Our house would be a great place to start. We could sure use an army of volunteers to clean up our backyard. Then, we could move onto our attic, where a more diverse array of stuff than the Pacific Junk Vortex, lies in storage. Every now and then we look up and say a few prayers hoping all that stuff doesn’t feel overpowered by gravity and comes crashing down through the ceiling, yearning to get back down to Earth.
These troubles are beating me on the home front. So, when it comes to cleaning up the entire country, it’s pretty intimidating. Overwhelming even and just the sort of thing that will get me catastrophising in all sorts of ways which aren’t pretty.
After all, Australia isn’t exactly a tiny little speck in the ocean. Oh no! It has an area of about 7.692 million square kilometres and the Australian mainland has a total coastline length of 35,876 km (22,292 mi) with an additional 23,859 km (14,825 mi) of island coastlines.
That’s a hell of a lot of cleaning up!!
“How do you eat an elephant?
One mouthful at a time.”
Also, left to my own devices, I could also be tempted to head down to our national capital, Canberra, to clean Australia of some of its politicians and even more so, the media which is probably generating most of the rubbish spewing from these quarters. I’ve been particularly unimpressed this week that there has been further debate about the national leadership while two Australians in compassionate circumstances, are about to be executed in Indonesia. I would hope that this isn’t the only pressing matter our government should be dealing with right now either. Meanwhile, they should all be sent back to primary school where they could learn how to get along. (Perhaps, I should introduce them all to the Golden Rule?!!)
Quite frankly, I’ve had enough of the rubbish our politicians are spewing out at the moment. Our NSW Premier is in the throws of selling off the State. I’m surprised that he hasn’t sold off his own suit. Indeed, I suspect all of our public toilets are about to be privatised and we’ll all be left busting in the lurch…not just Little Johnny!
Thank goodness there’s an election coming up. Ciao bella! We’ll give them all the flush.
By the way, my apologies to the majority of politicians who make a tireless contribution to our community and aren’t trying to bring about leadership spills!
So without any detours via Canberra or NSW Parliament House, I was on location with the scouts signing people up and handing out gloves and bags to cubs, scouts and families and our token community volunteer. The scouts have an inflatable rescue boat which we used to ferry the volunteers to Pelican and Riley Islands in Woy Woy to clean up. As my broken foot is still tender, I was on deck chair duties while Geoff helped set up the Gazebo and BBQ and started cooking the snags. He did a very good job too. Australian sausages are usually incinerated charcoal but these were cooked to perfection.
While the sausage sandwiches might have filled them up, the scouts were attracted to my homemade choc-chip cookies like flies to a BBQ. I’ve since decided to throw out my copy of How to Win friends & Influence People and just hand out cookies instead. Who knows, I might even make it in politics?!! Indeed, could the humble cookie lead me on a path towards world domination. Who knows but I’d certainly get the scouts’ vote. Shame they’re all under 18 and can’t vote.
I don’t know what sort of junk you expect to find doing such a clean up. However, I would not have expected the kids to find hundreds of golf balls so far away from any golf course. It’s looking like there’s some sort of clandestine golf tournament being held somewhere along the waterfront at night. Given the number of golf balls found, this thing must be drawing quite a crowd. However, I can’t held wondering how the poor unsuspecting fish feel when a flying golf ball suddenly belts them on the head. They’d have trouble swimming in a straight line after that!
The scouts also found some Coke cans dating back to the 1980s. That’s well before any of those kids were even thought about let alone born. I was their age back then so it really does go to show how long this rubbish hangs around polluting our natural environment. Yet another reminder of the negative impact humans are having on our precious environment.
However, these Coke cans could be recycled.
Apparently, 80% of the rubbish salvaged from Clean Up Australia Day is recyclable, so all this junk could and should have been recycled instead of chucking it into our waterways. However, now that it’s been salvaged, it also means, I would presume, that all this rubbish is now off to the recycling centre. Good stuff!!
Meanwhile back at Pelican Island, our scout group sure knows how to carpe diem seize the day. The kids were out in the kayaks, playing beach volleyball and yes, scoffing all those choc chip cookies. The sun was intense and in between swims, there was the challenge of trying to catch little peoples on the run and apply sunscreen over wet skin dripping with seawater. Oh yes…and trying to keep hats on heads. One of these days, the freckles will cease to be a case of join the dots if we’re not vigilant.
Now that the sun has set on Clean Up Australia Day as good as it was for our scout group to get out there and do their bit, my inspiration goes back to Ian Kiernan. He was one person facing a huge job of trying to get the rubbish out of our oceans and the first steps of this incredible visionary have been replicated right around Australia for the last 25 years showing just what is possible when humanity comes together for good. Who would have thought you’d be able to motivate the masses to get out there and fish foul rubbish, syringes, broken glass, stinky cigarette butts out of the water without being paid a fortune? It’s quite incredible!!
Before I head off, thought I’d share Greg Bray’s thoughts that every day needs to be Clean Up Australia Day: https://gregbraywriter.wordpress.com/2015/02/28/everyday-is-clean-up-australia-day/
Now that I’ve seen that we can change the world, I wonder what it’s going to take to clean up our backyard.
Hmm, perhaps I need to offer hose Scouts some more choc chip cookies!