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Coastal Cleanup This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   One great concern of mine, which I spend my idle hours worrying about, is the environment and what bad shape we've managed to get it into. The horrific details of every blasphemy against Mother Nature and the environmentalists' struggle against bureaucracy, politicians and large, careless corporations will not be covered here. I do, however, have one important event, COASTWEEKS, to document, which I felt obligated to do out of my environmental concern and which was a rare opportunity to participate in something that will have a positive effect on the beaches of Massachusetts. It was a difficult decision, because I had a fairly large amount - no let's be honest - a virtual megalith of schoolwork to do over that weekend, and COASTWEEKS would take up a lot of time.

The event I volunteered for was the kick-off cleanup on September 15, 1990, for the COASTWEEKS celebration, a four-week series of events in twenty-five coastal states and five European countries to raise awareness of the appalling dirtiness of our beaches that we once enjoyed. It was entirely a volunteer operation, which impressed me, as people were willing to donate money and a lot of time to organize it. Several major companies donated supplies and helped in the cleanup. It was reassuring to know that some corporations like Stop An' Shop, Harvard Community Health Care, the MDC, WBZ-TV and Faber-Castell do genuinely care about the environment.

The beach to be cleaned was the strip of sand comprising Wollaston Beach in Quincy. Mrs. Majors, my biology teacher, and twenty-one other kids accompanied me on a school bus to the beach. Because of pouring rain, we had to stay inside a boating club whose members donated its facilities for the day. They gave us complimentary burgers and chips, and were very hospitable and supportive of our cause. After Nancy Russo, the Channel 4 meteorologist, gave a speech, Governor Michael Dukakis spoke about the economic/environmental potential connections with European countries, and how hopeful and promising Massachusetts' technology was. Meanwhile, some stood outside in the rain and picketed him for his plan to build a toxic waste incinerator in a residential area. It struck me as a bit ironic that he was so concerned with international economic deals and said nothing about the local community.

After the speeches, I joined the picketers and asked them about their cause. It was very exciting to experience disputes over current issues that really mattered to people. I felt Dukakis had made a reasonable presentation, but he couldn't stay to pick up trash because he had a budget meeting at 11: 00.

After the rain abated, we all went outside, put on some rubber gloves, and with a noble passion in our hearts, picked up crud off a wet beach for a few hours. We worked in pairs or triplets, picking up all sorts of trash, while someone kept a data card tallying how many of each thing was picked up. This data was to be collated nationally to see what kinds of waste were most common and what can be done to reduce it. Straws and feminine hygiene products topped our list (not very pleasant). The problem on the Massachusetts beaches was due to careless littering and sewage overflow after heavy rains, since an inadequate sewage treatment plant is stationed a few miles across the bay. Wollaston Beach is one of the most frequentlyclosed right after a rainstorm.

By noon, our energy was trashed, so we threw our bags of waste into a pile by the registration desk and sat around inflating rubber gloves until the bus came. With five hours of community service under my belt (a fringe benefit I had hitherto not realized), I got back on the bus, COASTWEEKS brochures in hand, knowing I had faithfully followed the environmentalists' saying, "Think Globally, Act Locally." n


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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