The beach! Hmm ... what do you think about when you hear that freedom-encouraging word? You may think, "Sand, water, scorching, but a nice kind of hot and a fun time." Well, that's only a small part of the many qualities of our beaches. On the other hand, you may not know of the horrible pollution that is occurring in our oceans. I'm sure you've seen the many pictures of desperate animals having their habitat polluted with oil, sea animals choking on trash from the pollution of our beautiful beaches. Some of us figure, "Hey, I don't live in the ocean. I don't have to deal with all of the debris that's floating in the water taking innocent animals' lives." Well, think again! Animals are getting killed day in and day out from peoples' laziness. I guess they haven't heard of a trash can, and it's so much easier to toss harmful materials into the water (or on the sand) than to walk to a bin to deposit it. So, you burn your feet on the sand; think what the animals will go through if you put your garbage in their habitat! If you don't believe the many tragic stories that have been told, listen to mine.
Since I was two years old, my family and I visit Rehobeth Beach in southern Delaware each year. I remember being five, and sitting in the backseat of my parents' old car, and traveling the two hours to the beach a couple times each summer. After hopping out of the car, I wanted to rush to the beach and make sand castles the whole day! My mom made me hold my 2-year-old sister's hand and wait for her as we walked down the wooden steps to the beach. I was carrying my bucket and a towel; my sister sucking her thumb, and my mom carrying a chair, umbrella, a blanket, all the works. I ran across the beach searching for the perfect place for our blanket. I remember my sister toddling along behind me, trying to catch up. When I found the perfect place, I stopped in my tracks and realized in all its glory: Rehobeth Beach! I stared into the blue water and saw the clean yellowish-white sand. I felt the sun and I felt at rest. I felt like I had entered "Beach Heaven." I loved the wind against my hair. As I watched my sister and my mom come down the beach, with my dad following behind, I smiled and hugged Mom and Dad, letting them know how much I loved them for taking me to this place right out of a magazine!
But when I went with my family last year, reliving our tradition of spending a night or two in an inexpensive hotel, I was excited to experience the pleasure I had when I was five years old. I walked down the stairs, with my parents and sister far behind. I stepped onto the sand and my feet were burned. My beach wasn't welcoming like it had been before! I saw white specks all over the sand. I looked closer and realized they were cigarette butts. I saw rotten food with ants and seagulls picking at it. When I ran to the water, I saw trash floating in the once clear blue ocean. The ocean was dark and seemed dead. I felt so ashamed that I wasn't there to take care of it. I raised my head to the sky and felt the sun. It was my sun, shining on me like before! Only, it wasn't my sun. My sun was warm and soothing. This sun hurt, scalding my back with its cruel heat. With every beam, I could feel the ozone layer being destroyed and see people being burned by its harsh rays. I was in "Beach Hell."
Where had my beach gone? Would it ever return? There was hope! I could save the beach, somehow. I doubted that I could, but I could try. I tried to pick up some of the litter, but it didn't help. I tried to pick up the rotten food, but the gulls stole it from my hands. I tried to collect the trash from the once sapphire-blue water, but it was no use. I had lost the beach to litterers.
Please listen to my story, and know that photos that you see of animals in pain because of peoples' wastes are real. It does happen. Don't litter. Help clean up our beaches, so they can be as beautiful as they were 10, and 20 years ago. Do it soon. Don't lose beaches to people who don't care. Help save our beaches now! ^
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.