Cleaning Up the World One Beach at a Time

2013 International Coastal Cleanup Day, Yucatán

2013 International Coastal Cleanup Day, Yucatán

2012 International Coastal Cleanup Day, Yucatán

2012 International Coastal Cleanup Day, Yucatán

We middle-class Americans—the veritable backbone of the American way of life—tend to be great joiners. Our grandparents didn’t have near the array of choices that we do these days. We start our pre-schoolers in kiddie gymnastics and 3-on-3 soccer. By elementary school, they’re in Scouts and on swim teams. By high school, no teenager can possibly participate in all the clubs and organizations. As adults, we’re toting babies to mommy exercise classes or Meeting Up with like-minded hikers or musicians or book readers. In retirement, we’re delivering Meals on Wheels, teaching adults to read and singing in church choirs.

In Mexico, the options for group and club activities tend to be fewer than in the United States. High schools are viewed primarily as academic institutions with limited extracurriculars. Women’s sports teams are less common. With Mexico’s political system, it’s highly unlikely that individual citizens could coalesce and effect the kind of changes in political discussions and thinking that the Tea Party has in the U.S. The World Bank and Index Mundi peg Mexico’s poverty level at 51.3%. When you’re trying to feed a family, work two jobs or head a single household, reading the novel for next month’s book club meeting generally isn’t at the top of your to-do list. And sending the kids to summer camp? Probably not. In a country where the practice of volunteering for the betterment of community and country is not as widespread as in the U.S., Día Internacional de Limpieza de Costas is a remarkable day.  

This week’s Mexican success story is really a tale of global success. Today I’m in Santa Cruz, California where one of the top news stories is Coastal Cleanup Day. The Sentinel reports that more than 3000 volunteers at 75 sites in Santa Cruz and Monterrey counties yesterday took part in what’s billed as the world’s largest annual volunteer event with cleanups at over 800 locations in more than 100 countries.

It helps that Ocean Conservancy, the non-profit that founded the event in 1986, has some powerful corporate partners like Disney, Bank of America and top contributor Coca-Cola. A quick electronic search today, yielded news reports and photos of volunteers at beaches in Washington state, the Dominican Republic and Cape Town, South Africa. In reality, the dates of International Coastal Cleanup Day can vary. Uruguay’s  2013 Día de Limpieza Internacional de Costas will take place on October 26. In Mexico, it’s typically the first weekend in September, mostly on Saturday, in some places on Sunday.

2013 International Coastal Cleanup Day, Playa Miramar

2013 International Coastal Cleanup Day, Playa Miramar

According to Milenio newspaper, on September 7, 2013, at Playa Miramar, near the Gulf coast town of Madero, 350 volunteers collected an estimated four tons of debris. Old and young they came, singly and in groups, from two universities, sports teams and the local regatta club. In standard-issue tee shirts and gloves, volunteers collected mountains of plastic and glass bottles, food containers, cigarette butts, even plastic buckets, forks and tires.    

The non-profit Flora, Fauna y Cultura de México, A.C. coordinated 10 groups in Quintana Roo, the state with most volunteers for Día de Limpieza Internacional de Costas. At Playa de Tankah, an important sea turtle breeding ground, more than three tons of garbage were collected. Employees of Transeún3 Audiovisuales, a local video company, not only picked up garbage but filmed and donated this two-minute video.

In Cancún, local Channel 13 celebrities promoted the event and the mentality of not littering to begin with.

The 2012 photo at the beginning of this post is from Crónica de Houston. The accompanying article quoted Ana María Baqueiro Avila, president of Fundación Bepensa in Yucatán who said, “Children, young people and adults who cover the seven kilometers between Progreso and Chicxulub as part of International Coastal Cleanup Day, learn to never again litter; they learn to be better people; they become model citizens.”

We live in a far more global society than the one our grandparents were born into—and in terms of environmental conservation, that’s a very good thing.

 

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