A few weeks ago I took a trip to see a landmark of Edinburgh: Cramond Island, an island reached from the northern tip of the city that you can walk to during the low tide of the day. The island is rather small and easy to walk through in an hour or so. I enjoyed my
exploration of the land and taking in the glorious views of Edinburgh’s coast, but was slightly shocked and dismayed to see a good amount of litter on the island.
In some spots there were lines of broken beer bottles because it seems people can take the initiative to bring bottles of beer to an island, but feel it’s too much effort to carry the empty bottles back and, to add insult to injury, break the bottles to not only cause litter but also danger. Clearly I was annoyed. At this juncture I could have just taken this as a testament of humanity’s carelessness, silently judged the litterers, and walked away, but then I realized actually something can be done about this. I have at my fingertips a whole program of people who care about this land! A Facebook invite within my GeoSciences program later, I had a group of people ready to go to the island and pick up trash for a day.
Armed with old trash bags begging to be reused, we braved the winds of Edinburgh and headed to the island to pick up as much trash as we could carry. Everyone was in good spirits and happily scavenged the land for the rubbish. Unfortunately we only scratched the surface of the trash over there, but at least we did something and improved the area a bit. One woman from my program who is from Mexico commented while picking up shards of glass, “You know, I am used to this in my country, but never thought that the First World also littered like this.” That observation struck me deep. We, in this privileged country, cannot be bothered to pick up after ourselves and appreciate what we have. We love to consume, but do not necessarily think about what happens after that consumption.
The takeaway I had from today’s adventure is that I can either be a pessimistic person who sits back and judges those who are harming the planet, or I can set an example and also be inspired by others who care about the planet and are willing to actively save it.
Little things do add up. Whether it be action to reduce your carbon footprint, conserve water, or pick up a piece of trash — it’s something and it does mean something. Not only the act itself, but the influence you have on others around you. Trust me, if you lug a massive canvas bag of trash from an island, as people pass you by they will take notice and maybe think twice before they leave trash on the ground that would then be left for others to clean up. Or better yet, maybe they’ll pick up other people’s trash while they visit the island. Everyone holds a power of influence — it just depends on what you want to influence.
Special thanks to my fellow MSc Environment, Culture, and Society classmates (plus a few special guests outside of the program!) who came out for the Cramond Clean-Up. You all are amazing and I am so thankful this program brought us together.