Posted in Air, Autumn, Earth, Eastern Shore, Exploring, Fire, Hiking, Maryland, Nature, Photography, Spirit, Walking & Wandering, Water

An open letter

One of many such signs in a Maryland Wildlife Management area.
One of many such signs in a local Maryland Wildlife Management Area.

The trash and litter of nature disappears into the ground with the passing of each year, but man’s litter has more permanence.

~ John Steinbeck

Exploring the marsh
Exploring the marsh

Dear People of the Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland,

I’m new here, and have a lot to learn about this part of the world.  I know very little about the history, the land, the water, and the people.  What I do know, so far, is that this is an incredibly beautiful spot on Earth.  The woods, the marshes, the dunes, and the beaches are stunning.

Channel
Channel

In the countryside, litter doesn’t have a friend.  It doesn’t have anybody who’s saying, “Wait a minute, this is really starting to get out of control.”

~ Bill Bryson

Swans a'wintering
Swans a’wintering

Lots of people come to this region to visit the beaches and parks.  Wildlife comes from all over to visit, too.

I know from talking to locals, people whose families have been here for generations, that there is a “let nature take care of it” attitude.  One man even questioned why we would take the time (or pay the money) to clean up the trash on the property when we could “leave it to nature.”

Helping to clean up after Mother Nature.  (Cleaning up damage done by Hurricane Sandy.)
Helping to clean up after Mother Nature. (Cleaning up damage done by Hurricane Sandy.)

Here’s the thing.  Mother Nature can’t handle it all.  There are some things she can’t handle at all.  Plastic, for instance.  It isn’t biodegradable.  It breaks apart into little pieces, and those little pieces are bad for some of the wildlife.

Looking out over the marsh
Looking out over the marsh

This is a watershed area.  The rivers and creeks and ditches all drain into the Chesapeake Bay which drains into the Atlantic Ocean.  The trash you leave in the woods and thickets sometimes finds its way into the ditches which drain into the creeks which drain into the rivers, and so on and so forth.  The Chesapeake Bay watershed is one of the largest estuaries in North America.   It is spread out across six states, and it is home to more than 17 million people and 3,600 species of plants and animals.  Did you know that the bay itself holds more than 15 trillion gallons of water?  Pretty impressive.

In flight
In flight

What sometimes astounds me, is the amount of litter found along the roadsides and in the public spaces.  Cans and bottles float in the ditches and marshes and creeks.  Fast food bags and containers, thrown out of car windows, decorate the back roads and highways.  We won’t talk about cigarettes butts just now because I used to smoke and I know how it is.  The world is your ashtray.

Trash hides in the nooks and crannies.
Trash hides in the nooks and crannies, but you can’t see it in this image.

It is not that difficult to find a trash can or a dumpster.  Really.  It’s not.  Even better, put a trash bag in your car.  That way you’ll have a place to put your fast food containers and wrappers, your beer cans and plastic soda bottles, and your empty cigarette packages, all neatly stored until you do happen upon a trash can at a gas station or a rest stop or in your own home.

Just one small piece of litter.
Just one small piece of litter.

Pondering on the facts of gravity and the fluidity of water shows us that the golden rule speaks to a condition of absolute interdependency and obligation.  People who live on rivers — or, in fact, anywhere in a watershed — might rephrase the rule in this way: do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you.

~ Wendell Berry

Sunday morning in the marsh
Sunday morning in the marsh

I know it’s not just a countryside problem.  Have you ever been to Philadelphia?  It’s one of my favorite cites but, man, is it trashed.  There’s litter all over.  Some city folks are no better than some country folks when it comes to littering up the place.  (Note:  Philadelphia is not within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed area.  I used it as an example.  Other cities — Baltimore, Washington, D.C. — are, but it’s been a while since I’ve visited either of those cities and couldn’t tell you if they’re havens for litterbugs or not.)

Up in the beautiful, blue sky
Up in the big, beautiful, blue sky

M and I go out to the front of our property at least once a week to pick up trash that has been thrown out of car or truck windows.  Mostly it’s fast food garbage.  The majority of it comes from McDonald’s.  Coming in a close second are Coors Light beer cans.  There might be a meaning in that, but I’m not sure what it is.

I'm not sure if these are swans or snow geese.
I’m not sure if these are swans or snow geese.

I’m surprised that people are still littering as much as they are.  Even as far back as when I was in school — you know, in medieval times — there were education campaigns designed to teach children not to pollute.  The tearful Native American on his horse looking out over a littered land.  Woodsy Owl urging us to “Give a Hoot!  Don’t pollute!”  Now that we’re all grown up and so well educated in terms of littering, how is it that people are still doing it?

Sparkling clean?
Sparkling clean?

M and I will continue to clean up after others.  We even do so when we’re out and about, hiking on public lands.  If you could lend a hand by not littering in the first place, it would be much appreciated.  Don’t do it for us.  Do it for yourselves so that you can continue to enjoy the beauty of the public marshlands and other wildlife management areas.  Do it for the wildlife so it will still be there when you want to hunt, fish, or trap.  Do it for the sake of safety in the waterways where you boat and swim.

Enjoying the journey along the way from here to there.
Enjoying the journey along the way from here to there.

Thank you for reading, and for your consideration in this matter.

Wishing you the peace and beauty of a clean environment,

Robin

Flying away
Flying away

Be good, be kind, be loving.  Just Be.  🙂

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Author:

Robin is a photographer, artist, writer, wife, sometime poet, mom, grandma, daughter, sister, friend, and occasional traveler currently living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. She finished a 365 commitment to get outside every day in 2011, and has turned it into a lifelong commitment taking one or more walks each day. Robin will continue to share her walks through her words and images on Breezes at Dawn. Older posts can be found at Life in the Bogs, her previous blog. Robin and her husband are in the midst of renovating the house and property they refer to as the Wabi-Sabi Ranch, 35 acres that include marsh, a dock on a tidal creek, meadows, and woodlands. Every day brings new discoveries.

37 thoughts on “An open letter

  1. I taught my kids, when you’re out walking, be it on sidewalk or trail, until you find a trashcan, your pocket is to be used. And the only thing allowed to be thrown out of a car window is an apple core. obviously we have a lot of educating still to do! It infuriates me to see litter in the woods, on the side of roads. it’s inexcusable, truly.

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  2. it is hard for some of us to understand why others simply do not care … meanwhile we have to care for them, and pick it up, lots of us around here do that too, cleaning up after the fishermen, the young people, the fast food eating people … fortunately we have had a NoM campaign in town for some years and so far the nearest M is still half an hours drive from here, but the M rubbish finds it’s way here, thrown out of cars with drink cans for us to retrieve and recycle….. keep at it Robin!

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  3. Hear hear! Well said! I cannot bear littering, it is totally thoughtless and unnecessary.

    What a beautiful part of the world you live in! xxx

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  4. If you haven’t read it, I recommend “The World Without Us” by Alan Weisman. He has a lot to say about human activities in trashing the earth and provides some interesting (and surprisingly optimistic) insights into how the future might look.

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  5. Wish there was a new strong stop you in your feet anti-litter commercial – the only problem is the people that notice often are the ones being careful already.
    When did it be OK to be so piggy? It’s gotten worse in the bast 7-10 years. Houston is trashier than usual…before at least the roadways/streets were kept clean and monitored.
    It might not be popular, but wish they would ban plastic bags, plastic bottles, and those plastic rings around cokes. We live in a watershed area, too.
    WIth floods, I can understand occasional trash floats, but the constant litter is not by accident – it’s laziness and carelessness. So much of ‘don’t care”/’It’s ok if no one sees you”/”someones else will pick it up”/ What harm does it do? You’re fooling yourself, right?
    Lovely post.

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    1. A lot of it does seem to be laziness and carelessness, PhilosopherMouse. I think that’s why I find it so frustrating. It’s not that difficult to dispose of trash in the right way. Ah well. Maybe someone will come up with a good ad someday, one that will get through to the people who are not being careful.

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  6. My Mom and Dad used to walk the 1 hilly mile from their house out to the main road every day. They carried a trash bag and collected trash. Eventually the other people that lived on their road waved at them as they went by and the amount of trash decreased. Every few months they’d go out and pick up trash on the ‘big road’ into town. Eventually trash on that road decreased too as people saw two elderly folks picking it up. Then they both died unexpectedly in 2004. A week after my Dad was killed a neighbor came by and asked if he could have the hat Dad always wore on those walks. We gave it to him. He and another neighbor now collect the trash on the road every week. In honor of my folks. Still makes me cry.

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  7. Such beautiful photos today, Robin- and such perfect counterpoint to your thoughts. I hope you’ll send a copy of your essay to your local paper. Something tells me that those throwing the trash out probably aren’t in the audience for your thought provoking posts. What you said is so important, and needs to be said time and again. Do you remember the TV ad they used to run in the 60s with the Native American walking through the trashed landscape? Very powerful! We need a revival of that or a similiar ad campaign. Or better yet- someone to “make an app for it…” Best wishes, and thank you for sharing your photos and your thoughts- WG

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  8. Well said, Robin. It’s just so sad to see that some people don’t seem to care, and just throw their trash away wherever it’s convenient at the time, even when there isn’t a trash can around. Man made trash needs to be taken care of by man (and woman!), not nature.
    Great advice about the trash bag in the car, too. I’ve been doing this for years! I save the small plastic bags from the stores, fold them neatly, hold them together with a rubber band, and keep them in the center console of my car, so I’ll always have a new bag ready when the old one is full.
    You already know this, but Maryland is one of my very favorite places in the US 🙂

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  9. Hi Robin. Litter is a problem here too, although I think it is better in the last few years. In all my Street View travels, I haven’t seen much litter in France or Britain, but perhaps they had big clean-up campaigns just before the Street View car drove through!!!! Litter is one of those problems where 99% of the population does it right – it only takes one careless toss of a fast food lunch to ruin a mile of road! Jane

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  10. Thank you for this. I could not agree more. As an avid outdoor person / hiker / camper…. etc. I fully agree. I will not even so much as throw a small piece of plain paper on the ground. My motto is take only photos, leave only footprints, and pack it out. I can not tell you how many times I am picking up litter from what are otherwise pristine natural places, that is left behind by other visitors that either just do not get it, or do not have enough respect for nature and / or others that visit. On the rare occasion I have caught people doing this I educate them, and ask them to place their trash in a proper disposal place, or, I will sometimes offer to simply take it with me myself. Kudos to you. Wonderful blog by the way. I will follow! Check out mine if you like. 🙂

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  11. Well-written. There’s no excuse for throwing trash outside, particularly when you are in the countryside enjoying the experience there. You won’t enjoy it for long if everyone carelessly disposes of garbage this way!

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  12. What an incredibly lovely post… on all accounts. Thanks so much for speaking on behalf of the land and its creatures. On all of my hikes, it’s become a habit now to bring a plastic bag for trash, especially for glass. Every little bit, right?

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Comments are delightful and always appreciated. I will respond when I can (life is keeping me busy!), and/or come around to visit you at your place soon. Thank you!

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