When we make a mess, we ought to clean it up.
Whether in Ketchikan or other areas of Alaska, the Lower 48 or elsewhere, it’s people’s responsibility to pick up after ourselves. We drop stuff, then we should pick it up.
Some of these messes are on the beaches of Alaska’s national parks.
Researchers studied the situation as recently as 2015 in the national parks of Wrangell-St. Elias, Kenai Fjords, Katmai, Bering Land Bridge and Cape Krusenstern National Monument.
The trash ranges from personal items (flip flops and clothing) to items often found on fishing boats (jugs, Styrofoam, life jackets). It includes cigarette butts and wrappers, and much of it is plastic.
The plastic and foam are of particular concern. Those items break down into particles, some of which contain chemicals. Then larvae and other tiny creatures at the bottom of the food chain consume them.
Good things we’ve made to use in everyday life come back in ways that cause potential health concerns.
The most obvious way to prevent this is to not allow stuff to get into the ocean. Of course, once we’re aware, and if we care, we can do our part to pick up instead of saying “oh well” and letting stuff drift from us.
The other way is what often happens now through beach cleanups in the spring and summer organized by communities and/or community groups. Sometimes it’s just what people do whenever they go to the beach — pick up stuff.
The beach trash has become such a large problem, in part because of natural disasters such as the tsunamis that wash whole communities out to sea, taking all types of stuff along. It will take well-funded organizations with a passion for a clean natural environment, working with various governments, to clean the beaches and keep them clean.
Some of this is happening. More of it should.
But in the meantime, more of us need to take our responsibility seriously and clean up after ourselves. It’s not like we don’t know how.
Ketchikan has approximately 13,000 people. Just imagine if we all picked up even just one piece of trash from the beach.
— Ketchikan Daily News, March 23, 2017