Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Sometimes it pays to speak up!

This is a site that I am all to used to seeing when I dive the Grotto. I realize that there isn't much I can do to stop it from happening in the first place, so I've decided that everytime I dive the Grotto I'm going to pick up all the trash I see down there and haul it up to the garbage can. It's identifying what you can do to actually make a difference and help improve the look of our islands. By doing this I know that at least the diving tourists that go after I'm done won't have to look at all the garbage on the bottom of the Grotto instead of the fish. It's amazing to me just how much garbage can accumulate down there from one week to the next. I can haul out a dive bag full of garbage most weeks, just because people think it's easier to throw their bottles and cans in the Grotto rather than carry them back up to the garbage can.

We have had quite a problem with trash on Saipan for a while now, people just don't seem to think it's any big deal to leave their garbage laying around. They seem to think that someone else will pick up after them, or that the ocean will just carry it away and they won't have to think about it again.

Beautify CNMI, which has been trying to lead by example this past year and clean up our island has had a great impact, but there always seem to be the few that just don't care. Or maybe they think that no one else cares if they trash paradise. It's this bunch that I would like to somehow get their attention and make them realize their behavior is just not acceptible, and I don't care if previous generations did just throw all their garbage in the ocean. Back then everything was biodegradable and would break down in time. Now we have aluminum, plastic, rubber, glass and a whole assortment of other things that never break down, they just stay there, forever!

Saturday, I was sitting on the patio at Oleai Beach Bar & Grill, as I do pretty much every Saturday for lunch. This is the view from the table that I almost always sit at, when someone doesn't swipe it from me first that is. It's a gorgeous view isn't it? You are about 30 feet from the waters edge, you can hear the little waves lapping at the beach, you see the schools of fish go swimming by, and if you're lucky you might even see a Spotted Eagle Ray flapping his wings in the shallows, or a big fish jump nearby. It's a tranquil spot, especially when you have an ice cold iced tea and bacon cheeseburger sitting in front of you. It brings to mind the old Jimmy Buffet song, Cheeseburger in Paradise, because that's exactly what you're thinking as you sit there.

All the sudden, the tranquility of paradise was shattered as I saw dozens of pieces of trash floating out into the lagoon. There were foil chip bags, plastic bags, plastic bottles, dozens of pieces of garbage just floating out to sea, and it was all coming from a group that was having a picnic down on the beach. I guess they just thought it would be easier to throw all their garbage in the water as opposed to packing it all back up and throwing it away in a garbage can. Very few things make me as upset as that, so I stood up so I could see the culprits. They all recognized me and started waving. I shook my head, looked out to the trash, and simply said, not cool! Then I sat back down. The people sitting near us took off, I don't know whether they were embarassed or afraid of confrontation. But I didn't care, it wasn't cool at all, and those people needed to be told it wasn't.

Much to my surprise, a minute later, one of the guys in the group was wading out into the lagoon picking up every single piece of garbage and bringing it back in to dispose of properly. If I hadn't said anything, that garbage would have been spread all over the reef. But because I decided to stand up and tell them it wasn't cool they went out and brought it all back, and hopefully will think twice before they do it again next time. You just never know when someone like me might be watching, and might have the nerve to actually say something about it.