Leave Only Your Footprints BY Jack Croken

The Throwaway Culture and The Common Good

"To see no other meaning in their natural environment than what serves for immediate use and consumption"

- Saint John Paul II on human interaction with the environment

Take a second to think about all the items you throw away in one day. In one week. In one month. In a year. Now think about all the waste the 7.5 billion people who inhabit the earth produce. As a result the sustainability of our environment is threatened. However, Pope Francis writes Laudato Si to "bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development", (par. 13).

"Rapidification is an intensifies pace of life and work", (par. 18). An emphasis is placed on production and efficiency, essentially ignoring the affects that prove harmful to our common home. The global industrial system, seemingly with no remorse, turns a blind eye to generativity.

"Adopt a circular model of production capable of preserving resources for present and future generations", (par. 22). Pope Francis calls for circular model of production where wastes and byproducts of production are absorbed and reused. He argues that this is one way of counteracting the throwaway culture.

Have you ever visited the beach and couldn't find a place to lay your towel down because it was too crowded? For tourists, a crowded beach is a nightmare. However, for the municipality, local businesses, restaurants, hotels, etc. a crowded beach is a good thing.

For many seasonal beach towns, the summer season provides the economic means that carry them threw the winter. Threatening this is the throwaway culture that has developed, globally. "Their means of subsistence is largely dependent on natural reserves and ecosystems services such as agriculture, fishing, forestry. They have no other financial activities that can enable them to adapt to climate change", (par. 25).

Long Branch, NJ is an example of what is described above. In the summer, the town flourishes. Beaches, restaurants, merchandise stores, and parking spots are filled with those visiting from out fo town. Though great for the town and it's business, the affects on the environment are detrimental. As a result the town has set forth an Environmental Commission.

The town, and it's elected officials, understands the importance of creating a sustainable future that benefits not only the residents but also the visitors to the beautiful city of Long Branch. However, those who visit tend not to see the affects of leaving behind trash on the beach as mush as those who live there.

"Take only memories, leave only footprints" - Chief Seattle

Chief Seattle, a Suquamish and Duwamish chief, sums up the attitude tourists should assume when visiting not only Long Branch but also any where they may travel.

Social Ecology

"Ecology studies the relationship between living organisms and the environment in which they develop", (par. 138). In order to create a more sustainable future of beach town, the social ecology cannot be ignored. By studying the the ecology it is learned how people have negative and positive effects on the environment. Pope Francis says that," when we speak of the "environment", what we really mean is a relationship between nature and the society which lives in it", (par. 139). A positive effect the town has embraced is employing middle schoolers from the public schools Long Branch at the department of public works for the summer. Their job requires them to walk up and down the beach each morning and collect trash. However, the town does this because of the waste left behind by beach patrons, which proves to be a negative effect. This is why when visiting the beach, leave only your footprints.

Affects on Surfing: Trash Filled Tubes

Trash accumulation in the ocean is growing at an alarming rate. The Atlantic ocean garbage patch is estimated to be hundreds of kilometers in size. 200,000 pieces of debris per square kilometer. The Pacific garbage patch is double the size of the state of Texas

Two surfers that are creating change are Alex and Andrew of 4OCEAN. Through there startup they are introducing new technology, creating jobs, educating, creating awareness, and creating new global economies. Through the sale of bracelets made from recycled materials, they are funding the cleaning of the worlds oceans. For every bracelet sold, one pound of trash is removed from the water. To date they have removed 4,393,605 pounds of trash.

Thanks to people like Alex and Andrew of 4OCEAN, the world is seeing a change. However, those with the real power to change seem to ignore the consequences altogether. "Many of those who possess more resources and economic or political power seem mostly concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms, simply making efforts to reduce some of the negative impacts of climate change", (par. 26).

Writing on Augustine's reference to wisdom and dumb-wittedness as nutritious and worthless foods, Many fall prey to believing dumb-wittedness delivered in a sophisticated, manicured manner. In addition to, not heeding wisdom delivered in an unrefined manner. In today’s political climate, many political leader gain a following by phrasing hurtful policies in positive, manicured manners. Which usually will lead to broken promises, socioeconomic differences, and lead in the water supply. Yet, when the victims of these broken promises speak up and speak truth, they’re called radical, too young to understand, uneducated. Their race, religion, and culture are used against them. There is one valid question all Americans should ask themselves… Do I believe in wisdom or dumb-wittedness?

It should not stop you from speaking up and protecting "our common home", (Pope Francis). Follow the link below to get in contact with your local representatives and question and advocate what can be done for a more sustainable future.

If your having trouble starting the conversation Pope Francis can set you in the right direction. "There is an urgent need to develop policies so that, in the next few years, the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gasses can be drastically reduced, for example, substituting fossil fuel and developing sources of renewable energy", (par. 26).

"Take only memories, leave only footprints". - Chief Seattle

A day at the beach is one of the most memorable events in a person's life. For those that live there all year round, its a dream come true. However, climate change and pollution threaten our oasis at the shore. If change does not occur we gamble losing not only a great escape for vacations but also our homes, places of work, and the hundreds of species that inhabit the coastal areas. Augustine writes, "a city is an assembly of rational beings bound together by love". The beautiful city of Long Branch is bound together by the love shared, by so many, for the beach. In order to keep the city beautiful a greater emphasis needs to be placed on throwing away your trash, using more reusable products, and leaving only one's footprints. By doing this vacation spots, homes, places of employment, animals, etc. will be protected and around for years to come.

"Health of a society's institutions has consequences for the environment and the quality of human life", (par. 142). By leaving trash on the beach it weakens the institution of the beach front. A water bottle is convenient, however, it requires more energy to recycle one than it does to produce one. Long Branch places trash bins every hundred yards. If you thinks its too far away, consider walking along the water and searching for shells on the way to and from.

Tips to keep our institutions healthy

Instead of buying a water bottle, consider purchasing a hydro flask.

When first arriving at the beach, locate the trash bins.

Instead of ordering food to the beach, which comes in disposable containers, consider eating in a restaurant. Just remember, "No shoes, No shirt, No service".

Note from the author

Born and raised on the beaches of New Jersey, I call it my home. It is the place I have shared memories with my grandparents, parents, sibling and friends. It is the place I work. It is the place that I love. I am so fortunate to have spent my childhood under the boardwalk, in the water, and on the sand. I cannot wait to be able to share it with my children one day as well.

I spend my summers sitting on top lifeguard towers watching over beach goers. Protecting swimmers and the environment are just a couple passions of mine. To make the most you day at the beach follow some of the bellow tips.

  1. When first getting the beach, check in with the lifeguard to learn about surf conditions that day. They can tell you where the safest spot to swim is, in addition, to potentially dangerous water.
  2. If you hear a whistle, obey what the lifeguard is trying to tell you. They have a different vantage point and may be able to see hazards you are unable to. They also have a strong knowledge of the beach, how the water moves, where it gets deeper, and where it is too shallow to dive. I can promise you they don't just whistle to be mean.
  3. If you find yourself in a rip current. Don't Panic. Take a deep breath, and allow the water to take you out. Once you have enough energy, swim parallel to shore until you clear the current. The start to make your way in.
  4. If you happen to witness a rescue. Maintain a respectful distance. It may seem like a prize to see a lifeguard in action, but they still have a job to perform to make sure the victim gets home safe.
  5. Please, throw away your trash.
  6. The sand is not an ashtray.
  7. Be respectful of other people's space. Be conscious of where you may be throwing sand. Remember that wind can carry sand, so don't shake out your towel in the same direction of where people are sitting.
  8. Jetty's are cool, I won't lie and say I haven't climbed all over them. However, on a busy beach day lifeguards don't need to worry about someone slipping and falling. Please, stay off the rocks. They are covered in green algae that is slipper, occasionally are nests for sea lice, and unsteady.
  9. If you find yourself in need of assistance in the water, raise one arm in the air and wave in the direction of the closet lifeguard. However, I can guarantee by the time you realize you need help, the lifeguard has already hit the water.
  10. Lastly, have fun.


Created with images by Andre Hunter - "untitled image" • Prylarer - "landfill waste management waste" • Andrei Ciobanu - "untitled image" • Dustan Woodhouse - "untitled image" • LuizAntonio - "pollution teddy bear beach" • Emmad Mazhari - "untitled image" • Dana Cristea - "untitled image"

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