We have had three days of decent weather and so have been to the beach all three days this holiday weekend. In fact, the weather was so nice on Saturday and Sunday that we were not able to find parking at our regular beach and had to go to Venice Beach proper on Saturday and Santa Monica Beach on Sunday. Today, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, we were finally able to find parking at our regular beach again today. It turned out to be something of a mixed blessing.
For some reason. there was a lot of garbage today at the beach. Oodles of plastic bottles, broken styrofoam detritus, plastic wrappers and packaging of all sorts punctuated by an occasional Happy Birthday baloon or its Latino equivalent. (The balloons absolutely enrage me, as they have this ribbon attached to them that I know cannot be good for any sea life.) Alma and I think that most of this garbage came from the recent storm run-offs we have had. For some reason, the Pacific Ocean chose today to vomit this garbage back onto the beaches in a thin, but continuous, line that stretched from the Washington Boulevard Pier almost to the Villa Marina jetty. In fact, there were two lines of garbage, one down at the low tide mark and another at the high water mark. The picture below gives some idea of what we saw. But neither photo nor words can do justice to how horrible the garbage on the beach was.
Now I am not an environmentalist per se, although I am deeply sympathetic to many of the goals of the environmentalist movement and share many of its ideals. Alma is more the pure environmentalist in our family. As those who read this blog regularly know, I tend to focus more on bread-and-butter economic issues and issues of militarism and foreign affairs. However, my affinity for Thoreau and his naturalist tendencies and my admiration for his stances against the militarism and imperialism of his day and against the abomination of slavery make today especially noteworthy.
Because it just so happens that Martin Luther King studied Thoreau's ideas in detail in order to refine his own ideas about non-violence and civil disobedience. (Mahatma Gandhi, another important practitioner of non-violent civil disobedience in the 20th Century, also studied Thoreau in detail.) I do not know enough of King's biography to know whether he ever saw the Pacific Ocean and our little stretch of beach along its coastline. (The Villa Marina jetty was finished in 1957 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.) But today, as the sun was setting in a cloudless sky, I found myself hoping that he and Coretta had seen the Pacific so that he had a chance to experience the magesty of creation for himself without the baggage of being a civil rights leader weighing him down for a few moments.
Alma raged against the polluters whose carelessness turns our beaches into cesspools. But it was not all raging, gnashing of teeth and rending of garments. Between the two of us, Alma and I picked up about three plastic grocery bags' worth of garbage and walked it to the distant garbage cans. But we really only scratched the surface today. There was just too much garbage for two well-meaning but middle-aged people to police up properly. And we were the only two people I saw who were picking up anything, although we did get expressions of verbal support from a couple passers by. Most of the people at the beach today were, as usual, studiously indifferent.
And I am trying to think of what Martin Luther King or Thoreau might have done had either man witnessed the travesty and felt the same moral outrage start to churn in the pit of the stomach. As Alma put it in a message she sent to her Facebook friends, "What did a dolphin ever do to deserve swimming around in this?"