The State of Our Beaches

With summer in full swing, who doesn’t want to spend time at the beach?
But when we arrive, we all expect a certain level of cleanliness, but is this a good thing?

(Transcript of Lawrence Gunther’s bi-weekly 12-minute segment on Live from Studio 5 broadcast over AMI TV and Audio across Canada)

Q. Welcome back Lawrence, no one wants to visit a dirty beach, so what’s the problem?

A. I agree, but there are two areas of what we consider unacceptable. There’s the human waste left behind by previous visitors, or things that wash ashore. And then there are naturally occurring things that many of us also don’t want to be seeing, smelling or stepping in.

Q. Just how big of an issue is beach unsightliness, and is it an issue we need to work harder at managing?

A. Yes, we need to stop leaving garbage on the beach, first off. From dirty diapers to plastic water bottle lids – it’s all being left behind on public beaches for cleaning crews to pick up. The amount of waste and plastic removed from public beaches is absolutely extraordinary.
A. And then there is the plastic that washes up on beaches. We know there is a patch of plastic floating in the middle of the Pacific that is twice the size of Texas, and we are finding it on even the most remote islands and coastlines around the world.
A. However, maybe making the problem disappear each morning before the next horde of beach-goers arrives isn’t the right approach.

Q. If the beaches weren’t kept clean then people would stop going, and no one wants that, so what’s the alternative?

A. We should place the responsibility on beach goers not to bring plastic on to the beach in the first place, and to ticket those who leave behind messes.
A. By picking up after everyone people just aren’t learning that it’s up to us all to prevent garbage and plastic from entering the environment in the first place.

Q. And what about things like dead seaweed and other things that wash up on beaches that aren’t man-made – who’s going to clean this up?

A. This brings me to my next point, which is seaweed and other naturally occurring matter that collect along beaches and shores, and which make up an important component of our Eco-systems.
A. We need to stop treating beaches as if they were swimming pools and allow them to resume their natural rhythms.
A. By allowing nature to complete the circle of life, people will gain a greater understanding and respect for the way nature works.

Q. It sounds like you’re proposing a significant paradigm shift in how we envisage our beaches.

A. Yes, allow them to be natural, and educate people on how we can all play a role in ensuring that our beaches reflect our commitment to environmental stewardship.
A. In short, learn to live with nature, instead of always trying to mold it into something we think is more acceptable like a huge manicured playground that pushes nature back.
A. We need to stop fighting with nature.