A Time for Stewardship

By Matt Thomson

Consider this a “call to action”. The snow has melted and like every year, we’re looking at the accumulation of trash scattered along our roadsides, public spaces and even trash that has washed ashore. It’s no secret. It’s easy to spot litter everywhere we go. What do you do? It’s easy to travel past it while pretending you didn’t notice it. Or maybe you’re thinking that you don’t need to worry about it because it doesn’t affect you. Or perhaps you have a little wishful thinking in believing that someone will pitch in and take care of the problem. It’s likely the latter that first comes to mind. And there lies the problem in that a little too much wishful thinking, collectively, leads to nothing being done about the situation. Let’s not procrastinate any longer. Grab your gloves! An hour or two each time, like on a weekend morning, can make a huge difference in cleaning up the places we enjoy most across our communities. It’s a small chore and one that is more fun because you’re outdoors getting fresh air, not doing dishes, not doing laundry or sweeping the floors at home. 

It’s important for everyone to show good stewardship of the land we occupy. We are the caretakers and it is our responsibility to carry that forward to future generations. Yes, it’s a team effort. So why are we polluting so much? There’s a constant reminder being discussed year after year telling us to cut greenhouse gas emissions, eliminate plastic bags or eliminate single-use plastics, and so on. It’s a constant nag but it’s critical to pay attention to these alarm bells ringing loudly in front of us. The fact we saw just the hottest year on record, forest fires breaking out on nearly every continent earlier each year, warmer oceans bleaching the coral life are a few well-known examples. We have nowhere else to escape to if we destroy our very own survival on this Earth. After all, we haven’t made it to Mars yet!

Microplastics have become a growing concern because it’s now found in every deep and dark corner of this planet. It’s not just a problem in the oceans. This plastic debris, which are less than five millimeters in size, are ending up in freshwater lakes and other watersheds but also the soil around us. Most of it we can’t see as easily. It’s affecting all wildlife. The fish & birds are mistaking it for food while we do our best in trying to filter these out from our food. We’ve seen those horrible & heartbreaking images online of animals in distress. Harmful microplastics aren’t going away. By no means it is similar to a decomposing banana peel. They take a very long time to break down, if at all. The scientific community is working “around the clock” to help us but we need to help them as well. 

In the end, let us clean up the mess we are making upon ourselves. I promise you it will feel great. Continue to practice those three R’s we all know; reduce, reuse, recycle. Reduce the wasteful items that we can’t reuse and are most harmful to us and our ecosystems. Reuse what we can by repurposing or repairing the things we value most. And of course, if we can’t reuse it then it needs to be recycled responsibly and so that those materials can have the opportunity to be made into something new. The blue bin is bigger than the others for that very reason.  

Matt Thomson is a local conservationist based in Severn and enjoys engaging the community through citizen science events & activities. You can find him on Instagram or Facebook, @ardtreanature.