Sunday, April 30, 2017

Trash in the Los Angeles River: Water We Doing Wrong?

As the great philosopher of this generation, Katy Perry, once inquired, "Do you ever feel / like a plastic bag / drifting through the wind / wanting to start again?" After pondering this philosophical question, if you feel like you agree, you may not want to go near the Los Angeles River. There's already too many plastic bags there already.

Going into the FOLAR event, I didn't exactly know what to expect-- but it definitely was not what I saw. I've been to a clean-up before, but it was not nearly as littered with trash as the LA River was last Saturday. Of course there was the typical litter everywhere: chip bags, bottle caps, scraps of paper all around the dirt and rocks. Even weird items that would actually make you laugh when you find them were scattered around, like a full-sized rug or a Scooby-Doo toy. But don't get me wrong, the filth was absolutely disgusting; at some point I even found a used (albeit washed by the river, at least) condom among the rocks. Fun.

Pollution in the River was so bad that the waste became intertwined with the nature. Countless strands of police tape, ripped clothes, and plastic bags twisting around the branches of the foliage, dancing with the wind, pretending they were leaves themselves. At one point I found a shopping cart joined almost symbiotically with a bush such that not only the branches, but also the actual roots of the bush grew in and out of the gaps of the cart, making it impossible to remove it without hurting the plant.

The River was so heavily polluted that after the event was over, I completely changed how I viewed plastic bags. Growing up, we always saved plastic bags to reuse them, and I thought this act in and of itself was just fine. However, after this event, I've come to learn that I absolutely despise plastic bags. Attempting to pick up a half-buried-in-the-sand plastic bag is an absolutely fruitless effort. Once you grab a piece, the bag will tear, giving you only a fraction of what you originally planned to pick up. Now, after this event, I refuse to use a plastic bag whenever avoidable.

As much as I wish I could tell you that the FOLAR event reversed the state of the LA River and give you a handshake or a high-five-- and trust me, I do wish this were the case-- it would simply be dishonest. Even though the River is still trash-ridden after the event, I'm glad that I had the opportunity to participate in cleaning it up. I realize now, how much I take this aspect of my life for granted. Every piece of plastic I throw away. Every recyclable I toss in the trash rather than the recycle bin. I don't take the time to consider where my trash goes or what effects it has. I wish I could single-handedly fix this pollution issue. And in a sense I can... Sort of. After being a part of the FOLAR event, I'm working on how to fix the way I treat my trash-disposal, and plan to volunteer again in the future. Given how many people I saw giving their time and effort into cleaning up a river that many Los Angeles citizens don't know exists makes me a lot more hopeful that through effort and dedication, this issue is one that will be given the attention it deserves and be changed for the better.

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