Monday, February 19, 2007

Waste on Tinian

Tinian Sunset

Tinian Snorkel

Tinian Sea Urchin

This past weekend, I went to Tinian to conduct some marine biology labs with the NMC students who are taking Marine Biology 103 on-line. We did some snorkeling to identify various sea creatures and we did a beach clean up as part of their special project for the course. The students initially chose to create a community education project to increase recycling on Tinian in the hopes that this would reduce waste on the beaches. As we did our cleanup they quickly realized that recyclable objects were not making up the bulk of the litter. Their bags were quickly filled with styrofoam plates, plastic utensils, food wrappers, diapers and styrofoam containers. None of the items in the bags can be recycled. We had a long discussion about what they could do to reduce the litter on the beach. Now the students need to figure out how to change the behavior of people bbqing on the beach.

The college set up recycling bins at the Pepper Festival and collected a lot of cans. Someone stole the cans in the middle of the night. Cans were conspicuously absent from the beach as well. We also found large, tangled bundles of wire insultion. The copper wire had been stripped, most likely illegally.

We had one other lesson in the negative impact of humans on the environment. While snorkeling and bbqing at El Sereno Beach, Doug stepped in human waste. Someone, most likely too drunk and lazy to walk away from the palapalas and beach, took a dump right next to where we were grilling our food. Now I learned to squat in the bushes when I was a kid and I don't know about people here, but I was taught to go away from where others would be hanging out and eating and I was taught to bury it and not go within 200 feet of water. People shitting in a picnic area near a beach is part of the same problem that leads an individual to dump all of their household waste in the bushes next to an elementary school, or someone to dump used motor oil on the ground, or someone to just toss their cigarette butt onto the ground or students in my 8th grade class to spit betel nut into my classroom sinks.

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