Dispatches from the field - Intern Jessica reports back

Coastkeeper is lucky to be home to some seriously wonderful interns. They are busy, active individuals, and are often on the forefront of much of the work we do in the community. Every once in a while, we manage to pin them down long enough for them to share some thoughts from the inside.

San Diego County is lucky in many respects. We are home to a long, rugged coastline, beautiful beaches, and ample sunshine. We use our beaches and parks as gathering places – we bring our kids and dogs and friends out to enjoy all that this region has to offer. We are also lucky here because, in large part, our community is one that cares about the health of our ocean.

As San Diego Coastkeeper beach cleanup intern, it continually amazes me how many San Diegans are willing to come out in droves on a Saturday morning to pick up trash for two hours along the coastline that we love. This act of service is a statement of care. We know we take more from the environment than we give back, and we make the time to do what we can anyway. I am often surprised at how busy I am at my internship. When I started, I was certainly not expecting such a continual stream of community members interested in cleaning beaches on their free time. Part of the reason I love my internship is because it restores my faith in the inherent goodness of the world on the days I wake up low on gratitude.

Last year, Coastkeeper and Surfrider volunteers removed over 9,500 pounds of trash from our beaches. Some of that trash was littered – either intentionally or unintentionally – on the beach itself. But much of it also came from our city’s streets and sidewalks. Debris from our city washes down our storm drains with every rainfall and heads out to sea. Collecting trash along the beach, before it gets into the ocean, is our last line of defense in preventing the ocean from taking on yet more marine debris.

One thing we are keeping our eye on this year is how rain has played a role in the amount of debris moving through our waterways and onto our beaches. The El Nino of two winters ago may have never materialized, but this past winter’s wet weather – coming on the heels of multi-year drought conditions – may yield interesting results for 2017’s end of year cleanup numbers. (Anecdotally, we saw quite a spike in pounds of trash gathered at cleanups early in this year. At one January cleanup at Fiesta Island, volunteers collected over 1,300 pound of trash in just under two hours.) Heavy rains, especially after long periods of dry weather, move a lot of built up debris and pollutants through our city. We are just glad we have incredible volunteers out there catching what they can of it before the ocean does.

It sometimes feels overwhelming and inconvenient to be aware of the problems in the world. It can make us feel small and ill-equipped. It is such a heartening experience to spend time around people doing their best to make a difference in the midst of their lives that already ask so much of them. It feels good to be a constructive part of a community and it makes us happy to care for the earth that can’t always defend itself. I am continually amazed by how many people choose to share their Saturday mornings with us. San Diegans love their city, their beaches, their coastline. The best part of all if it may be the gratitude each cleanup generates. Beachgoers thank volunteers for being out there, volunteers thank us for showing up with the supplies, and at Coastkeeper, we could not be more grateful to know we can count on our community to show up to do something that really, no one should like doing: picking up trash.