Beach Cleaning at Lazarus Island
Ever since I last visited Lazarus Island, and witnessed the tons of trash on the beach, I knew that I needed to do something about it. On 25th July 2020, I organised a beach cleaning group (5 of us) to participate in our very first beach cleaning at Lazarus Island.
Click on my previous post to learn how to travel to St. John Island. Lazarus Island is located 1km walking distance from St.John Island jetty.
• A group of us 5 heading to Lazarus Island for beach cleaning
3 days prior, I was constantly checking the weather forecast and hoped for sunny weather. According to the forecast, Saturday will be "blessed" with a thunderstorm, rain and sun, all on the same day. The only thing we could prepare was to waterproof all of our belongings and be fully prepared for come what may.
It was a very beautiful Saturday morning, and the moment we reached Lazarus Island, with our fully equipped gloves and 45-litre trash bags (and compassion vibe), we began our beach cleaning ritual. Our plan goes like this: cleaning for 1 hour, pick up as much trash as we can carry back to St John Island (1km away from Lazarus island cos Lazarus Island is a "no bin" island), enjoy breakfast and continue if we could handle more trash pickings.
The moment we reached Lazarus Island (where we want to perform our clean-up), we noticed an endless trail of visible trash on the beach. And guess what? There were more being washed up continuously by the incoming waves (feeling demoralized already), as we stared, froze and felt dizzy. The massive amount of trash (and we are just talking about just the ones on the surface on the sand), in my personal opinion, will require at least 15-20 people to clean (8 hours per day) for a week, in order to fully clean up the beach, provided there were no further trash being washed up by the tides.
• Time to turn some frustration into positive change (action)☺
Feeling sad and disappointed with our own human behaviour will not change anything. Action is the only we can do (probably also the easiest way) to slowly improve the current unsightly environment. Without instructions or pre-planning, we instinctively started cleaning up at different locations of the sandy beach, complimentary positions/ levels without any prior discussions (how cool is that! laughs). Refer to the illustration below for the exact position of each one of us on the beach.
I was cleaning at the sand level which was nearest to the sea, which I noticed many disposable cups at the surface of the sand, all wet and stuffed with sand. The last thing that I want is sand in my trash bag, as they rightfully belong to the sea, and should not be weighing me down on my return leg to St John Island. Emptying wet sand from the cups with the help of seawater was the only way I could think of, in order to fully dislodge the wet sand from the cups and to lighten my trash load (killing two birds with one stone!), but at the cost of time. (this was definitely taking more time and effort, just to remove trash from the beach, arrrhgggghhhh~)
• Emptying wet sand inside these disposable food wrappers
While removing these heavily-weighted-with-sand-disposal-cup-and-wrappers, I noticed there were even more trash underneath the layer of sand. If I could x-ray this beach, it might just look like this:
Anything that is thrown into the sea will sink under the layer of sand, like what you see in the illustration above 👆.
After 1 hour of beach cleaning, what are the types of trash that we collected and how many trash bags were filled (45 litres each) in total?
"I personally collected plenty of plastic disposable cups, food packaging wraps, nylon fishing threads, sanitary pad, plastic bags in all sizes, straws, mineral water bottle plastic labels."
"I have 1 and a half bag in total."
"I have 1 bag, mainly food packagings, large styrofoam boxes, lighters, slippers etc."
"I picked up mainly 1.5 / 2-litre mineral water PET bottles. So many of them! I have 2 full bags, after flattening the plastic bottles."
"I got 2 jerry can, styrofoam boxes/ pieces from those big boxes, 500ml/ 1.5L PET bottles, mineral water disposable cups, plastic bag, food packaging bag (shiny on the inside), styrofoam pieces from food packet, random bits. In order of decreasing volume. Total 1.5 bags (minus the jerry cans)."
"I have 0.5 bags... mostly polyester, the bottle caps, bottle, rope, fishing string."
These 2 illustrations below will give you a better visual of what we've collected and the type of trash we've collected as a group.
After 1 hour, when we were about to gather all the trash and bring them back to St. John Island, we saw "hope" from afar, inching towards our direction. 2 foreigner workers driving a cart was on their way to trim grasses. And lucky us, they kindly stopped by and offered to transport all our collected trash to St. John Island!!
We quickly tied and secured our trash bags and asked for a group photo before they left. They shyly rejected till all members of the group begged them to move into the photo frame.
• A memorable moment with our foreign worker friends
After our "angels" left, a man came cycling towards our direction, 5 minutes later, on the sandy beach (which was not easy) with a plastic bag in his hand. He shared that his workers told him about us helping to clean-up the beach and he wanted to offer us some food in return for our effort (what!?). Inside the plastic bag, he had 2 big packs of biscuits and cans of 100-plus drinks. What shall we do? We all had this thought in our minds. We had brought enough food for our own breakfast. He persisted for us to accept his kindness, but it was hard to accept what we already had plenty.
Then, I recalled a casual conversation with my friend, Kelly. She shared with me the idea of a Buddhism offering, with the monk (the receiver) going door to door, requesting food offerings - a practice to surrender their ego and learn to accept the unknown wholeheartedly. Simultaneously by asking for offerings from strangers, a giver is created (by choice). You can only become a giver when you are presented with the opportunity to give. Don't we feel awesome when we are able to give? This particular story somehow embedded deeply into my mind 这个故事我听到心坎里。
As soon as that memory flashes past me, I took the 100-plus from the bicycle uncle with much gratitude. Each of us took one can of 100-plus and the uncle took back the biscuits with a "giver" smile on his face☺. To every one of us who has taken part in this beach cleaning, receiving unexpected kindness, one after another, was such a "double kindness day".
Later that morning, we managed to find a spot and sat down for a nice (pot luck) homemade meal before the thunderstorm arrived. And it rained throughout the remaining part of the day.
Here's some inner thoughts about this event:
When we sat down for our meal and talked about our experience, we found it very heartwarming to receive human kindness from strangers. In my mind, I started to wonder, if what we did (beach cleaning) could actually touch someone's heart. What will happen if many of us are willing to do something for nature without asking for anything in return? Will this world become a more beautiful place because of this beautiful ripple effect?
In the human world, we earn $$ by solving other people's problems. If you are solving a billion-dollar problem, you get paid with a billion dollars. It's all about a man-made transactional game. Things are somewhat different when you are solving the problem for nature - when nature becomes your boss you gain no $$ in return (probably that's the reason why humans are not actively involved in this, cos the reality is, nobody wants to starve because of their love for nature). The ultimate conflict is, nature is the one which is nurturing us with the most crucial survival element to stay alive - oxygen (and asking nothing in return). Perhaps, that's one of the reasons why I am involved in beach cleaning (mainly for a very selfish human reason - to have more clean air to breathe), I wish not in the years to come, for the need to purchase oxygen to keep myself alive.
Have you ever questioned: where our oxygen comes from?
According to research, 50%-85% of our oxygen come from the ocean (yes the place which is highly polluted by us humans) and only a smaller amount are produced by forests (the place we chop off trees and make into tissue paper, toilet paper and many more...).
Our breath did not come with us when we were born, our breath was given by nature (have we ever realised this fact?) Isn't it ironic that when humans aim for a "hyperfast" pace in modern society (as our ultimate goal), which will eventually take our "breath" away?
In the next post, I will discuss how (current) human behaviour is destroying our "breath" unknowingly (and every one of us is a culprit). Let's bring all these "unconscious behaviours" to light and see how we can find a solution to save our home - Mother Earth.
Thank you for reading this far. You can never underestimate the rippling effect which will eventually touch so many souls without your knowing. On the same day of our beach cleaning, Karen, my nature guide friend, went for an intertidal walk on the same day. She texted me and informed me that she saw a group of Indian ladies doing beach cleaning on St. John Island (which I highly suspected that they performed this activity after reading this Instagram post in Green Nudge). I can't thank them enough with sharing my thoughts and photos on their social media platform.
Do share this post with your friends if you think this simple act of beach cleaning will make our home (this world) a cleaner and better place.
For a better us and a cleaner home,