Thursday, July 12, 2007

Live Earthlings: Part One

"The Last Easy Moments"
I never want my son to think that sitting on your butt listening to PolitEcol music concerts is environmentalism. Feel good fluff has it's place (I guess), but don't confuse it with improving the environment.
Change your lifestyle, volunteer at a park,plant some trees, pull some exotic plants, chunk your incandescents, car pool, ... DO SOMETHING.
The thing about actually DOING SOMETHING is it provides a sense of accomplishment and "buy in". This "buy in" is a powerfully positive thing. When I was a National Park Service Ranger, I noticed that my crew of park volunteers soon came to think of the park as "their" park. They became it's constantly vigilant protectors and gave me a whole new set of eyes to monitor and maintain the park. They were full of ideas and energy and were always willing to chip in time and sweat to improve the park.
I also believe that shared hardship builds teamwork and a sense of accomplishment, so picking the Waccasassa River as a river cleanup target for Jr. and his buddy Jonathon was an easy decision.
On an earlier trip a few weeks ago, I noticed that the Waca could use a little sprucing up. The drought lowered,clear water revealed tires, cans, and bottles on the sandy bottom. Along the shore was fishermen debris like earthworm bait containers, fishing line, and soda bottles.
There was also this ...
In Florida, to be eligible for the state scholarships, a graduate must have both the grades and 75 hours of community service time, so this seemed like a good way to add a few hours to the boys service records.
I knew they'd work. They're good boys, but I wanted them to have fun also. This is so important when you are introducing youngsters to any outdoor activity. If you want the lifelong outdoorslove bug to bite, you have to make the activity a good mix of fun and work.
Not a problem ...

He didn't fall in ... that time.
I was in the lead canoe loaded with a small ice chest of water, fruit, and fried chicken while the boys teamed up in the second canoe. I took the point while they went from bank to bank grabbing trash. I grabbed some too, but my main role was to point out things of interest like:
"Hey, I just passed over a beer can, get it when you come this way."
"Up on the bank, there's some bait containers."
"Gatorade bottle at two o'clock"
"Hey, want to see what quicksand feels like?"

"Mud boggin' trash busters"
After a while, I realized that they were spotting trash in really hard to reach places and doing whatever it took to collect it, so I backed off on the directional trash spotting. They had bought in to the challenge.

"The eye of the needle"
The portages were coming fast and furious as we pushed on farther downstream. The brown water in the above picture is from our tromping through this shallow logstrewn section. A few minutes later the current had swept the mud away and the water ran clear again.
It's important to understand that the "litter" we were cleaning up really posed very little direct threat to the environment. At the end of the day, there would be a few items (I'll show you tomorrow!) that were actual pollutants, but litter is mostly an esthetic problem. The beer bottles on the bottom actually provided habitat for a number of crawfish and badtempered madtom catfish as evidenced by their constantly plopping out of the litter stash and into the canoe bottoms.
The real threat posed by litter, is the invitation it presents to dumpers who would toss more serious things than bait containers and beer bottles into the river.
The hours were slipping by as we paddled, picked trash, and climbed over logs. The knuckleheads showed no signs of flagging interest or energy, but I sensed it might be time for some cool fun, so I stopped our little expedition in clear, shallow, sandy and gator-free stretch of the river.
Time for a break.
Tomorrow: Attack of the "water bear" and our "haul"
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Anonymous said...

Oh, inDEED. I've three Brazilian pepper trees that are begging to be uprooted. Where the hell did they come from? It was like one day they weren't there, the next day they were. It'll be a dicey operation, since they are situated in the midst of a nice mixture of poison ivy and Virginia creeper, lantana, ferns, and etc

Doing something feels good. Really, really good.

We are in the midst of more sod removal. It's unbelievably hot and dirty work, as renting a "sod cutter" won't do the trick. We don't actually have much "sod" for our "grass". It's mostly little scrubby weeds that have taken over the "lawn" - as you know. Some of those weeds are very well adapted to the feast-famine hydroperiods of SW Florida and have taproots that you wouldn't believe. Just cutting those roots would let the plants grow back easily.

Of course, all of the "lawn" that gets removed is replaced by Florida friendly plants like our propagated firebushes, porterweeds, pentas, you-name-it.

At the end of a tiring day, it all feels good.

I only WISH the wife and I could carpool, but that isn't an option right now. Besides being a nice thing to do for the reasons you elucidate, we'd also have an extra hour or so per day to talk and stuff.

Leslie said...

Is that "Live Earthlings" with a short i as in the verb "to live" or with a long i as in "not deceased"?

I think it's great that Florida includes community service as part of state scholarship requirements! What an awesome idea.

That mud looks eewy.

Doug Taron said...

FC continues amassing great dad points at a brisk clip. I totally agrre with what you said about the link between doing something and feeling a sense of buy-in and ownership of place. I've seen a lot of that in both myself and the other volunteer stewards doing ecological restoration here in the Chicago area.

I do wonder about your statement that few of the items that you collected representing direct threats to the environment. Sure they may not be chemical pollutants, but a lot of "innocuous" litter can be pretty harmful to wildlife. Fishing line comes to mind, as do plastic six-pack rings.

Sharon said...

What a great way to get service hours! Mine got some working downtown at the homeless mission, I bet they would like your idea much better :)

rcwbiologist said...

That looks like a great outing. I love the thumbs up "quicksand" picture.

pablo said...

When my kids were little, we would always walk a mile or so to the local convenience store on Sunday mornings to pick up the paper. Along the way we would pick up trash on the road and be sure to separate recyclables from true trash.

Now, so many years later, they still talk about those Sunday mornings and how formative they think those hikes must have been.

Scott aka Florida Native Musings said...

Bravo FC. I bet most of the array of human debris at Live Earth would not go out and do that. They would purchase a Carbon Offset at the nearest Starbucks and feel "good" about themselves instead of actually cleaning up. Few years ago I was the Prez of a Local Charity Organization and we sponsored a road where we cleaned up about a mile or two. It's a good feeling when your done and its clean. And your right, I owned that Highway and kept a close eye for it since it was my Butt out there every weekend cleaning it up.

Yours in the Bond.

ArtfulSub said...

Water bears are tough Survivalists indeed. Did you wake them from hybernation?

Floridacracker said...

Well hey, welcome!
You sound like you have your work cut out for you. Brazilian Pepper is such an insidious beast.
We have a little out at Cedar Key, but the winters keep it in check and there are volunteers who pull it sometimes. That's the buy in I was talking about.
I don't feel we do a good job of car pooling, but this year may be better due to the girls living (sob) at their respective schools.
sigh ...

Long I.
I agree on the community service hours. It's a big chunk of time when you think about it, for kids I mean.

Oh fishing line is deadly, I agree. Funny, we didn't find the first 6pack ringset.
My comment referred to glass bottles and aluminum cans which are pretty inert environmentally. They were the bulk of our haul.
They are hazards to bare human feet though.

They earned 4 hours which I will need to sign for as verification. Jr is also reading to younger kids at a local "Reading Camp" at the elementary school.
That's great your kids volunteer at the homeless shelter.

They liked the way it pulled back when they tried to step out of it.

It seems to me that you and Libby did a fine job raising your kids. If we could only bottle "good parenting skills".
I work with too many kids who are raising themselves because the parents are self-absorbed and uninvolved with their children.
Don't get me started!

The cleaning of a roadside on a Saturday by volunteers not only cleans the road, but it sets an example that hopefully makes the drivers whizzing by think a little about what they can DO.

This "water bear" will turn out to be a bit tongue in cheek and not a tiny bit of zooplankton.

OldHorsetailSnake said...

You're a genius, Cracker. If every family did this...well, you can imagine. Congratulations to you and the boys.

robin andrea said...

What a great outing, FC. You are so right about buy-in when the kids participate like this. There is a sense of ownership and stewardship.

I'm glad you mentioned that bottles do present a problem to human feet. I will always remember the very fist time I jumped into the Pacific Ocean. I landed on large piece of broken glass, severed a vein, and had to walk on crutches for the rest of the summer.

SophieMae said...

Super job training them up, FC! Looks like great of fun/work.

Re the fish from the other day, I reckon I shouldn't assume you can 'see' the picture in my mind. LOL! Other than the red tails, they looked pretty much like the young bream. At least I think those were bream. Hmmmm....

And YES, I DO need an underwater camera! I'll add that to my ever-growing list. 8-}

Floridacracker said...

What's neat is that there really are alot of hometown eco efforts happening out there.
In this case, all I did was plant the idea ... the kids did the work.

Ouch! You poor thing. I have a heel scar (stitches!) from a piece of glass in Pellicier Creek back home when I was a little kid.
I can relate.

Thanks, like Robin said, I'm hoping that these guys left with a sense of stewardship and fatigue!

FWC at MyFlorida has a FW fish guide that might help. My Fish Info link to the right might help too.

Hurricane Teen said...

Wow, I never thought that I could log service hours for going out in the swamp! If only I had a nickel for every beer can I have hauled out of the swamp (well, in Maine, I would!) I might have to look into that as a way for extra service hours. I'm looking forward to the next post!

Floridacracker said...

You'll need an adult to sign whatever form St. Johns County uses as verification for your time. Here, a simple letter stating the activity and the hours worked will do as long as it is signed by a "responsible" adult.
We turn them in to our guidance counselor who logs it.
Your work at that camp may qualify if it wasn't paid.

Even your reenacting may work if it's part of a public event.

threecollie said...

You are good know that....

Cathy S. said...

So, how did you haul the tires out?

Floridacracker said...

I haven't always been so, but they have.

Cathy S,
Okay, if the truth be told I get credit for the tire. I had polarized sunglasses on and spotted it whereas they could not see it in the depths.
They had gone on ahead so I got to wrestle it from the river mud, slosh the detritus from inside it, and wrangle it into the canoe.