By Mary O’KEEFE
On Sunday local business the Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization partnered with Solar City and organized a beach clean up day at Dockweiler Beach in Playa del Rey.
“Recently we launched our oceans campaign,” said Diane Wagenbrenner, senior vice president of Operations of Earth Organization.
The organization, which recently opened an office in Montrose, works with other environmental groups to “create a healthy habitable planet on which all life flourishes and prospers, and of which we can be proud,” according to its website.
One of those partners for its ocean focus environmental program is Ivan Macfadyen, a yachtsman who shared his story of his 2013 sailing adventure with the Newcastle Herald titled, “The Ocean is Broken.” His trip from Melbourne to Japan was a surprising look into how polluted the ocean has become. He described the lack of fish due to overfishing by large fish canning factory ships that empty the ocean of sea life and discard the corpses of dead fish they do not need. He also detailed the amount of plastics that were found everywhere, including old fishing nets.
Plastic was what several of those who cleaned the beach found on Sunday morning. The group of about 20 filled over 30 bags of plastics, broken bottles and other pollutants.
As beach-goers sat under their umbrellas, volunteers wearing rubber gloves picked up old socks, flip-flops, plastic containers from every type of food and even medical marijuana.
“There was an unbelievable amount of trash. You could find anything there,” said Brandon Budwig, a junior at Crescenta Valley High School and member of Prom Plus Club. “I was shocked about that. I was also surprised about how many Prom Plus [members] came to help.”
Members of the CVHS Prom Plus Club were among the volunteers. The club will be working with the environmental organization on future projects as well.
“Working with Earth Organization was a lot of fun as well as an eye opener. It was sad to see how much trash is actually left on the beaches and how only a small portion of people care to clean it up,” said Jessy Shelton, CVHS junior and president of Prom Plus Club. “[Earth Organization] is a great organization to be part of and I can’t wait to work with them on more projects.”
Wagenbrenner said a beach clean up day is a great way to start with volunteering. It is a way to get volunteers exposed to the environmental cause, build teamwork and create a cooperative atmosphere.
“It is an activity that everyone can participate in, “ she said.
Wagenbrenner too was amazed at the number of items found within about an hour of cleaning. She found shoes and an “amazing amount” of plastic tops like those off water bottles.
“One of the things that was most surprising was how much stuff there was, how much stuff people leave behind,” she said. “I was worried about the very small plastics and the little ties that you find on bread. Those were very sharp and could [hurt] an animal eating it.”
She added that cleaning the beach is part of the organization’s earth focus but they are also working with scientists around the world with research to codify specific solutions for hydrocarbon-based pollution to clean up water.
Wagenbrenner said she feels one of the pollutants that most threatens the oceans are hydrocarbon-based pollutants, like what occurs during oil spills.
The organization is also working with scientists to see how to measure and clean these types of pollutants.
She spoke of the Santa Barbara oil spill that occurred in May 2015. The spill was reportedly caused after a pipeline ruptured and leaked an estimated 100,000 gallons into the ocean.
She said the organization is working with elected officials, scientists, community leaders, fisheries and the Coast Guard regarding the decision-making process used in dealing with chemical spills.
“This stuff seeps into the ground water,” she said, adding that water is precious and with the drought California needs every drop of water now.
The organization has begun a GoFundMe page to help fund its earth focus. To help and support, go to www.gofundme.com/3k2agqbss.