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September 5, 2017 > Spirit of environmental activism alive in Coastal Cleanup Day

Spirit of environmental activism alive in Coastal Cleanup Day

By Victor Carvellas

On September 16, participants in the global cleanup event ÒCoastal Cleanup DayÓ (CCD) will be doing more than joining more than 9 million others worldwide who pick up more than 140 million pounds of litter from the ocean, bay, lakes, rivers, shores and streams; theyÕll be engaging in the legacy of the environmental movement and helping to keep it alive.

In 1962, when Rachel Carson published her classic on the environment, ÒSilent Spring,Ó she was responding to the overuse of DDT, a strong pesticide developed during WWII. Popularly promoted as safe for animals and humans, DDT was ultimately judged responsible for widespread wildlife deaths, mainly birds. ÒSilent SpringÓ underscored the potential for future disasters inherent in the loosely regulated use of man-made chemicals in the environment. Carson posited that the Òbalance of natureÓ once upset by the misinformed efforts to force nature into submission would result in unforeseen and drastic consequences for the health of humans and wildlife alike. ÒSilent SpringÓ sold more than half a million copies in 24 countries, and is generally considered to be the shock that jolted the environmental movement into life.

Arguably due to CarsonÕs work, Congress passed the Clean Air Act in 1963, and the Wilderness Act in 1964. By 1969, raised awareness of the effect of human activity on the environment (and its attendant effect on humans and animals) formed a backdrop against which the massive oil spills in the Santa Barbara channel were sharply and terribly defined. The disaster inspired the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA), proposed in 1969 by Henry M. Jackson. The passing of the Clean Water Act followed in 1972.

The environmental issues brought to light by Carson and codified by federal law coincided with a period in American history where public demonstrations frequently engaged media attention. Civil rights and Anti-Vietnam War protests, for instance, ultimately sent a strong message to lawmakers, resulting in real changes to public policy: Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, though it would take until 1973 for President Nixon to pull U.S. troops out of Vietnam.

By the beginning of the 1970s the ÒenvironmentÓ as a unique cause had come into its own. What was lacking was a point of focus for the many groups whose common concern was the balance between Earth, its wild inhabitants, and humans.

Sensing a need for a constructive outlet to channel pent-up demand for environmental responsibility, Gaylord Nelson, Republican Senator from Wisconsin, in partnership with Pete McCloskey, another conservation-minded Republican senator, and Harvard professor Denis Hayes spearheaded the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. Both a celebration and call to participate, Earth Day saw 20 million people put aside political and social alignments for a day to recognize their common cause.

Perhaps the clearest message arising from the birth of the environmental movement was that it is, and must be, a grass roots phenomenon. Legislation alone is inadequate; without people to invest the hours and the sweat, the goals of environmentalism are just so many words.

Today, volunteerism is still key. From global organizations such as Greenpeace and Coastal Cleanup Day sponsor Ocean Conservancy, to statewide organizations such as the California Coastal Commission, to local municipal efforts and citizen groups like Friends of San Lorenzo Creek, volunteers fill the ranks and do the hard work of cleaning up, conserving, and restoring.

Coastal Cleanup Day provides a global opportunity for ecologically-oriented individuals to both honor the spirit of environmentalism and perform meaningful work. ÒWe have a core of volunteers that show up to our habitat restoration and other projects that we run around the year,Ó say Barbara Silva of Fremont Environmental Services, Òbut I feel that Coastal Cleanup Day offers a broader opportunity for individuals that want to volunteer.Ó

Amy Evans, Resource Conservationist for Alameda County, directs the cleanup in Castro Valley. For her, CCD is about partnership. ÒOne of the most important things we do,Ó says Evans, Òis partner with local groups; for instance, at our event in Castro valley we partner with friends of San Lorenzo Creek because they so effectively educate our community on the watershed, its needs and natural features, and how best to access it.Ó

There are three main activities on CCD: cleaning, counting, and learning.

While individuals, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, faith-based groups, clubs, and service organizations fill trash bags, monitors with pens and clipboards will tally the different debris types. These tallies are sent to organizations such as the California Coastal Commission and Ocean Conservancy. When local laws are enacted, like restricting the use of plastic bags or banning polystyrenes, for instance, the most direct method of measuring success is determining the occurrence of those items in the field.

With hands-on experience comes learning. People who participate in CCD not only change their own habits, but also tend to inform others about litterÕs effect on our waterways.

ÒTo me,Ó says Bruce King of Friends of San Lorenzo Creek, Òthe most important part of [CCD] is community education because the community is generating so much trash all the time; regardless of the number of cleanups we have, we never seem to keep up with the amount of trash the community generates and disburses. ItÕs really about getting people out and getting them aware of how much litter is out there and that they can do something about it. They can get out in the community and be advocates.Ó

All CCD events are September 16. Most require registration and liability waivers. Bring buckets or trash bags. Dress in layers and wear gloves, a hat, and sturdy closed-toe shoes. Bring a refillable water bottle. Sunscreen is recommended. Age limits for children may apply.

9:00 a.m. Ð noon
Site A: Near 38679 Hastings St
Site B: Lee St and Almond Ave
Site C: Central Park near 40600 Paseo Padre Pkwy
Site E: Delaware Dr and Sumter Ave Ð both sides of culvert
Site F: Blacow near Fremont
Site G: Blacow and Grimmer
More information (including where to park) and registration:

Castro Valley:
9:00 a.m. Ð noon
Castro Valley Creek Trail at Castro Valley Library
3600 Norbridge Ave
Register by Sep 14 by e-mail:

8:30 a.m. Ð noon
Hayward Shoreline
West Winton Avenue Staging Area

San Leandro:
8:00 a.m. Ð noon
Site 1: End of Monarch Bay Drive (near Marina Park bridge)
Site 2: Bay Front Drive (at Shoreline entrance). NOTE: Bay Front is a drop off location with very limited parking.
More information and registration: Delmarie Snodgrass at (510) 577-3490 or

To see all listings for Alameda County, visit

For Milpitas and Santa Clara County events, visit

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