Friday, March 9, 2012

Our Daily Ocean: Day 123

Yesterday afternoon, I packed up the back of my car with a year and a half's work at Wrightsville Beach.  122 non-consecutive days of cleaning up my local beach and documenting the cigarette litter problem filled the back of my car with 40,827 cigarette butts.
I headed out to the beach to do a couple of interviews and a beach cleanup before the Wrightsville Beach public hearing on the proposed smoke-free beach ordinance.  I had a chance to share what we've done at Wrightsville Beach and why a smoking ban on the beach strand is important.  

  Check out the video here: WWAY: Woman Picks Up More Than 40,000 butts 

Once I finished with the interviews, I did a quick 20 minute beach clean up.  As usual, I picked up everything I found.  I originally had plans of counting what I picked up at the beach before the public hearing... but decided that having picked up nearly 41,000 was sufficient to show how bad the problem really is.  I went to the public hearing full of hope and optimism with my family and a community of supporters wearing blue.
The hearing was absolutely AMAZING.  Seeing the community come together was so inspiring and I'm so grateful to be a part of it.  During the hearing there were so many people that spoke out in support of a Smoke-Free WB... so many people that there wasn't enough allotted time for everyone to speak!!  We came prepared with facts and research to back up what we were asking the WB Board of Alderman to support.  I even offered this: I have committed myself to this problem and be assured that I stand here with you to help begin fixing this problem.  I offer my support in helping educate, enforce, promote and publicize the smoke-free ordinance.
Photo courtesy: Tracy Carr
 While the opposition, was scarce and comments were purely opinion driven... and fewer than 10 people opposing the ban...  the WB Board of Alderman voted 3-2 against banning smoking on the beach strand. Of course, I'm frustrated by this because it is obvious that last night democracy failed at Wrightsville Beach.  (Democracy failed because supporters outnumbered those opposing by 10-1.... nearly 1200 people wrote the alderman expressing their support and 402 Wrightsville Beach residents wrote in support of the proposed ordinance.  If you're wondering, one of the new board members was elected into office with 320 votes.)

I am particularly disheartened by the disrespectful comment made by Alderman Mayor Pro Tem Susan Collins in reference to the 40,827 cigarette butts we have removed from the beach.  When giving her address to the public before the vote she said, 

I wonder if Ms. Collins has any idea the amount of time and effort we put into helping keep WB clean?  I wonder if she understands the amount of time and energy put in by ALL of the other volunteers that come out to help keep WB clean and beautiful?  We may not live on WB, but trust me... if WE (Big Sweep volunteers, Surfrider, Keep It Clean, adopt an access volunteers, boy scouts, etc) didn't do it... no one else would.
Photo courtesy: Ocean Cure
 I am grateful and have so much respect for Mayor Cignotti and Alderman Sisson who sat as elected officials and voted as the voice of the majority.  I thank them for doing their jobs as elected officials.  I have so much gratitude for this community... locally and globally.  Those who stood with us and those who sent in their support via emails and letters to the board... including the North Carolina American Lung Association.   
Photo courtesy: Ocean Cure
Please know that as much as I am disappointed... I am empowered more than ever.  This is not a roadblock.  This is an opportunity to do more.

20 minutes on March 8, 2012 at Access 16
Litter by weight: 7.3 oz
Cigarette butts: 425

Total amount of cigarette butts removed from Wrightsville Beach, NC in 123 days: