Drops in the Ocean

Drops in the Ocean

by Michelle Aberson

I’ll be the first to admit I’ve never given conservation much thought. I mean, I grew up in the 80s. But at some point, one has to get out of that “me first” mentality and realize that one’s actions impact more than just oneself. I’ll never forget the night I made that realization.

Photo by Clark Young on Unsplash

While sitting around a campfire on a quiet night along side a lake in southwest Minnesota, I casually tossed a plastic water bottle into the flames. One of our guests was shocked. “What are you doing?” she cried. I may have replied by uttering the words, “I want to leave as big a carbon footprint as possible. I want people to know I was here.” Now, I said that in jest, but it actually got me thinking. What AM I doing?

Before that time, I truly just never gave much thought to my disposable lifestyle. It was so darned convenient! And then, through a series of serendipitous events (too complex to detail here) I began to learn more and more about our environment and more specifically the plight of our oceans. I had to. My husband gave up his career as a health care professional and committed himself to raising money for a company that is dedicated to taking the stress of our oceans. It opened my eyes to things I was far too blind to see.

The oceans. So vast. It’s hard to fathom that we could get to the point where we have floating garbage patches. There’s just so much water. How badly must we be treating this planet that our oceans can’t recover from what we’re doing to them?

I think it goes back to that “me first” mentality. We’ve worn blinders for so long and have spent so much time just thinking about ourselves, we’ve forgotten that 7 billion other people live on this planet and have been doing the same thing. Who cares if I toss one, (just one!) plastic bottle into the ditch. How could my one small act have any impact? Seriously. Just one. But if everyone threw just one bottle, that would be 7 billion bottles. Now my one small act doesn’t seem so small. We can’t leave it up to everyone else. We all have to do our part.

“Just as ripples spread out when a single pebble is dropped into the water, the actions of individuals can have far-reaching effects.”  ~Dalai Lama

I am a substitute teacher at a school at which I previously taught for 20 years. A few months ago, they installed water bottle fillers. It’s a small thing, but when I worked there recently and used one to fill up my bottle, I saw a digital display indicating that it had already been used 4495 times. Again, in the grand scheme of things that may not seem like much. But we’ve got three of those machines in our small rural school. That’s over 13,000 fewer plastic bottles to dispose of in just a few short months. And our high school only has 200 students – you do the math. Now that one small thing can be magnified into a much bigger thing.

I will admit, I still buy bottled water when I’m traveling, but at home and work, I refill my glass. I make my morning coffee in a reusable mug instead of throwing away a disposable Styrofoam cup everyday. Every week my recycling container is full when waste management comes to pick it up. And I don’t throw plastic bottles into the campfire anymore.

It’s not much, but it’s a start. And what if all seven billion of us made just that small start?

“Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.”  ~Ryunosuke Satoro


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