As an environmentalist, it sometimes can be easy to become cynical about the state of things along our beaches and wetlands. But this past Sunday, thanks to Surfrider San Diego’s No Border Sewage volunteers, one couldn’t help but beam with optimism.

Surfrider San Diego’s No Border Sewage (No B.S.) committee, CA State Parks, and the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve (TRNERR), along with support from our incredible sponsor PuraKai, teamed up to take on scores of trash polluting the Tijuana River Estuary.

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In total, 63 passionate and eager volunteers came out to help clear nearly 2,340 pounds of trash, including 232 tires. It was really inspiring to be around such a dedicated and cheerful group of people.

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As we walked through the Tijuana River Valley, we saw stretch after stretch of abandoned tires – tires from children’s toys, cars, and even long-haul trailers. There was an old refrigerator, a microwave, shoes, sweaters, living room carpets and mattress springs.

And the plastic. Yes, the ever-present and invasive plastic. The bottles were one thing, but even worse were the thousands – no millions – of tiny plastic fragments that had broken off of single-use plastic bags. Try as you might, it was nearly impossible to grab every single piece. (Surfrider San Diego has been fighting diligently against the single-use plastic bag in exchange for more healthy and sustainable alternatives. Check out our Rise Above Plastics committee for more info.)

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The thing is, over 350 species of birds and other native animals call the estuary home. The estuary is one of the largest coastal wetlands in Southern California and a vital part of the Tijuana River watershed. Unfortunately, over time, the estuary has become the final resting place for much of the trash that has traveled down the watershed. This trash not only contaminates the native habitat for the animals that live there but it also presents dangers to us when polluted runoff from the watershed carries out into the ocean. It makes it dangerous for us to enjoy our ocean, waves and beaches.

Chief Seattle once said that “humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”

It is often easy for us with our busy lives to feel separate from nature. Generally we see it as us – humans – on one side of the fence, and then nature – everything else – on the other. But the truth is that we are nature. There is no separation. “Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.”

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Surfrider San Diego’s No B.S. program is working ardently to tackle the challenges that occur when we create this separation from nature. It’s exciting to see the program’s goals for the year ahead. If you’d like to get involved or learn more about our No Border Sewage program, join us at our next committee meeting on Tuesday, February 3rd at 6:30pm, or contact us at nobs@surfridersd.org for more information.