Currently I am on a week long family vacation in Gulf Shores, Alabama with my lovely mom, brothers, cousins, and aunt. I emphasize the word lovely because I want the readers to understand that my family is full of good, kind-hearted individuals that do not have a malicious bone in their body. They are wonderful human beings, and definitely not the face of the evil collective you envision when you think about those out ruining our environment and littering the world with trash.

And yet, that is exactly what I am accusing them, of us all, of doing.

Earlier this morning my mom and littlest brother went for a sunrise walk across the beach and came back complaining about the rubbish left along the shoreline in enormous amounts – she claims to have seen even battered lounge chairs left out far too long for us to suspect someone is planning on coming back to get them. Did this bother her to an average human extent? Yes. Did she do anything to resolve the problem? Nothing except make someone more proactive, myself, aware of it. Later that day I asked my cousin to accompany me on the same walk along my mother’s morning route with trash bags in our hands and conviction in our hearts as we picked up after the vacation goers’ neglected remains.

I am an optimistic person. I would like to believe that the endless water bottle caps, candy wrappers, and beer cans were only forgotten. That does not make this litter excusable; it merely means that the culprit could have been someone who would never dare suspect themselves to be a part of the problem – it could be someone just like you, or someone just like me. So what do I propose we do about it?

We need to start taking on the responsibility for the destruction of the environment around us. Instead of playing the blame game with the smaller problems like litter, become apart of the simple solution and pick it up! And more broadly, what I’m saying is that we need to take responsibility for the problems we are causing and more actively participate in coming up with solutions. There are a lot of things wrong with our world, and it is important that we acknowledge those things. It is far more important that we take physical action in implementing a solution. Whether it’s something as small as picking up a few stray flip-flops on the Gulf Shores, or as big as organizing a fundraiser, petition, or protest on behalf of the people of West Lake Landfill, it is about time that we do something, rather than sit back and take part in being the problem.