MIM Spring Service Project: Chicken Key Beach Cleanup by Gianmarco Agostinone

STUDENT BIO

Photo By Jessica Horsham CC By 4.0

Gianmarco Agostinone is currently a senior finishing his undergraduate portion of his combined bachelors and masters degree in computer science. Over the course of his time in college, he has traveled on two study abroads with professor John Bailly, France and Italy, and wants to culminate his travel experience by finally learning about the area he has lived in his whole life, Miami. After college, he hopes to continue his newfound lifestyle of traveling and photography and eventually make his way throughout the rest of Europe.

WHO

All Photos CC By 4.0 (Photos By Lily Fonte)

The Chicken Key Beach Cleanup is hosted by the Deering Estate in collaboration with FIU Honors Student, Nicole Patrick.

The Deering Estate is a local museum that dedicates its resources to learning about and preserving Miami’s history. They are one of Miami’s few historical sights left that protect Miami’s original landscape.

One such way is through the Chicken Key Beach Cleanup where they give local students canoes and bags and allow them to row to Chicken Key to remove the trash that continually builds up there.

The group I go with is lead my Nicole Patrick, who after doing this event for a class gained a passion for it and lead the expansion of the program to where it is today.

WHY

I was first introduced with this project after doing it with my class. I honestly loved ever aspect of it. It was an opportunity for me to do good for a cause I love while having a fun time with my peers.

When it comes to a connection to the ocean, this is something that everyone in Miami possession, whether they like going to the beach or not. They must know that our oceans are a part of us and our daily lives. They affect both our landscape and our society. So treating them so poorly is short sided and selfish. But unfortunately, people continue to do so, so I will do my part to counteract it

HOW

How did I connect to this? It is as simple as how you connect to your own home.

I have been to Chicken key about 5 times now. It is a beautiful little island, sprinkled with wildlife. While in the shallow water, you can clearly see schools of fish swimming about. When on the land, you have to be careful about where you put your food, or the local raccoons will steal it. The flora is abundant and diverse, and houses some of Florida’s iconic and important mangroves. This island embodies what precolonial Florida would have looked like. Well, except for one thing, the trash.

Littered all around is endless and endless trash, and our job is to collect it, bring it back to mainland, and properly dispose of it. Now when it comes to the trash, the big ones are always what stand out. Things like pieces of plywood, metals bars and sheets and plastics. You can’t imagine how many typical household objects like bottles, shoes, and dolls we find. But those aren’t the real problem. What are even more dangerous are the micro plastics. Those tiny objects like bottle caps, the endless bottle caps, can cause more damage than the bottle itself. As these tiny objects can get mistaken for food by the wildlife, who in turn die from choking or ingesting plastic.

The problem is, these micro plastics are everywhere and hard to find. You must carefully inspect every inch of the ground to find them. It does not feel like rewarding work, as the time it takes to find a substantial amount of these is endless, but in the back of your head you must keep in mind that you are really making a difference and that if you don’t do this, who will?

But at the end of the day, what we do may have a positive short-term affect, but in a few days, those beaches will be littered with trash once again, and it will look like no one has ever been there. The hard work of a small group of individuals will accomplish nothing unless it is coupled with societal and governmental change.

People need to stop littering, and the government has got to stop letting people do so. People litter because they don’t it affects them in any way. They just think that someone else will clean up their mess. The problem is, most of the time there isn’t someone there to do that. Not only that, but to go against the argument some have that their small littering has no effect to the overall problem, these people have to overcome their shortsightedness and see that while they as an individual may have no impact, they are members of a society. And in a large society, if every member thinks that way, they do have a huge and detrimental effect on our world.

So, I will continue doing these beach cleanups. I will continue to not litter. I will continue to fight for the environment. As it is the right thing to do as a member of our society, as a member of our world. Hopefully one day, others will understand this, and changes will be made in how we act and govern. But until then, I will do my part, even if others don’t do theirs.

WHERE & WHAT

We, as a group, venture out into Chicken Key to do what we can to clean up this trash that endlessly collects there. We canoe to the island as it is about a mile away from mainland and using motorized vehicles would only further damage the marine life. While there we work tirelessly to fill up every single canoe we brought with trash, which ends up being over a truckload.

Most of the trash there consists of simple and everyday plastics that people do not give a second thought about. Things like bottles, bottle caps, wrappers, and other household items. We will spend most of the day picking through the ground looking for these, as sometimes they get hidden over layers of dirt.

Once and a while though, you find larger and more interesting objects like dolls, signs, cages, remains of a camp site. But at the end of the day its all trash and you just wish it would stop showing up.

WHEN

I have volunteered here numerous times with my fellow classmates but have never recorded them specifically. But these events are usually held once or twice a month on weekends at the Deering Estate if you ever want to join.

SUMMARY

Chicken Key is a small island off the coast of the Deering Estate. It is an island that considered protected and historical property, an island that no unauthorized individuals are allowed to be on. Yet of the 5 times I have gone there, our group has managed to fill up multiple canoes with trash and have always managed to leave much more behind for future cleanups. How can there be so much trash collected on an island that no one’s supposed to even be on?

2 billion. That is the amount of litter in tons that end up in the ocean every year. This garbage is carried from wherever it was thrown and either drifts off to the middle of the ocean or washes up on our beaches. This litter is not only an eye sore but has serious and detrimental impacts on our ecosystem. Litter contaminates our water and destroys both our marine ecosystems as well as land wildlife. Which in turn propagates back to us, as destroying other ecosystems will only mess with the natural order of things and destroy ours.We do what we can at Chicken Key but Unfortunately, every time we go there, the trash is just as much as before and without societal and governmental change, it won’t stop.

Sources

Diaz, Johnny. “Butts Are a Plague on World’s Beaches, Survey Finds.” Sun, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 13 Dec. 2018, http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/nationworld/fl-reg-top-trash-found-on-beaches-cigarette-butts-20180702-story.html.

“Litter Education.” Keep Brevard Beautiful – Florida, keepbrevardbeautiful.org/get-educated/litter-education.

“Miami Hiking Trails: Beautiful Parks In Miami For Exploring.” Deering Estate, 31 Dec. 2019, deeringestate.org/miami-hiking-trails-parks/.

Leave a Reply