Photo Credit: The Guardian

It is amazing to me how quickly we move on to the next stage of our lives after a natural disaster. We go through jaw dropping experiences like the Haitian earthquake, Hurricane Katrina and the Sumatra earthquake and tsunami. We pledge some money with a hurried punch of a few numbers on our phones. It is so easy to give when it just shows up on the next month’s phone bill. And thankfully, money is exactly what the charities that help the survivors of these catastrophic events need so that temporary hospitals, food distribution centers, and schools can pop up like bright nubile green weeds among the muddy, rocky debris. Gone are the days of clothing drives and food drives, where you literally could give them the clothes off your back.

The memory of the footage that we saw of the 2011 earthquake and horrific tsunami off the coast of Japan is fading, even just a year later. But the environmental consequences are just starting to kick in for the West Coast of the United States and Canada. It is estimated that there are about 1.5 million tons of debris that is making its way across the Pacific Ocean and will be littering our coasts for several years. It is shocking that just this April, the first major piece of debris made its way to a remote beach in British Columbia, Canada. This was almost a full year earlier than scientist had predicted. So this floating menagerie is full of everything from wood to plastics to toxic waste to well, Harley Davidson motorcycles — which is exactly what washed up in Canada — and it will be coming to a beach near you. What the impact will be and how far spread up and down the coast are yet to be seen. How will our sea creatures and sea birds deal with this onslaught of trash? How will we handle the clean up?

So please don’t think that just because you aren’t punching in numbers on your cell phone to support immediate relief efforts is done and that the tragedy is over. In this case, the tragedy for us on the West Coast is just starting. Please support your local beach clean-up groups through financial gifts and donations of your time. We are going to need all the help we can get.