Come on down! We’re happy to have you and your money. You fuel our economy and we love that about you.
But after another half hour foray into the war zone that is our white sand, I was disappointed to see a bag full of tiny pieces of plastic and cigarette butts (and thanks to July 4th, a whole lot of cardboard and styrofoam).
You see, dear beach visitors – and yes, some are inland Florida residents – our birds aren’t any smarter than our voters. They see the little tiny pieces of brightly colored plastic and they think food! They see cigarette butts and they think food! They see you, and your Cheetos and the think…yeah, you guessed it…FOOD!
Yesterday, as I strolled the beach bagging trash (and I get a bag full every day), I passed a teenage girl sitting in a chair at the shore. Her chair sank into the shifting sand and as it did, thousands of coquinas were displaced. Now, any native knows that they will dig themselves back into the sand and if your feet are in the sand with them, it tickles. But as I watched her, she began screaming like Jamie Lee Curtis. “Attack of the Coquinas” lasted a good thirty seconds. She called her father. She pulled her feet out of the sand and shook her hands in the standard scream-queen way. I couldn’t help myself and laughed out loud: an unabashed, unmitigated guffaw. I nearly dropped the bag of little plastic pieces as I tried to walk, crippled with laughter. I told you; we laugh. Just as you’d laugh at us beach-natives if we peed in poison ivy. But coquinas are part of the local ecosystem and they’re a very important food source for our birds.
Not so funny is the couple on Anna Maria Island that took a four-wheeler and destroyed six turtle nests and killed two baby birds who nest on the shore line. Anna Maria is a gulf coast border island. You can’t walk twenty feet at this time of year without seeing a turtle nest. It’s not only illegal to disturb those nests, but it really pisses us off. It’s a sure sign that you lack the gene that values life and if you can do it to helpless animals on a beach full of people you could have injured severely. (Read more here)
And a word about sunscreens: do your RESEARCH. You are white. Very white. Florida beach sand is very reflective and acts like a giant mirror. Yes, it IS different here. Spray sunscreens may be convenient for you, but they are toxic for the environment, bad for your children and bad for people with asthma. Oh, and they are only 20% effective. Have I mentioned that you are WHITE?! I’m sitting on the balcony of our condo looking down at a man who is spraying sunscreen all over his BRIGHT RED flesh. If you have APPLIED sunscreen and you are RED, it is NOT working. The proof of a sunscreen’s efficacy is in how it keeps you from burning. (Read more here)
You’d be mad at us if we left trash or used toxic chemicals in the national forests in your state, disturbing the delicate ecosystems that keep them healthy. We don’t like it when you leave trash on our shores for the same reasons. You don’t think about it, because it’s small, but it accumulates. Bird necropsies have produced piles and piles of proof that even the smallest pieces end up in the stomachs of marine life from the smallest birds to the largest sharks. Every bottle cap affects the food chain. The birds should be eating coquinas, not Cheetos. We don’t like it when you trudge through our sea oats, which are also protected because they are also vital to our wildlife. We don’t like it when you use chemicals that affect the native fish that you love to eat (Read more here).
The beach isn’t just a source of income for our state and a novelty for you to experience. We love our beaches. They are sanctuary for those of us that love the water. We want you to enjoy it the same way we do, so, when you come here to Florida, help us protect it. Make sure all of your trash (especially the little pieces) make it into a receptacle. Choose your sun products carefully. Respect the environment so you can keep coming back to a place that is worth visiting. And when in doubt, ask a native. You’ll know us. We aren’t burnt and we’re definitely not feeding the sea gulls or screaming at the tiny bivalves.
Read more Florida native humor here.
ADDITIONAL AND CRITICAL NOTE: DON’T disturb the manatees. They are highly protected. They also weigh a few tons. While they are very gentle, they are very large. If you get crushed, it’s YOUR fault.