Los Angeles saw a massive, steady rainfall over the past few weeks. The water is always a welcomed event in the desert climate, but a slap in the face of reality regarding how we treat the city should be even more welcomed.

Los Angeles’s streets may be washed clean, but the Southern California beaches are taking on the brunt of the pollution that the citizen’s put into the city’s gutters. Beaches became littered with single-use cups, diapers, and even syringes. Orange County was also given a pollution advisory for people not to enter the oceans due to the bacteria levels. The pristine California beaches iconically portrayed on television are, for now, a memory.

But who is there to blame? We can discuss the visceral feelings of laying our eyes on our beloved beaches polluted with garbage but will we make a change?

The phenomenon of seeing our impact on the environment wash ashore could be a wake-up call the people of Southern California need. People can either hold themselves accountable and work towards change after seeing their sacred beaches covered in used Starbuck’s cups or, they can continue about their lives until the next extended period of rain washes our sins up onto the sand.

Extensive work is continuously done by volunteer groups such as Heal The Bay. Their efforts include weekly beach clean-ups, rescuing marine life, and raising awareness for saving the Los Angeles beaches.

Attending a beach clean up can be a bit disheartening though. Arrive with hope in your heart but feel overwhelmed after spending a mere 30 minutes on the beach. You’ll fill up a garbage bag just as quick as you’d hope your do-good heart had filled. What seems like a noble effort is proven futile after coving only a few square feet as you watch a continuous stream of trash wash ashore in the distance.

The answer is not at the site of the aftermath. The answer is in preventative measures. The answer is in the hands of the local Angelenos — literally, the trash in their hands.

Until the everyday person in the city realizes the impact of their lackadaisical views of trash disposal, we will not see a meaningful impact along our coast.
And the realization needs to be made now.

Though we’re not the main contributor, we’re not innocent in the formation of the Great Pacific Rim Garbage Patch either. If you haven’t heard of this atrocious creation that’s a byproduct of human’s lack of care for the environment, there is a Texas-sized island made of an accumulation of trash floating through the Pacific Ocean. Sounds like the beginning of a plot line for a post-apocalyptic David Fincher movie — except it’s our reality. Maybe it’ll act as our second home when the rest of our lands submerge into the rising sea levels.

As that trash floats around the ocean, animals consume bits of plastic from the heap, believing they’re food. If they don’t choke or have their insides sliced open, their stomach fills with nutritionless plastic that either leeches chemicals into their system or starved them — or both. If the plastic makes it to be excreted from their bodies, that waste hardens and sinks to the bottom of the ocean, wreaking havoc on the ecosystems there.

Ah, humanity. How they can destroy the natural world is almost poetic, in an Edgar Allen Poe sort of way that never ends happily.

“Because normal human activity is worse for nature than the greatest nuclear accident in history.” – Martin Cruz Smith

The adverse impacts on the environment are seen to fruition through our daily habits — because it’s not just our actions, it’s humankind’s cumulative behaviors. One person can’t change the world, and I’m here to say — that’s true. Our efforts need to improve as a group. A shift in the way we grocery shop, the way we dispose of materials, how we think about pollution — the paradigm of thinking needs to be radically shifted to create a real impact.

Let’s hope the local news and shocking Twitter photos of Seal Beach are enough to get people talking. If not, we’ll have to wait until the next downpour washes our city’s waste into our waterways. Which, in Los Angeles, could take as long as the construction of the LA Rams stadium.