For our activist project, we collaborated with Baltimore City’s Parks and Rec to participate in a Canoe and Scoop Program. This program basically allowed us to go out into the Inner Harbor in canoes and pick up trash that builds up along the shoreline. Our original canoe and scoop which was supposed to be hosted on April 30 had to be cancelled because of a communication error between Baltimore Rowing Club and the city’s Parks and Rec (this seems to be a consistent trend between them even though they work in the same building). Because of this, the canoe and scoop was moved to May 15. At first we thought we would not be able to get out on the water because we got word that canoes are not allowed to go out within twenty-four hours after it has rained. We would either have to reschedule again or be on foot along the shoreline. When we arrived we met up with a man named Pete who decided that we could in fact go out in the canoes. He instructed us on safety protocol and then we were out. We paddled to one of the edges of the basin and began picking up trash with the trash grabbers they provided for us. The amount of trash we found was unbelievable. A majority of the items we picked up were bottles but there were also balls, chip bags, cans, and many other things of the same nature. There were bigger items like tires that were stuck at the bottom of the water and we would have loved to pick that up but we were informed by Pete that doing that would be unsafe because it would release a lot of toxins from heavy metals into the air, which would be dangerous. There were also many pieces of trash that were too far up the shoreline and we could not reach them from the canoe. We stayed in that area for a while and after moving deeper in we saw a whole landfill of bottles and just general trash. We wanted to go in and get it but we would not be able to in the canoes because of the logs that were blocking our way and the lack of space there would be. We are also not sure if that area was land or water because of all the trash blocking the ground. After that, we paddled to the opposite side of the basin where we found just as much trash in the reeds. This time there were some… surprising finds. Along with all the trash we found and collected, we found a dead turtle, a dead duck, and a dead bird stuffed in a can. It was slightly terrifying to see animals dead and placed along with the trash. After the canoe and scoop, we hauled the trash back up to the boat house and threw it out there. Pete informed us about how so much garbage is being collected in the harbor every second because it all washes down from the Chesapeake Bay and other rivers that connect to it. It is literally impossible to collect all the garbage by our shoreline because of all of the other garbage that flows in. He spoke of one time when the program was able to get close to one hundred navy men to come down and helpand they were not able to make a dent in the trash.
The canoe and scoop is a band-aid solution to the trash problem in Baltimore. While the canoe and scoops do in fact pick up a lot of trash, that amount compared to how much is actually there shows how more work needs to be done to find an actual solution to the problem. Participating in programs such as these is very important because not only does it make you aware of your environment and how much it needs to be changed, it also allows for you to find ways to make a change, even though they may feel insignificant. We want to make this a monthly event for our team and we hope that over time more and more people will join us. Since doing this project we have learned a great deal more about activism. We were able t
o learn how to reach out to others and inform them of things that need to be changed. We learned that if you put in the time and effort, it is easier than you think to get in touch with people who can help you accomplish the activist activities that you want to participate in. Talking to the city is not that scary, you just have to be informed and make sure that you are communicating well with them and keep updating them on what you want. Overall, we have learned that activism is so much more than just protesting an issue (be it for or against it), it can really be about bringing awareness to a subject- good or bad. Simply informing people in a topic is a form of activism and by participating in the canoe and scoop project, we were able to not only bring awareness to ourselves of the issue of trash in Baltimore but we were also able to inform all the people on our team. We were all able to learn and begin participating in creating change thanks to this.