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February 21, 2016

Pollution Problems | A Social Experiment

The amount of pollution in our State Parks and our Natural Lands has become overwhelming and unavoidable.  Join us in bringing this community together to change the way our lands are treated. Help solve the pollution problems we face today together.

As my occupation leads me to cliff jumping locations spanning the globe, I can without a doubt, say America’s swimming holes are more polluted than most, which is greatly upsetting.  Popular locations are often strewn with trash, broken glass, and discarded clothing.   

An effort needs to be ma
de immediately to combat this indifference people have toward our country’s beautiful swimming locations and natural lands.                         

I created an experiment  that was implemented over the months of swimmable weather in Pennsylvania during 2015.  I reasoned that if I went to my local jumping site weekly and I cleaned it of its trash, I could affect people’s attitudes and the average amount of pollution being left at the site.  Setting a weekly schedule from April through August, I visited my local jumping site with trash bags in my pack and a smile on my face.  I hoped to make a difference.

The three variables for this exercise are as follows.                                                               

#keepitclean2016The Dependent variable is the average amount of trash found upon arrival at site.

The Independent variable is the number of people at the location and my interactions with them.                                                                                                                                     

The Controlled Variable is the state of the locations cleanliness upon departure.

Pollution Problems -The Set Up                                                                                                                                        

First, the control needed to be set. On April 15th, my team and I hauled out sixteen, fifty-gallon bags of trash leaving no trace of pollution behind.  In kind, every time we left, the Controlled Environment could be reestablished (this environment also included a one-mile hiking path heading into the location).

I visited the location 24 times over this period not telling anyone I was conducting an experiment.  These are my experiences and findings.  

The Routine                                                                                                                                  

April 21st- a Monday. On this frigid spring day, I was greeted by 14 people upon arrival. Two empty cases of Budweiser lay all over the abandoned train tracks, bushes, and water. Trash from the past days was evident throughout the area.  

I went on about my normal business: said hello to the group, swam out the water for debris, and did some jumps.  Retreating to my backpack, I pulled out the first garbage bag of the season and began to clean.  Being solo this day, a few souls showed empathy and asked to help.  I thanked them, to which they graciously responded, “We should be thanking you.” I could feel their remorse knowing we were cleaning up the beers they had just thrown down. I tell them, “If we don’t keep our spots in- check, they will be gone.”  I am met with understanding, hope, and enthusiasm toward this greater purpose.  Keeping a light attitude is key.  If I came off harsh, I don’t believe people would have reacted positively.

On the second and third visits, things went a tad differently.  These days of April 26th and May 2nd, I pulled three bags of trash by myself.  I realized, that if you start cleaning first, people are turned off and don’t see you as one of them.  It’s important to establish yourself among the group as just another jumper/swimmer trying to enjoy life. Beginning to clean right away can make you come off as an authority or a buzz kill. Having people see you as one of their own from the start makes all the difference.

The former visit became my regular routine for the rest of the experiment, always leading to fortunate outcomes.  I genuinly felt good every single time I cleaned this spot.  

The Findings                                                                                                                                 

As early as late July, I concluded that the experiment was a success!  The amount of trash upon my arrival (the Dependent Variable) dropped drastically.  By mid-summer, when I arrived on site, there would either be bags of trash already in the parking lot, bags tied on-site waiting for me, or a pile of trash ready to be put in a bag.  Everyone who frequented the spot knew of me and out of respect, kept their trash to themselves. Hopefully this also prevented them from polluting other locations as well.  Regulars really started to maintain the cleanliness, thus making the bags lighter and lighter every trip. By the end of summer, I was finding minimal amounts of trash on-site.

  • April 21st. through May 31st   – averaged 2 bags/visit.
  • June                                              – averaged 4 bags/visit.
  • July                                                -averaged 2 bags/visit.
  • August                                          – averaged 1/4 bags/visit.
  • September and October           -averaged 1/8 bag/visit.
  • 52, Fifty Gallon trash bags were filled and hauled out.
  • Over 200 people participated or watched our cleaning efforts.
  • 103 people stepped forward and offered assistance in cleaning.
  • Regulars’ attitudes changed- some becoming serious advocates to the cause.
  • 103 people felt better about themselves.
  • Most of the trash was either alcohol or fishing related.
  • Some attitudes were affected.
  • 1 Swimming location was safe all summer.
  • 1 Person can make a difference.

Of course I ran into some real jerks-

whose mentality towards the environment will never change, but that doesn’t make the experience less valuable.   So many individuals stepped forward, opening themselves to the thought that maybe they can make a difference.

Leading by example is huge here; people generally want to do good.  If we are being real, it’s just easier to litter. People love an easy way out, but if they see someone cleaning or using a trash bag, they will normally follow suit.  Here and there a ‘speak-up’ may be necessary.  I  personally do not stand for people smashing bottles. This is the most idiotic and unsafe thing someone can do at a swimming hole and everyone should know it.

Explaining the benefits of cleaning the spot is essential.  People should understand that keeping it clean will keep people safe and accessible to the public.  The cleaner we keep our environment, the more it will thrive.  Too many pollutants are seeping into the earth daily, and we as the cliff jumping culture need to step-up and do our part!  Swimming holes are shut down too often based on pollution.                

What an incredible experience this process was.  I challenge all of you to do the same!  If we are all vigilant at our local spots, we can change the way people look at the simplicity of throwing their waste on the ground.  It has to start somewhere, why not with you and I?  Let the Cliff Jumping Community stand together and speak up for mother earth.