One January, we were chilled to the bone so we hit the road, heading south. Always aware of the environment, here are my sightings.
Our Mississippi State Park campground was absolutely beautiful but there were no recycling bins. Anti-litter signs are prevalent – “Pick It Up Mississippi” along roadways and “Adopt-A-Highway America” along the Interstates. It appears these signs are effective, as we didn’t notice much roadside litter. As for local cuisine, I wasn’t much interested in fried chicken on top of waffles, boiled peanuts, or fried pies but I was glad to see the produce stands emerge as we traveled further south. Overall, Mississippi is quite beautiful. Much of the land is sparsely populated and filled with healthy forests. While logging does occur, we didn’t notice clear-cutting scars.
We are always glad to reach Florida where all the restaurants are smoke-free and fresh food abounds. Local wild caught fish is always a treat, given the prevalence of commercially raised fish farms that use strong antibiotic drugs to keep their fish alive – check your labels. Grouper, clams, crab cakes, fresh squeezed orange juice and key lime pie – all my favorites. We were also thrilled when the locals encouraged us to pick from their overflowing star fruit, tangerine, and lemon trees.
We didn’t notice much litter throughout, although I did see a bird trying to eat a piece of Styrofoam. Even as I followed him for a photo, he held tightly to what he unfortunately thought was food.
We didn’t see fish kills from red tide this year. No one knows for sure why this occurs – perhaps due to natural seasonal algae blooming, human pollution, or increased sea water temperature. October 2012 I saw rows of dead fish along Englewood Beach miles long. I didn’t stick around that year. I always visit this particular gulf beach because it’s unique. Due to the location of the continental shelf, fossilized shark teeth, fish and mammal bones wash up on the beach. During low tide I always have some amazing finds.
We saw a couple massive manatees migrating through Fannie Springs State Park. It’s hard to imagine, they weight 1000-3500 pounds and have almost no body fat! And along the coast, bird watching is always at its finest. We saw a beautiful tenacious Great Blue Heron poised to steal food from a picnic basket.
In Florida, recycling bins are everywhere – all State Parks, beaches, towns and cities. As we drive along I always watch closely. At random times I now see wonderful sculptures made out of recycled materials. In St. Petersburg alone we saw an amazing 15 ft. chicken made out of chrome bumpers and a huge metal lizard perched on top of a roof.
While driving along the coast in Florida, I am always both amazed and horrified when I see such extravagant “winter” homes. While I admire the architecture and beautiful grounds, I can’t help but think about all the people in the world who are homeless.
We finally had to tear ourselves away from the beach traveling through Alabama northward bound. Again, this is a beautiful state with healthy pine forests apparently not impacted by pine beetles causing so much damage out west. Although we did see “Adopt a Mile” and “$500 fine for dumping rubbish” signs throughout, this is the most heavily littered state we have seen – Styrofoam and plastic masks the State’s beauty everywhere. We didn’t see any recycling bins until we toured a National Historic Site. Fortunately the National Park Service always has prominent recycling bins.
We were humbled as we learned about the historic Civil Rights movement in 1965. After centuries of inequality, fearless African Americans took a stand. They and their supporters walked 54 miles from Selma to the Alabama Capitol in Montgomery demanding the right to vote. 300 people turned into 25,000 people strong by the time they reached the Capitol steps, an historic effort that changed history. This is a stark reminder of the importance of equal rights, voting and why we need to speak up. During this time period, the environmental movement also gained momentum. Voices were heard!
Once I was back home, it was cold, but still nice never-the-less. I quickly snuggled in on the couch and once again admired our view out the windows – birds feasting at the bird feeder, and the silhouettes of the leafless trees swaying in the wind. Unfortunately, in my direct field of vision was a new plastic grocery bag snagged up high in my neighbor’s tree! Oh well, the tree was still magnificent.