There is an old saying that can apply to all of us when we are out and about, enjoying nature and its gifts: “Take nothing but memories and leave nothing but footprints.” It reminds us that we should leave the tortoise and wild flowers where we see them and that we should leave not even a scrap of rubbish behind. It speaks to the sentiment of being mindful and selfless with our actions because there are others who will come after us, seeking the same pleasures we have enjoyed. Although these intentions are very romantic and well meaning, how realistic are they in today’s world?
The reality is that there are times where we must take from nature. Taking a fish to provide food for the table, however, does not mean that we can ignore permit requirements, legal size and bag limits. These measures are not put in place to inconvenience or punish us but to ensure that these resources are sustainable and available to all in the future. Our indigenous fish stocks are under threat at the moment, so why not give them a well-deserved break these holidays by targeting alien, invasive fish species? Tilapia can be found in Great Brak River and are not only invasive but recognised internationally for their culinary value. In this case our choices about what we take, has more positive impact than not taking at all.
Sometimes we come to a place where those who were there before us left more than footprints. The stark reality of a throw-away culture preoccupied with consumerism confronts us in the form of takeaway containers and empty beer bottles. Clearly good times were had here, but where were the good choices when it was time to leave? It is in times like these that we have to dig deep and take action rather than taking offence. To “take nothing” does not give us amnesty to be apathetic.
One doesn’t have to wait on others to litter or for the wind to strip the contents of a bin in order to take initiative. Currently, there are literally millions of tiny PET plastic balls called nurdles on our local beaches that need picking up. They are the perfect excuse to spend hours on the beach soaking up the sun. Nurdle-hunting is also a fun, child-friendly activity and a great teaching opportunity.
Whilst creating memories this holiday our impact on the environment can be positive. We don’t have to exclude humans from nature in order to conserve it. Perhaps the old saying about “leaving only footprints” needs to be modernised for current times: “Take only what you must and leave nothing but an example.”