The opposite of apathy

Published 5:57 pm Monday, April 18, 2016

It’s a generally shared idea that the opposite of love is not hate. Rather, the opposite of love is apathy — indifference to a person, place, thing or idea.

In this case, the place is right here in Beaufort County. The thing is the Pamlico River. The idea is to sweep it of trash and debris that through negligence or nature ends up in the river.

Every spring, Sound Rivers, formerly known as the Pamlico-Tar River Foundation, hosts the Riverkeeper Cup Cleanup Challenge, in which folks from way up the Tar and way down the Pamlico river compete to pull the greatest amount of debris from the local waterway. In past years, everything from sunken boats and tires, to lighter fare like soda cans and plastic grocery bags. Tons of debris has been pulled from the river by volunteers who give up their time on a Saturday morning to give the greater community the gift of cleaning up after others.

The debris has not disappeared, but the volunteers slowly have.

This weekend’s turnout for the Riverkeeper Cup challenge was pretty dismal. It wasn’t just here — volunteer numbers were down in every town where it was taking place. Less volunteers mean less trash pulled from the river. Less trash pulled from the river means more harm to a river that elevates eastern North Carolina from farmland and pine forests to a destination — a place of serenity and beauty. And trash.

It’s unfortunate that this type of event is not being used as a teaching lesson. There is no way to ensure the next generation will protect the God-given beauty of the Tar-Pamlico unless they are given an example of good stewardship. Instead of seeing a few volunteers out in the river picking up garbage, there should be entire families volunteering their boats, canoes and kayaks, their Saturday mornings and their energy to pitch into an effort that benefits all. There should be civic groups and youth groups, church groups and scouts out there combing the river for plastic, metal, rubber and rotten wood.

The good news is that one doesn’t have to wait until next year’s challenge to make a difference. All it takes is some time, some trash bags and some gloves to protect from cuts. All it takes is the opposite of apathy.