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How the Iceland Volcano Augmented The Friends’ Ballona Earth Day

Deb Ris 3

Deb Ris Art 3 photo (c) 2010 Richard Beban

It’s an axiom of chaos theory that the flutter of a butterfly’s wing in Brazil can conceivably trigger a hurricane over Hispanola.

In short, a metaphor for how deeply all of nature (humans, too) is intertwined.

The Friends annual Earth Day cleanup, which took place on the morning of Saturday, April 24th, provided its own small example of how closely we all are linked, when two British travelers, stranded for ten days by the Iceland volcano that stopped jet travel in and out of Europe, decided to spend their last morning in Playa del Rey (we hope they get home safely Sunday when their flight has been rescheduled) helping the 110+ other volunteers pick up debris and tear out non-native plants.

Stranded By Volcano

Londoners Mike Foster (front) and David Quarrell, photo (c) 2010 Richard Beban

Mike Foster and David Quarrell, two gentlemen from London, were staying at The Inn at Playa del Rey, run by Friends member Susan Zolla, who has launched a program to train her staff as Friends wetlands docents. When Mike and David heard of the Earth Day effort, they both volunteered, and did a good morning’s work on Ballona Creek debris detail.

Every time Ballona Creek (a stormwater drainage ditch) flows, in dry weather or wet, it carries debris and various toxics, like fertilizers, landscaping chemicals, dog defecation, and even used needles and medical waste, and it takes a corps of dedicated volunteers like Mike and David, and their dozens of counterparts today, to keep up with the waste stream. Saturday’s volunteers removed thirty-five bags of trash, and nearly a ton of non-native plants and other debris, according to the Friends’ Education Director Kelly Rose.

Deb Ris 2

Deb Ris Art 2, photo (c) 2010 Richard Beban

In addition, the Friends international contingent was augmented by Franklin Calleja of Malta, a director for an NGO called Prisms, which empowers youth to achieve their goals, and by Riaz Simjee, an educator at the Lenasia Muslim School in South Africa, who has founded an NGO called Youth Service Association focused on removing at-risk youth from the streets.

South African Educator Riaz Simjee

South African Educator Riaz Simjee, photo (c) 2010 Richard Beban

Calleja and Simjee are participants in a special U.S. Department of State-sponsored program called “Volunteerism: United We Serve,” which brings 100 NGO leaders from around the world to meet their American nonprofit counterparts and to learn about volunteerism and civic participation in the U.S. They both were accompanied by Kim Le, of the International Visitors Council of Los Angeles, and U.S. State Department English Language Officer John Zins, who also worked debris detail.

Ballona Earth Day 2010 By Patrick Tyrrell 085

Photo (c) 2010 Patrick Tyrrell

Not to be outdone, Westchester mustered a large contingent of volunteers, as did Culver City, Playa del Rey, and dozens of communities all around the Los Angeles basin. In excess of 110 volunteers worked for three hours, fueled by coffee from our Marina del Rey Peet’s store, and granola bars from Whole Foods in El Segundo.

Wetlands Restoration - Removing What Doesn't Belong

Removing What Doesn’t Belong, photo (c) 2010 Patrick Tyrrell

The artist Deb Ris contributed an installation for the day, composed of trash previously collected during clean ups at the creek. The necklace of syringes is particularly compelling, not to say frightening, and we wonder where all of these Los Angeles wiffle balls come from.

Deb Ris 1

Deb Ris Art 2, photo (c) 2010 Richard Beban

We invite you to peruse these pictures, and the others at our Flickr site, and then to volunteer in one of our regular monthly cleanups. Just download the calendar here for times and dates.

Volunteers Carrying Bags Full Of Trash And Debris From Ballona Creek
Volunteers Carrying Trash, photo (c) 2010 Patrick Tyrrell

Removing Invasive Non-Natives Plants
Removing Invasive Non-Native Plants, photo (c) 2010 Patrick Tyrrell



Comment from Jane Rosevelt
Time April 29, 2010 at 11:38 AM

I loved the trashart photos. You had a real melting pot of volunteers. I hope the stranded British travelers take home some of your great ideas.