Remember my post about picking up balloons in the lake at Bald Mountain a few weeks ago? I’ve picked up more than a few since that day. So you’ll understand why I was discouraged today when I found out about a big festival in the city right next to us that will include a mass balloon release this week. That’s right, Sterling Heights, Michigan, apparently does this every year at their Sterlingfest event. They send a large number of latex balloons into the environment, less than ten miles from beautiful Lake Huron.
Of all the states that have laws against balloon releases, you’d think the state with a motto of “Pure Michigan” would be one of them. But no. And that’s really too bad. A balloon release isn’t good anywhere, but so close to a large waterway seems to be one of the worst possible places to do this. Along with lots of other people who have joined the effort to stop this event, I’ve spent some time today sending emails and calling the various entities associated with the balloon release, asking them to cancel what amounts to a mass littering event. And I’ve got more calls to make tomorrow. I feel discouraged because it’s such short notice. I don’t think they’ll respond to the public outcry this year, but I have lots of hope that this will raise their awareness level enough that they’ll plan something else for next year’s festival.
And after watching the promotional video on the Sterlingfest website, I can tell that this is a fantastic community event, just the kind I love to attend. Art, music, food…fun for the whole family. It’s just too bad it has to be marred by that balloon release.
The organizers keep deleting all the comments on their Facebook page, even though the comments are (were) overwhelmingly polite in tone. So I wanted to write about it here in hopes that people will find this blog post when they search the web for “Sterlingfest” or “balloon release.” It might not help stop it this year, but this post will be sitting out here in the ethernet to be found later, so it’s worth a few minutes to write this.
Another one of the ways used to encourage change in a situation like this is to contact the corporate sponsors of the relevant event. Often the sponsors’ names are printed on the balloons as a marketing tactic. Seems clever, but I don’t think the corporations have yet realized what happens when their “branded trash” washes up on lake or river shores far from home. Take a look at the Wall of Shame at BalloonsBlow. I’d hate to see any local businesses show up on that page. Nobody needs that kind of publicity!
So I’ve also been sending messages to the sponsors listed on the festival website. Believe it or not, one of the sponsors of the event is Waste Management, a local trash and recycling company. That, boys and girls, is the definition of irony. I have yet to get connected to a live person on any of my calls though, so I don’t have any firsthand knowledge of how the message is being received. I’ve seen some of my friends on FB reporting that the City Manager seems receptive, so that’s very good.
But in the midst of all my frustration over this event, I have to keep reminding myself that only a couple years ago I was ignorant of the issues with these balloon releases too. So acting holier-than-thou isn’t a morally honest way to teach other people about the issue. They just haven’t thought about it yet, that’s all. We have to be calm and logical when we explain the reasons this is a bad idea: it pollutes the land and water; animals often eat the balloons or become entangled in the ribbons, resulting in slow and painful death; helium is a resource in short supply and needed for lots more important uses than this, etc…..see the BalloonsBlow website for the whole story. I believe that if we just keep speaking up, people will eventually realize that they don’t want to be part of something that’s really no different than buying a box of balloons and dumping them in the street in front of your house. It’s littering, end of story. No matter how pretty the balloons look as they float up into the sky, they still pollute the environment and kill wildlife. People are generally shocked when they find out that these balloons sometimes travel hundreds of miles from the launch sites. I think of it as throwing your trash in someone else’s back yard. Sure, they’ll decompose….eventually. But before they decompose, they’re litter, plain and simple. Just because you don’t have to see it on the ground doesn’t mean it isn’t trash.
Ok, I think I’ve said what I needed to on this issue. So now that I’ve had my say about balloons, I can get back to watching the baby robins in our nest. They’re very active now! We’ve got our spotting scope set up in the kitchen so we can watch their little fuzzy heads pop up when mommy and daddy arrive to feed them. I’m trying to get some more pictures to share with you too, so stay tuned!
P.S. If you want to help convince Sterling Heights of the error of their ways, you can send a polite email to them at email@example.com. 🙂