Wild Secrets: A Holiday Prayer, an Earth Day Message

By Natalia Doshi, Environmental Specialist  

In this month’s Wild Secrets column, Environmental Specialist Natalia Doshi from OCWD’s Natural Resources Department shares a special story, perfectly timed for Earth Month, reminding us to always think about our local environment. Read her story below.

As biologists return to the field in preparation for the spring season (the busiest time of year for the Natural Resources world), Habitat Restoration Manager and Biologist Bonnie Johnson hiked her trails for monitoring endangered birds and came across a special note in the Prado forest. One through fate, chance, and wind...

For years Bonnie has picked up trash she finds in the forest and Prado Wetlands. The main pieces of trash encountered are numbers of the infamous Mylar balloons. A party and celebration token of our society, but sadly too often seen as trash in pristine wildlife habitats.

On St. Patrick’s Day morning, Bonnie was hiking her normal path to monitor for nesting birds and came across a bundle of festive Christmas Mylar balloons wrapped around branches of a coyote bush. Something was a little different this time compared to the numerous balloons she has picked up over the years. Attached to the balloons was a gift bag and neatly packaged inside was a sweet letter and a crisp $100 bill.

The letter, written in Spanish, translates:

“Happy new year on your day my Lord, Jesus of Nazaret, and we would like to give you thanks, my wife, my sons and my daughters, my sisters, my nephews and nieces, my brother-in-laws, my friends, and myself, and also my family in Honduras: my father, my mother, brother, niece, my children’s friends. Thank you for the life that you give us, the health, the food, water, the air we breathe, the work, and the businesses, and the many blessings you give us day to day. And this gift we humbly give to you, please bless the person that finds it. Amen.”

This Holiday prayer came with the purest intention, a sign of gratitude and fate, from a good-hearted family that was blessed and generous enough to spread their fortune.

It may or may not be a coincidence, but this was a story to share just in time for Earth Day. This letter of gratefulness and generosity can be a message for all of us to spread kindness and a sign of awareness to protect Mother Earth. Because, sadly, not all Mylar balloons are lucky enough to be picked up by a biologist.

There is sentiment in releasing balloons for the passing of a loved one, a celebration of a marriage, or as in this case, a prayer. However, not many of us know what happens to all those pieces of mylar, latex, and ribbon afterward. Unfortunately, they end up as trash somewhere in the world. Once released, balloons can travel hundreds of miles in the air before landing. The trash can entangle or be ingested by wildlife. The pieces are not biodegradable and, in short, balloons are a serious threat to the environment. Balloons can even pose a threat to public safety. Mylar balloons cause many power outages when they catch onto power lines because of the metallic coating which also never degrades.

So hopefully this story makes us give a second thought before purchasing those beautiful shining balloons for the next party or social media post. Until the day an innovative company creates a Mylar balloon replacement, there are a list of alternatives that can be used for your next celebration, including hanging recycled paper lanterns, scarves for ribbon, flower signs, and reusable materials. At the very least, we should refrain from releasing items into the environment, especially Mylar balloons.

This holiday prayer of the well-intended family found on that lucky spring morning came just in time to share for Earth Day, what are the chances of that? Is this fate? Maybe that is up to each one of us to decide. The $100 bill though, well that stays rightfully so with the person that found it.