Desert clean up December 2016
For the third year in a row the iCad + group have taken part in the Emirates Environment Group Desert Clean Up as part of our Environmental Awareness activities. For the last 2 years we had gone to our allocated clean up point in Nad Al Sheba in Dubai, but this year we ventured further to the edge of Sharjah, off the Sharjah/Kalba Road. Here, unlike the hard packed sand of Nad Al Sheba, we felt like we were in the real desert: the sand was golden and soft, and the dunes so much bigger. In fact, the dunes really seemed to get bigger and bigger during the morning as we climbed up and down picking up all the bits and pieces of rubbish left behind on picnics or blown across the desert.
We were each given one cotton glove (to be recycled at the end) to pick up the rubbish, so that we didn’t have to actually touch anything, and a plastic bag. We hauled back around 30 plastic bags filled to the brim with so much plastic – plastic bottles, plastic bags, plates, cutlery, soda cans, and straws. The strangest things we found were an abandoned carpet, a mattress, a tyre a rope, and sadly abandoned sandals.
There were a few other school groups there too and volunteers from companies doing their bit for the community and the environment. Some of the volunteers helped us haul back our bags to the collection point when we found them too heavy.
This year we had the added bonus of being right next to a farm with camels peaking over the fence at us, as we picked plastic bags off the perimeter. The students were encouraged by the local camel herder to give the camels some water from the cups of water we were given by the organizers. This was certainly a first for many of us, as the camels were obviously quite keen for us to share our water with them.
Our outline environmental learning objectives were easily met: everyone will remember the next time they feel like leaving their rubbish behind that it will linger in the desert, and takes quite a while to decompose in the sand. The sheer effort of cleaning up makes an impression on students who are used to the relative luxury of things being tidied away for them, by parents, maids, and cleaners. Everyone cannot help but be shocked by the needless waste and how the trash all gets blown and caught under the desert bushes.
However, what they also learned was the importance of teamwork: helping each other drag a carpet, dig up something and enjoy counting up our trophies of plastic bags. Everyone got a kick out of helping a friend pull a heavy bag up a sand dune, and when we got onto our minibus, hot and very dusty, everyone enjoyed the sense of a job well done.