Safeguarded from the rest of the world, we city folks have nothing to worry about except for our daily bills and the Thursday pick-up truck. We live in a world where trash is thrown out- yet not a single one of us knows where. Our waste, our garbage, our pollutants must go somewhere, and I find it very particular that I learned of these whereabouts during vacation in the desert region of southern California. Unlike other vacations, this time, my family and I left the luxurious, air-conditioned resort for an “attraction” found on the internet: the Salton Sea.
All we knew was that the Salton Sea was actually a salt-water lake and the largest of its kind in California. Driving down the 111 freeway in a seemingly underdeveloped area, the lake suddenly appeared before our eyes below a roll of mountains. It extended beyond the eye could see, and it sparkled in the sun.
Before I knew it, our car was parked lazily on the side of the road next to “Salton Sea Beach”, and we were prepared for a “sea-side” stroll of the lake. But, as I opened the car door, a stench beyond description permeated into our car. It was the smell of rotten seafood, decay, and feces. Clenching my nose however, I still had a strong desire to see this “Salton Sea” lake. As I approached this lake, I began to witness the most disturbing, most unwelcoming, most horrifying landscape I have ever seen in my city life. Below our feet lay hundreds of thousands of dead fish the size of a hand, scattered and piled who knows, perhaps even around the entire perimeter of the lake. They were all decaying at different stages, some of them with their mouths open while others were turning a sick, black color. Next to them, floated a populated group of pelicans.
I wish I had run back to the car and drove far away from this horrible place. But, for some reason, this place lured me to stay and soak in what was before me. It fascinated me. How were there pelicans in the desert, miles from the coastline? How did the fish die if they were still intact? (assuming the pelicans did not eat them) These were unanswered questions that would have to seek an answer.
A few days later, back in the city, the explanations began to unfold as I investigated more about this “sea”. Salton Sea formed back in 1905, when rainfall from the Colorado River flowed into the sink and submerged the entire town of Salton. During the 1920’s, fishing was popular at this tourist destination, but the lake grew denser with salt that is now at an astounding 44g/L. The Tilapia fish species thrives at an estimated 10 million while other species have died out because of the salinity. The Salton Sea receives its water from the New River, known as the most polluted river in America.
Salton Sea can surely go down my travel books as the most memorable “attraction” I have ever visited. Before I had seen the Salton Sea, I had a preconception that pollution and destruction of biodiversity and natural resources occurred only in highly industrialized places like China. However, after witnessing the Salton Sea, the presence of this intolerable act we humans impose on this planet, cannot be ignored. Through this highly unexpected experience, I have obtained the determination to promote awareness about the treachery outside our city.
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