Saturday, April 17, 2010

Another day on earth

Volcanoes. Earthquakes. Blizzards. Floods. Drought. The earth has a way of getting our attention--even if it doesn't always get our respect.

The 40th anniversary of Earth Day--the granddaddy of Green-- is Thursday, and many communities have celebrations and clean-up campaigns all week. I like to think of Earth Day as every day. This is, after all, the planet that provides our sustenance and shelter within the universe.

It doesn't matter whether or not you "believe" in global warming. What does matter is we are responsible for what you see in these pictures, which come from the Ocean Conservancy and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Marine Debris Program.

Not only is this garbage not pretty, it kills.
This photo of an injured pinniped entangled in fishing net is the least disturbing photo I found. There are tons of pictures of birds with beaks tied shut or innards clogged with plastic objects, of dead sea turtles and dolphins caught in debris that starves or drowns them. I couldn't bring myself to post the dead animals here. Did you know that a drifting plastic grocery bag looks a lot like a jelly fish to some hungry sea creatures?


the tides wash ashore

strange bounty--oil cans, plastic

bottles, strands of ghost nets


Hawaii is paradise, right? Who doesn't dream of soaking up sunshine and snorkeling there? But there are more than 700 sites in the archipelago where ocean currents deposit marine debris that comes from thousands of miles away. Since 1996, more than 600 metric tons of derelict or "ghost" fishing nets have been removed from the remote northwestern islands of the archipelago.

NOAA, being all scientific and stuff, doesn't verify many of the figures floating around online about the amount of debris that might be in the oceans or number of deaths attributed to it, but the numbers are not really the issue. If one animal or bird dies because of our throw-away culture, that's one too many.

So what can we do? Three words: Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. I purchased reusable shopping bags that crunch up small enough to fit in a pocket or purse so I always have them with me.

Another thing anyone can do is help clean up our global house.
You don't have to join a group effort if it's not your thing. Just carry a small trash bag sometimes when you walk. Clean up your own neighborhood and parks so that the garbage that less-enlightened people drop doesn't wash down the drains, into the rivers and then the ocean.

My friend and I did that while walking around a lake. We got curious stares from some people and gratitude from others. Hey, maybe they'll do it some time, too.

I sure hope this didn't come across as a lecture or rant. I just really think we may be running out of time if we don't get serious--each and every one of us. Is there anything you do to make things better for Mother Earth?


Stephanie Thornton said...

I'm a big fan of reusable shopping bags and my husband and I were just talking about doing Spring Clean-Up this year with our daughter. We've talked about it the last couple years, but I think this is the first year I can be sure she's not going to make a beeline for the highway.

Every little bit helps!

Yvonne Osborne said...

Thank you, Tricia! You are so my soulmate. And you know what? I'm tired of apologizing. It's time we started ranting and lecturing and screaming off rooftops. Forget paper napkins, use cloth. Forget plastic soda bottles and water bottles. Ban them! In your hearts, ban them! Speak out. Rant. Scream.

This is one of the reasons I will never go on a cruise. They're nothing mre than floating garbage barges. Garbage, people. Where do you think it all goes?

Thank you Tricia, my soulmate.

L.T. Elliot said...

I'm right with you! What will be left of our world if we don't take care of it. That tire in the ocean was heartbreaking to see and what you said about the makes me sick.

Donna said...

Rant on, Tricia. We're with you.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Tricia. As always! You're so right. Down here in NZ, we've been experiencing the effects of the ozone hole for almost 20 years now. Some parts of the year, we have literally no ozone over us.

Thing is, just like Hawaii, we're not the ones who put it there. Sure, we contributed to it, but our measly 4million population didn't pump all the rubbish into the air it took to make that hole.

That's the trouble, the worst effects are invisible to the ones who need to see it most, until it's too late. By the time the big polluters of the world are truly suffering, it'll be much too late to turn things around.

Rant on, Tricia!

Bish Denham said...

Great post, Tricia! I hope you are not preaching to the choir. I hope someone who reads this is inspired to behave differntly. Plastic is what I'm out to eliminate. There is not only a plastic garbage swirl twice the size of Texas in the Pacific Ocean another one has been found in the Atlantic. We must all do what we can to reduce the use of plastic else we shall drown ourselve in it.

Paul C said...

How ironic that in such a pristine, remote place like Hawaii, it too becomes a dumping ground with so much floating garbage. We are quite serious recyclers.

lisa and laura said...

I think this is so important. It's so sad to see the mark we've left on the earth. Hopefully the efforts we make today will pay off for tomorrow!

Unknown said...

I just fell across your blog and I'm already loving it! What an awesome post! This did not sound like a lecture or a rant, just like someone who really does love Mother Earth and only wants to help! I couldn't agree more with you, I do what I can in my daily life to better this world and not make it worse.

Unknown said...

Ugh. I know. It's so depressing to think what we do to our own planet. Especially our oceans. Just because you can't see deep below the surface, doesn't mean it isn't home to many creatures and forms of life.

All we can do is keep doing our best to be a part of the solution--not the problem.

storyqueen said...

Everyday SHOULD be Earth Day.

Humans have done many not so wonderful things to our's time we start to change our ways before it's too late.


Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Stephanie: Keeping an eye on a little one is hard and it is the priority. It will be nice if you get to participate. Anyway, it's one reason I think we could all do it whenever we get a chance during the year and maybe inspire others, too. Happy Clean-up if you get to go!

Yvonne: Ha! I know you won't be shy about this. You go, girl!

LT: Sometimes it's the little stories that hit us more than the huge numbers. Thank you.

Donna: I know you are! To anyone reading this, Donna takes a walking stick with her and even fishes debris out of lakes with it.

Wen: I am horrified about the ozone. I know that is why skin cancer is so high in Australia and NZ. All we can do is keep speaking up, make our objections to pollution heard.

Bish: I think we all help each other to stay alert when we post about this problem, and each time we do reach someone who hasn't thought about it, we make a little progress. The majority of people have to change the way they live and the things they use for this to work, so we have to keep getting the word out.

Paul: Isn't it heart-breaking?

Lisa & Laura: I hope we do make a better tomorrow. Boy, do I.

Hi Jen and welcome. I'm so glad to have you drop by. Thank you so much!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Karen: Indeed. And I know you've been thinking a lot about ocean life. I hope we can turn this mess around. And, you're right, all we can do is try.

Shelley: Thank you, friend. I am glad now that I decided to post this. It matters so much.

Unknown said...

Being a huge nature lover, I hate seeing beaches littered with garbage and streets lined with trash. It is so important, OUR responsibility, to take care of the Earth. While I don't believe in global warming (I think God's in charge of the weather), I do believe very strongly about treating this world with respect and taking care of it by reducing, reusing, and recycling. :D

Just Wendy said...

Tricia, I'm with you 100%. In fact, if I could swing by your place armed with a couple of rubbish bags, I would.

More posts like this....

It is a tale which needs to be told. Again and again and again, until it sinks in to those with 'thick skins' and 'peas for brain'. I wanted to use another analogy, but thought better of it!

Jemi Fraser said...

Terrific post! I'm always talking to the kids in my class about what they can do - even little actions add up to make a big difference

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Nisa: It is our responsibility and an important one indeed. Thanks for commenting.

Wendy: Ha! I wish you could swing by, too, and that I could do the same for you. We could go trash hunting.

Jemi: I'm so glad you discuss it with the kids. Starting young is important to making it a lifelong habit.

Anonymous said...

It's disgusting and sad. Why can't humans just keep it simple, instead of wanting more and more artificial crap. It all ends up as junk and rubbish. So easy to throw it away and forget about it.

Jackee said...

So well put. You can probably guess I'm a big proponent of the 3 R's, but I need the reminders, the pictures of how just one carelessly tossed bag can impact another being.

I truly believe that the state of the immediate environment around us is a reflection of the state of our souls.

Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Great post Tricia! These days I'm working at home but when I was teaching I used to ride my bike to work all winter long. I had studded snow tires and learned how to dress to stay warm at 40 below. It helped with putting less CO2 into the air but it was also my daily adventure:-)

We also have a big garden!!

I recently saw Will Steger speak about global warming. He has some amazing photos and video footage. I'm guessing that what he showed us in on his website.

dolorah said...

Thanks for the earth day reminders Tricia.

I always pick up trash when I see it, but maybe I'll go out of my way in the next week to clean up other areas.


Barrie said...

I'm big into recycling. But there's always more I can do!!!

Carolina M. Valdez Schneider said...

Yes yes yes! There is so much we can do just to keep our own space clean. I don't understand why people think they can just pitch rubbish into the street or into a river, as if tossing it into nature will make it disappear. If I wouldn't do it at home (I mean, who throws a cigarette butt onto their own carpet?), then I wouldn't do it to nature. And really, how many plastic bags do we need in our house? Reusable bags are the way to go (now if I could just remember to bring them with me to the shops). Such little actions that require so little energy or thought....

Thanks for bringing this up. We need constant reminders, I think.

Liza said...

Thank you Tricia. On my walk today I passed several platic bottles by the side of the road. I wish I had a bag then, I will have one tomorrow.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Niki: It does boil down to a kind of mindlessness, doesn't it? No thought of where the stuff goes.

Jackee: Wow, that last sentence you wrote is very powerful.
And, yes, I knew you would be pretty devout on the subject.

Paul!!! If I were giving a prize you would win. But then I guess the earth wins from your actions.
I'll be checking out Steger's site, for sure.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Donna: Good for you, and thanks so much!

Barrie: Yes, I think we have to keep reminding ourselves. There is much going on we can't see.

Carol: That's why I love those little bags I have that scrunch up into a pocket or purse. They make it easy not forget to bring bags to market with you.
What is sad about your comment, who would throw cigarettes on their own carpet, is there are people who would. Really. As a reporter I went into a couple of homes that made my stomach lurch, they were that filthy.

Liza: Yay! You will. I will. Every little bit will help.

Davin Malasarn said...

Great post, Tricia. I'm getting better and better at being earth friendly. Working in a lab, a lot of times I feel like my work helps indirectly and that justifies some wasteful use of lab materials. Now, I try to be better on both fronts. And, the nice thing is that a lot of companies that supply equipment and materials are becoming greener too. said...

Global warming is very obvious here in the Adirondacks. The bug season has gotten longer and some of the tender plants that were mistakenly planted in my garden are starting to act as if we live in a warmer zone than the colder end of Zone 4. We also have more ice storms and more power outages because we no longer jump into zero weather in the winter.

Tess said...

I teach and talk to my children. I want them to learn that respect and I think it is one of the greatest things I can pass on.

and, we follow the boy scouts 'leave no trace' when we go into the gorgeous canyons and mountains we are blessed to sit at the feet of. (bad sentence structure, I know)

Talli Roland said...

What a great reminder. It so doesn't come across as a lecture or rant; rather as someone who really does care.


Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Davin: The more companies that get on the green train the better--not only do they create a lot of waste they can find alternatives that are less polluting, which will help all of us.

Mary Anne: I'm sorry it's hitting you so hard. For most people, they don't see it. There was an entire island that disappeared between Bangladesh and India as the ocean level has risen.

Tess: I'm so pleased to hear that, but, knowing the sort of person you are, I'm not surprised you have taken your responsibility seriously.

Talli: I do care, and I am thrilled that so many others care, too. Thanks for commenting. :D

Julie Dao said...

I cry every time I watch a National Geographic show or Planet Earth and see what we have done to our world. The scope of human damage and carelessness - it's just terrifying and cruel. I do my best to recycle and save energy and contribute to wildlife funds, and I know there are good people out there doing everything in their power to save our world, but the magnitude of what needs to be done to turn it all around - it gets really heartbreaking to think about sometimes. Thank you for the reminder - Earth needs more people like you :)

Suzanne Casamento said...

Tricia, great post! Sadly, like Bish, I just read about the discovery of the huge garbage swirl in the Atlantic too. I agree with Yvonne - shout it out! So here are my tips:

-Install a water filter so you never have to buy bottled water again
-We writers should recycle our ink cartridges and buy recycled paper. Staples has a store brand that is 100% recycled and it's only a few cents more than a regular reem and you get a $3 rebate for every ink cartridge you return. (Office Depot gives you $5!) Recycling is not only cool, it saves you $!
-Sign up for your power provider's green program. LA's DWP has a great green energy program and it only costs a few more dollars per billing cycle
-Unplug appliances whenever they aren't in use
-Garden! And use a squirt of dishwashing liquid combined with plenty of water instead of pesticides
-Buy local produce and support our farmers
-Like you said, use cloth bags. Plastic bags are evil

Thanks for getting the green going!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Julie: It does seem overwhelming when we know all that needs to be done, but if we each do a little bit it will be a lot in the long run. That's my theory anyway.

Suzanne!!! That's a great list of tips. I hope more and more people do those very things.

VR Barkowski said...

Great post, Tricia. The problem seems insurmountable, but there is so much we can do not only within our own homes, but joining with other consumers. Excess packaging is a real problem. Manufacturers argue the packaging is recyclable. But why make something that has no purpose other than to be recycled? Recycling uses resources too.


Thanks for posting this. Maybe one of the unexpected outcomes of this recession is that people will stop throwing away so much stuff and constantly buying new stuff. Maybe it'll become a virtue to reuse, recycle, and offer more longevity to the objects around us. Great photos, by the way. Evocative and efficient. (And don't worry about lecturing or ranting--I love the passion in your "voice.")

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

VR: So true about the packaging. I'm going to try to put more thought into products I buy, to see if I can find the ones that are least polluting in all ways.

Samuel: I'd like to hope people will change their habits. I guess we'll see. Thanks for the lovely comment about "voice." That's darn nice to hear.

India Drummond said...

Great post!

Happy Earth Day!

cleemckenzie said...

This didn't come of as a lecture, it came off as a reminder. I never walk a trail or a beach that I don't take a container with me. I can usually fill it in under a mile. Plastic is the most common piece of debris I pick up. I support banning plastic garbage bags and the use of biodegradable items like diapers. Every little bit helps and earth is a great reminder of what we can and should do for our home.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Hi and welcome, India. Thank you for the comment.

Lee: Good for you! I find lots of plastic, too--bags,bag fasteners, straws, bottle tops.