Tag Archives: local environment

Wrong, so so wrong: octopus harvest in West Seattle

This is being covered both locally and nationally: two divers “harvested” two of our precious and beautiful giant octupi, one of them still on her eggs, and were apparently boasting of their catch.

It’s legal to “harvest” these creatures with a license, but the entire region is outraged. They are not numerous, are a treasure, and the two that lived in the cove off Alki are now gone–for all of us. It’s brutal and thoughtless.

You may be inclined to voice an opinion about this. The director of local fish and wildlife email is
director@dfw.wa.gov and the phone number is 360-20902-2200.

You can also sign a petition that has just been started to protect these creatures we share our environment with–find that here.

And finally…harvest? I harvest tomatoes from my garden in September. The creatures around us are not harvestable commodities, just sayin.

From Italy to our National Parks and Forests to Lincoln Park: a NYT opinion piece plus some..

Timothy Egan recently wrote a piece about our National Parks and Forests, the envy of the entire world, a fluke almost in a land-grab world of power and exploitation (The Geography of Nope, T. Egan, 9/29/12).  It’s a pretty good read, check it out.

And of course, since it’s the crazy season, there’s a real live and imperative political angle…Not that Obama has been any sort of champion at all of the free and open spaces that grace our country, he hasn’t.  But Romney tipped his hand, showing that he would deal a devastating and permanent blow to the gems that define America “…earlier this year when he told a Nevada newspaper that ‘I don’t know what the purpose is’ of all this federal land in the West. It would be nice to think he just doesn’t get it, because he’s never spent any time in the free outdoors.”

The issue that Egan takes up reminds me of our recent run-in with the “think creatively: minds in Seattle’s Parks and Recreation Dept. that came up with the idea for a tree-top zip line with concession stand and ropes course in the middle of one of our few remaining urban sanctuaries and old growth forests, Lincoln Park.  The response was quick and decisive but you have to believe that they are back at the drawing board trying to figure out how to monetize the park by the square foot.  It’s almost a carbon copy of the national urge on the part of a few:

The states, of course, are cash-strapped, and want these lands only so they can industrialize them quickly, with minimal regulations. If you want to know what our public lands would be like under states in the pocket of oil companies, just look at the closing days of George W. Bush’s presidency, when drillers pressed to scar up land near some of the most iconic national parks and monuments in the Southwest. Only a change in administrations, and lawsuits that back the people’s right to manage the lands properly, stopped them in their tracks.

Second — and more importantly — these are our lands they want to take away. The toddler in Tuscaloosa has equal claim to the stunning Vermilion Cliffs outside the Grand Canyon as does a cowboy in Arizona. One day, when we are a nation of 600 million, these community-owned treasures will be all the more valuable.

And that last part is the part that will challenge the small thinkers who are driving monetization: the importance of our free and open lands will only grow as the lack of free and open land decreases.  And not just for us, but for all migrating animals and birds, for an entire ecosystem that requires space and diversity and a multitude of resources we scarcely recognize.

So, dear Seattle City Council, Mayor McGinn, Parks Dept: I ask you to think in terms of a broad and varied portfolio of open space.  Some quite urban, some urban sanctuaries, some tiny, some quite grand.  Don’t apply a single rule of $X per SqFt to evaluate what we have that makes this city liveable.  Think truly creatively, think really big, think for the long term.  Consider existing city parks like Central Park and Golden Gate park.  No cheap, short term tricks but rather a vision of the gems we have becoming even more valuable with time.

Zipline in Lincoln Park? Thanks for the offer, but, uh…No Thanks.

There is a proposal to install a Zipline and ropes course amusement area in Lincoln Park (you can learn more about it here on WSB, Tracy’s article garnered more comments than any in the history of the blog).  There is a wave of activism against this proposal and this coming week will include a presentation by the offending developers to the Fauntleroy Community Association Tuesday at 7pm, Fauntleroy Hall.  More informal meetings of outraged west seattleites are happening throughout the week.

Lincoln Park in West Seattle is a pristine old growth forest in an urban setting, a unique gem on the Salish Sea

There are two Facebook Groups you can join, just search on Zipline Lincoln Park or anything like that and you’ll find them.

There are a few blogs springing up in an effort to get the word out, such as this great one.

Here are a few things I’m thinking about regarding the numbskull idea:

–Go Ape says the park will handle *only* 14 riders per hour.  14.  That’s likely 20-30 more cars at any given point during the day in the parking lot, if you consider the inevitable wait lines for riders.  There is talk that this will necessitate a new parking lot in the park.

–No trees will be harmed in the process of building and maintaining the park, the developers say.  It only impacts the tree tops.  THE TREE TOPS, where our eagles, hawks, owls, herons and other large birds roost and hang out.  Loss of predator birds will result in a burgeoning rat infestation, which will be helped along vigorously by the waste and trash produced by the concession stands.

–Traffic along Fauntleroy—do we really need to discuss this?  Sometimes the ferry lines stretch back 4 or 5 miles.

–No alternative revenue ideas to help defray the costs of maintaining the park have been investigated or attempted.

There are many communities that have successfully pushed back on these development plans and specifically against Go Ape.  A few are:

Napa Valley
Monterey County
Woodinville WA

Let’s all just say No.

Better Off: one year, two people, zero watts

I just finished reading Better Off by Eric Brende who, a decade ago as part of a graduate project, went from MIT to OTG (off-the-grid) for 18 months with his wife, and amidst it all, new baby.

The book is based on his journals from that 18 month period and has a ton of really interesting anecdotes and observations.  Bottom line: he really never came back to the machine-and-technology world.  He didn’t stay in the zero-watt Mennonite community he joined for the project, but he and his family learned they quite liked a life with very little technology and have over the years built a lifestyle that suits them really well.

The end of the book has an epilogue that is markedly different in tone from the rest of the book in that it takes a sober look at his conclusions–no folksy tales about how and who and why and when in the country. A very stripped down appraisal of the True Cost of how we live–and the True Cost is high, make no mistake.

Interestingly, he gives a nod to the internet he uses at the library and how it allows him to reach a larger audience for trades, barters and such.

It’s worth the read.

This Sweet Old World

I’ve been humming the tune of This Sweet Old World today, floating between grief and disbelief over the BP Spill.  This isn’t a scree about that mess, I don’t know what can really be said.  BP should promise flat out that it will do anything and everything possible to make this right, simply, clearly, no hedging.

This sweet old world….

S’anyway…

Yesterday I had a minor medical treatment that involved a small incision and some stitches.  No big. But I was somewhat dumbfounded when over the course of 25 minutes I saw the assistant put on, remove and toss in the garbage no less than six pairs of latex gloves.

No, really.  Six pairs.  Right in the plastic bag that held the growing mound of waste that would be collected up and thrown somewhere.  The ocean probably.

I mentioned my surprise to the assistant and he, without the slightest thought, said, “well, we have to use a new set of gloves each time we open a canister because the germs can spread so easily.”

Ok.  Picture this: my little treatment happening at that moment, hundreds and hundreds of times yesterday all around the world…cuz yeah, it wasn’t very exotic.  And then imagine more complex treatments, and full out surgeries. Imagine the amount of plastic bags full of latex and plastic wrappers emanating from those hospitals all around the world.

six pairs of latex gloves in 25 minutes

So I’ve been thinking about this. Rolling it around in my head, along with the beached whales this summer and their stomachs full of plastic, and the ease of plastic, and the mindlessness of plastic and then a talk by Bill McKibben gave on NPR the other day and his new book, Eaarth,  which argues for the end of growth.

How did I get there?  Because it is the magic thinking of an expanding universe of humanity that is at the root of most of our problems today…as McKibben says, we are now “too big to succeed.”

Consider: the growing universe of germs is due to an ever increasing population that is ever increasing its number of cure-all antibiotics that the invisible microbial world mutates to conquer again and again and again.

Consider: the more people we have, the more resources we use, in an obviously limited world.

Consider: the dwindling resources requires us to take ever more extreme actions to supply the ever increasing population of humans demanding ever more of everything, while believing there is no cause-and-effect–magic!.

There is a report today about the impact slowing down– reducing driving speeds– would have in a systemic way...proof positive that a small thing can make a big difference.  We could do this, but as a nation, the idea of slowing down is insulting, not to mention unenforced, and basically any questioning of our power to do what we want, when we want, and at the speed we want, is generally viewed as unpatriotic.  Our magic thinking has gone round the bend.

There are things we could do.  You and I both know there are things we could do differently, for the sake of this sweet old world.

In Praise of Mary Oliver

We  heard poet Mary Oliver read from her works at Benaroya Hall here in Seattle last night.  The collection of poems she read spanned her entire oeuvre–an excellent selection.  She read for an hour; it was such a delight to hear her work read in her own voice.  Also a delight was her sense of humor, her humble good grace, her great heart.

Her relationship with the natural world, with the beauty and gift of nature itself, made me feel utterly sane.  I’m not sure what I mean by that, just that I felt at ease and sane by the end of the reading.  Perhaps her call to presence when breathing the sweet air of the morning, or hearing an owl at night, made me feel that there is great sanity in loving the loveliness of this planet we share.  That all the flat screen tvs and  ipods in the world can’t  compete with the  feel of the sun on your skin on a summer day.

Yes, I think that might be it.

Plastic Disturbia

The other day I was paddle boarding around the bay in West Seattle. At this time of year, we have extreme low and high tides, and the slack tide in between tends to be the collection point for a lot of garbage in the water. Even as the day was lovely, the paddling exquisite, I kept coming across a disturbing pattern: big globs of muck that were built out a tangled mess of fishing line, 6-pack ring, seaweed, plastic bags, algae, bungee cords, dead fish, feathers, plastic bottles, unidentified gunk and plastic food containers. The common ingredient: plastic. And there were a lot of these little floating islands.

plastic in our oceans

These congealed half-bio-half-plastic masses are very quickly becoming ubiquitous in our oceans. If the only damage were that of the scenery, I could almost but not quite shrug it off.

The damage is much, much worse. In fact, you could say that what I was seeing off Lincoln Park was just the barest tip of an iceberg.

Sierra Magazine has an article this month entitled “Message in a Bottle” and it’s worth a few minutes to read. Gird yourself, you may not be prepared for the story:

  • There is an area off the coast of Japan known as The Garbage Patch, three times the size of Texas and a seeming doldrums where the world’s plastics collect and degrade.
  • Don’t kid yourself: plastic doesn’t ever entirely degrade like things in the organic world. Plastic simply breaks into smaller and smaller pieces. Those pieces at some point become indistinguishable from krill and other food sources in the ocean
  • This plastic broth is making its way into the food chain; the bellies of baby fish are gorged with the stuff and yet they die of starvation. Adult birds and fish are ingesting it. It’s real, it’s happening.
  • One of the main culprits is a thing called plastic nurdles--manufactured plastic molded into small nuggets for easy shipment to manufacturing plants all around the world to make things like that handy blue plastic water bottle, that shovel and bucket your kids play with at the beach, the parts in your car, the caps on your soda, the packing in that new TV (not to mention the TV itself), the plastic wrapper on the grapes you brought to the picnic, the cap on your latte-to-go, your flip-flops, and that bobble-head toy you got at the ballpark. The massive ships carrying these nurdles sometimes lose their cargo, sometimes they accidentally dump large quantities of the stuff, sometimes it just gets loose.

The thing I can’t get out of my head, the thing that haunts me is how much plastic there is. We really don’t even think about plastic as plastic anymore, we think of it as normal. Diamonds may not be forever, after all they are organic structures, but plastic really IS forever. Where will all of this stuff go, this stuff that really IS forever?

In my own little life, we have upped our efforts to decrease the amount of plastic in our lives, but it’s an uphill battle. We reuse our plastic bags and buy in bulk as much as possible, we forego the plastic cap on the latte, we avoid the over-architected containers.

And we have to content ourselves with that. It’s not enough, but it’s something we can do.

The clean-up on this mess will be monstrous; if we started today, we could have 100% employment for decades. The one upside to this is it’s undeniable: the massive three-times-the-size-of-Texas floating islands of garbage are real. You could go there today and be blown away by the iceberg-depth and island-breadth of the mess.

plastic ocean 2

Cornell Ornithology Lab: quick vid

I really enjoyed this vid which promotes the Cornell Ornithology Lab.  I’ve written about Cornell previously and am an avid supporter–they do fabulous things, especially in schools and globally to try to raise the level of awareness about birds, local environment, citizen science and other cool things.

Click here to see their Force of Nature video–it’s short and full of great shots.