Tag Archives: plastic ocean

Video

52WoLP: #10, Animal Presence Part 2

This is a bit of a riff, but bear with me, we’ll end up at Lincoln Park. I’m still buzzing about animal presence, and wanted to share some o’ that love. After the iridescent octopus at Makena on Maui, the turtle-paloosa at every beach we visited, the shave-ice colored wrasses and graceful idols, the whales, spinner dolphins, I wanted to learn about local folks helping to protect the gift of nature that Hawaii is… and one group stood out: Hawaii Wildlife Fund.

HWF was founded in 1996 by two biologists who saw the encroachment of all kinds of not-very-wild activity on an environment that depends on wild conditions. They are, as co-founder Hannah Bernard put it: “small but mighty.” They spend most of their energy actually doing things like this and this and this (poopy!). They have an awesome education and intern program (do they take 60 year olds??), outreach, and have built an impact worth supporting.

So….Lincoln Park, here’s the link up: as soon as I learned about HWF, Seal Sitters here in West Seattle came to mind. Local with an impact that belies its size, passionate and visionary…Good stuff. Some things I love about Seal Sitters: they have educated a whole city about the little seal pup on the beach, the one people may mistake for injured or worse, others may think would be a happy playmate for their dogs, and still others who might not have noticed at all. It’s neighborly, it’s profound, it’s small but mighty.

Co-Founded by author Brenda Peterson and gaining strength as Seal Sitters in 2007, the group has helped so many–kids, adults, even dogs– understand that it is up to us to protect and share the beach as part of our wildlife habitat. You see them often on Alki, but for the last couple of years, you’ll also see them at the beach in Lincoln Park, setting up a protective zone around a seal pup resting on the shore. They have a great blog (blubberblog, best. name. ever.), our beloved West Seattle Blog is a big booster, and the volunteers are more than happy to talk about what they do. The pups are still taking long sleeps on the shores so keep an eye out for that thing that Seal Sitters does so well.

Wildly, improbably, a few people saw a need and decided to do something about it. As a result, they really have changed the world–one beach at a time. I love that.

52 Weeks of Lincoln Park: week #10

Advertisements

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.

Midway Atoll: Art, Grief and Transformation

Take a look at some photos from the front–the front being that stretch of sea that holds the world’s biggest floating garbage patch.  Will it someday come to be known as an “oceanfill” like landfill?

Chris Jordan’s work is entitled “Art, Grief and Transformation.”  As he says, the grief of seeing wildlife killed by having ingested plastic it thinks is food is nearly too much to contemplate.

The amount of plastic we are producing, discarding, and sending into the food chain is unfathomable.  Our disconnect from the reality of overpopulation and over-consumption is stunning.  How did we evolve to such a level of magic thinking?

World Water Day: two great vids, and maybe just for today, don’t be afraid of your tap.

First video clearly, and with a good sense of humor, highlights how the bottled water industry (Pepsi, Coke, Fiji, etc) have used stark fear to manufacture the demand for bottled water. I’ve switched to drinking from the tap over the last year; we use a regular old filter. No big.

This video shows the horrendous life-cycle of bottled water, and how much it really really costs. And did you know how many cargo ship loads of water bottles end up as mountains of plastic garbage in India. Think about that next time you toss a plastic bottle in the “recycle” bin. More here, it’s a good–and clever–video.

Second video from Surfrider association. I hope every school in the world streams this in for their kids to watch, if only so they can know what they’re inheriting from us.

The Cycle of Insanity: The Real Story of Water from Surfrider Foundation on Vimeo.

End-of-year round up: yeehah!

Some updates on two themes for the year, Living Green and Running.  I’ll save Running for another day before 2010 descends.

Living Green

One big change I’ve really enjoyed is switching to home-made toothpaste.  “Enjoyed” is an overstatement, in fact it was a pretty big adjustment. What most of us are used to wrt to toothpaste is pretty sweet gel stuff, easy to use and tasty like good chewing gum.  Home-made toothpaste isn’t like that so it was an adjustment.

What led to making my own:

  • Estimating the annual landfill caused by non-recyclable tubes emanating from our house, our neighborhood, our city (literally millions of tubes)
  • Investigating toothpaste recipes and history and realizing there were real health benefits to a simple recipe of baking soda, mint mouthwash, glycerin and flavoring
  • Trying it out and learning it takes about 5 minutes to make a jar of it that will last a month.  5 minutes = 1 month.

Some downsides:

  • My partner didn’t like the taste and refused to use it, thus my goal of reducing our personal landfill quotient was cut in half for a while.
  • It doesn’t leave your mouth “zingingly” clean-feeling, so I continue to rinse with mouthwash, but that container IS recyclable  and it added nothing new to my existing habits.
  • You have to stir it up sometimes, but that was good enough for Bob Marley so it’s good enough for me.

An update to the first bullet/”downsides”: I had my first dental check-up about 6 months after I started using homemade toothpaste and was given the most glowing report I’ve ever had from a dentist.  In fact the technician said, in that geeky dental technician way: “I have total gingi-envy of your teeth.”  Homemade toothpaste cuts bacteria way better than traditional toothpastes on the market, it turns out.  My partner started using the homemade version about a month after that report.

Another change we’ve put in place regards plastic bags. Even though we’re fortunate in Seattle to have a plastic bag recycling program, still, once you become aware of how many plastic bags you’re putting into the system, just picking up more and more becomes slightly irritating and disturbing. When you factor in the issue of plastic bags making their way into the oceans and waterways of the world, well, my head sort of explodes, ok?

We began tracking the amount of bags we have in a week: bags from produce, packaging bags for everything from rice to frozen berries, bags from the grocery store.  We made a decision to simply clean and dry all we could and reuse them at the store.  This was a clumsy new process and took time before the magic started to happen: after a while, we simply weren’t bringing IN as many bags.  AND! we now had fridge storage plastic and stopped needing to use so much plastic wrap.  All in all, after about a month, it was a no-brainer.

Upsides:

  • Once we figured out a path to get clean, dry bags into our shopping bags for weekend market/grocery shopping, the system worked.
  • Fridge storage is a lot easier–this was unexpected.  There’s always an easy to use bag in the drawer waiting for you.
  • We’ve reduced our recycling load, again–not by a ton, but by some measure for sure.
  • A bag is a bag is a bag–at first I was self-conscious about using bags with marketing on them, but now I don’t care.  A bag is a bag, it’s a container, that’s all.  Relief.

Downsides:

  • Making a process, and building a habit around the process takes about 3 months
  • When reusing the packaging bags, like from frozen berries, the store has problems with the existing bar code on the bag; we just turn then inside out now so the bar code doesn’t trigger.
  • Sometimes we have a few too many bags in the clean/dry process and it gets a wee bit unwieldy.  Just sometimes.

Those are the two GREEN initiatives that have taken root in our home.  Change is slow.  We’ve done lots of other things over the last few years but I wanted to highlight these two because they indicate a different level of commitment to change than other things we’ve done (drying our clothes on lines when possible, driving less, composting more).  Happy New Year! Let’s make it a good one!

Comment re Earth 3.0

I’ve been getting heavy traffic on my article from a while ago entitled “Plastic Disturbia.”  One of the commenters, kevinkrejci pointed me to a special edition of Scientific American called Earth 3.0.  It’s a good read and discusses the earth and our relationship to it in a new light: product.  We upgraded to Industrial Revolution in 2.0, and now are ready for a big upgrade, doncha think?

Read it here: Earth 3.0.  Thanks Kevinkrejci!