World Ocean Day- Water is Life

English: A Blue Starfish (Linckia laevigata) r...

English: A Blue Starfish (Linckia laevigata) resting on hard Acropora coral. Lighthouse, Ribbon Reefs, Great Barrier Reef (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

June 8th is the day we set aside to honor the world’s oceans, because as Jean-Michel Cousteau reminds us in the below video, “water is life”.

It’s helpful to be reminded, but it is also sad. Sad that humanity has evolved to the point that it needs to remember that the consumer society that we participate in is killing our life support systems.

Nowhere is that more evident than in the oceans. From warming ocean temperatures that are bleaching coral reefs, to the accumulation of carbon dioxide which leads to acidification, to overfishing and pollution- both garbage and chemical; the oceans and their inhabitants have taken a lot of abuse from man.

So on this day designed to honor our oceans, here are some ways you can show you care everyday.

1.) Don’t use fertilizers or pesticides in your yard. If you must, use organic pest control methods or try  compost. Use those leaves and grass clippings. Fertilizers and pesticides run into rivers and streams when it rains. Rivers lead to oceans. As a result, vast dead zones have been created in our oceans. This run-off kills ocean life -both microscopic and mammals like manatees. If you are reading this post you probably don’t need to be reminded that if it’s strong enough to kill a manatee, you probably shouldn’t be putting it on your lawn.

2.) Don’t litter. Well that one is obvious so how about expanding on it for #3…

3.) Pick up litter. It’s not enough that you don’t litter, you’ve got to pick up all the litter that other people have created. If you live in a coastal area, get a group together and clean up your beaches. If you live somewhere else, clean up a water way, your school, or your neighborhood. In this life, it’s not enough not to add to the problem, you also have to be part of the solution.

4.) Use environmentally friendly household cleaning products.

5.) Buy products with less packaging and less plastic. Use reusable bags.

6.) Find out what your community is doing to ban plastic bags. We know it’s great that you don’t use them, but you need to get them out of your community all together to make a greater impact. Check out here to see what other communities are doing.

7.) Join a group like the Surfrider Foundation or the Ocean Conservancy or Green Cross International.

8.) Get active. Instead of waiting for the perfect opportunity, grab onto the ones that are around you now and help out in the present. You will be rewarded by a feeling of purpose and numerous friends who share the same goal of adding to the good. This sounds like the perfect reason to begin today.

 

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Carbon Dioxide and Ocean Acidification

Air - sea exchange of carbon dioxide

Air - sea exchange of carbon dioxide (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Carbon Dioxide isn’t just stored in the atmosphere. The soils, plants and trees, and the ocean also act as a carbon sink. According to NOAA, the oceans absorb up to a quarter of the carbon dioxide released by humanity every year. This CO2 is changing the chemistry and leading to ocean acidification.

Calcium carbonate minerals are the building blocks for the skeletons and shells of many marine organisms. In areas where most life now congregates in the ocean, the seawater is supersaturated with respect to calcium carbonate minerals. This means there are abundant building blocks for calcifying organisms to build their skeletons and shells. However, continued ocean acidification is causing many parts of the ocean to become undersaturated with these minerals, which is likely to affect the ability of some organisms to produce and maintain their shells.

This acidification not only effects small shelled animals like, oysters and clams, but also the larger animals that feed on them and therefore, the entire food web. This directly effects whales, seals, birds and commercial fishing stocks which become at risk of collapse.

Already under threats of bleaching from higher ocean temperatures, as well as threats from pollution, over-fishing, and development, coral reefs are greatly effected by ocean acidification. And that also threatens the habitat that they provide for species to numerous to mention.

At some point, the oceans become full up of carbon dioxide and just can’t absorb any more or at least continue absorbing CO2 at the rate they have been. Then, more CO2 stays in the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas and that just accelerates the warming. More warming means more extreme weather. We all know the cycle.

Science teaches us that so many of our life support systems on spaceship earth are interconnected.  And this provides us with yet another reason to get our fossil fuel emissions under control.

 

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You Are What You Eat and What You Toss Comes Back to You

What goes into the oceans, eventually ends up back in you. As the big brained-mammal at the top of the food chain, we can’t expect to kill off  the bottom of the chain and still survive ourselves.

Surfrider  has a campaign called Rise above Plastics created by Pollinate.  This PSA campaign lends a strong visual to the truth that nothing is truly disposable, it may change form, but returns to us in one way or another.

Surfrider Foundation wants you to the Plastics Pledge on their website. By doing that you are pledging to:

– Use reusable bottles for water and other drinks. By using just one reusable bottle, you will keep 167 single-use plastic bottles from entering the environment.

– Use cloth bags for groceries and other purchases. For each reusable bag, you will save approximately 400 plastics from being used.

– Recycle the plastic bags and bottles you already have. For every thirteen plastic bags you don’t use, you will save enough petroleum to drive a car one mile.

We can go beyond this by working together to institute plastic bag bans in our cities like those in Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco. When Ireland placed a hefty tax on plastic bags, within weeks plastic bag usage dropped by 94%.

It is encouraging to see so many communities taking this issue up. Check out the progress at http://plasticbagbanreport.com/category/bans/.

What is your community doing about plastic bags?

 

 

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Gulf Oil Spill Teaching Resources

Earthprint-logo-oceans

Image by Earthprints via Flickr

Windows to the Universe – from the educators at Windows to the Universe, a compilation of classroom activities for teachers and educators who wish to address oil spills and the effects of oil spills with students.

From the National Environmental Education Week newsletter:

  • Information on Bird Impacts from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill from the American Bird Conservancy
  • NWF Eco-Schools Special Report from the NWF (with and amazing perspective on the size of the spill –by looking as if it were in your own neighborhood)
  • Gulf Oil Spill Interactive Resources from the Smithsonian Institute
  • The Physics Of Oil Spills – interactive feature on MSNBC’s website provides an overview of the physics behind an oil spill
  • GOMEEN– Gulf Of Mexico Alliance Environmental Education Network has several links to lesson plans on oil spills
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    Join a Hands Across the Sand Event on June 26

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    As the Gulf of Mexico continues to fill up with oil with no end in sight, the reports continue to bring us more distressing news. As of June 16, NOAA tells us that 1/3 of the Gulf is now closed to fishing.

    Methane (a very potent greenhouse gas) adds a new dimension to this ever-unfolding catastrophe.  The oil emanating from the seafloor contains about 40 percent methane, compared with about 5 percent found in typical oil deposits, said John Kessler, a Texas A&M University oceanographer who is studying the impact of methane from the spill. “This is the most vigorous methane eruption in modern human history,” Kessler stated.

    Meanwhile according to McClatchy News Service, the Department of the Interior’s MMS approved at least 5 new oil drilling projects without environmental review.

    What can you do to express your outrage at this environmental cataclysm caused by human greed and non-existent government regulation?

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    Attend a Hands Across the Sand event near you on June 26th. The image is powerful, the message is simple.  NO to Offshore Oil Drilling, YES to Clean Energy. On Fort Lauderdale Beach, the event is being held at the intersection of AIA and Las Olas Boulevard.  Here is a link to one of the Facebook pages created for the event.

    To find an event near you go to

    HandsAcrosstheSand.com.
    See you at the beach…

    From the South Florida Wildlands Association:

    The Department of the Interior needs to hear from you. The current moratorium on deepwater drilling should become a permanent ban. Current deep water drilling pushes the limits of human technology. The acknowledgement before Congress by executives of virtually all oil companies engaged in deepwater operations that they would be as incapable as BP of coping with the current spill, makes any other course of action far too risky.

    The Minerals Management Service (MMS), has allowed numerous ‘environmental waivers’ for offshore oil operations in both deep and shallow waters.  The DOI should undertake an immediate and complete review of all current permits.  Where environmental safeguards are lax, non-existent, not enforced, or not up to ‘best available science’, the DOI should halt the operation immediately.  The DOI must implement a monitoring and inspection system on all remaining offshore oil operations to insure that environmental safeguards are being met on a regular basis. See the below link.

    DOI-Send Your Comment

    Additional Links to Help You Get Active on this Issue:

    Where to Find my U.S. Senators Contact Info

    Repower America: Together, We Can Solve It

    350.org

    1Sky

    Naomi Klein in the Guardian

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    350.org Founder, Author Bill McKibben on “Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet”

    Ahead of Earth Day and Cochabamba, Bolivia’s indigenous summit on climate change along with the anticipated unveiling of a Senate climate bill this coming week, Democracy Now spoke with someone who sounded one of the earliest alarms about global warming. In 1989, Author Bill McKibben wrote The End of Nature but his warnings were largely ignored. Below are some excerpts from that interview.

    BILL McKIBBEN: On his new book, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet:  Look, the planet that we live on now is different, and in fundamental ways, from the one that we were born onto. The atmospheres holds about five percent more water vapor than it did forty years ago. That’s an incredible change in one of the basic physical parameters of the planet, and it explains all those deluges and downpours. The ocean is 30 percent more acidic, as it absorbs all that carbon from the atmosphere. NASA said yesterday that we’ve just come through the warmest January, February, March on record, that 2010 is going to be the warmest year that we’ve ever seen.

    And we begin to see just in every day in the newspaper the practical effects of all this. Last week it was Rio de Janeiro with absolutely record rainfalls, causing landslides that killed thousands. Today, in the run-up to the summit in Bolivia, in Peru an enormous chunk of glacier fell off a mountainside into a lake, set up a seventy-five-foot-high wave that killed some people and destroyed the one water processing plant in the whole area. These sort of things happen now someplace around the world every single day, because we’ve undermined the basic physical stability of this planet.

    On solutions and limits on growth: Well, reversing the trend is hard—impossible, in fact. We’re not going to stop global warming. We can keep it from getting worse than it has to get. For that to happen, Juan, we need things to happen at two levels. One is the governmental, national and global. We need a stiff price on carbon, one that reflects the damage it does in the atmosphere, that will reorient our economy in the direction of renewable energy instead of fossil fuel. But we’re also going to need, because we have a new planet, a new set of habits for inhabiting it successfully.

    Our fundamental habit for the last couple of hundred years has been to assume that growth is going to solve every problem that we face. I think now we’ve fundamentally reached the limits to growth that people started talking about fifty years ago. When you melt the Arctic, that’s not a good sign. So we’re going to need, instead, to start focusing on security, on stability, on resilience, on figuring out how to allow communities to thrive, even on a tough planet. And I think that that has a lot to do with decentralization, with scaling down, with spreading out, with building food systems and energy systems that aren’t too big to fail, that are small enough and stable enough to succeed.

    On Coal: Coal is the most dangerous substance on the planet, in almost every way—I mean, for the people who have to mine it and for the landscapes where it exists, like across southern Appalachia, for the people who have to breathe the smoke around power plants, mostly in our inner cities, but most fundamentally for the climate. Coal produces more carbon per BTU than anything else you can burn. And as a result, more than anything, it’s what’s driving our climate problem.

    We’re not going to have, in the time that we require it, anything that really resembles clean coal. What we need to do is make that transition away from coal, and make it as fast as we can. Job one is putting a really significant price on carbon, so that coal begins to pay for some of the incredible damage that it does to the environment.

    On 350.org: Three-fifty is the most important number in the world. NASA scientists have said that any value for carbon in the atmosphere greater than 350 parts per million is not compatible with the planet on which civilization developed and to which life on earth has adapted. That’s strong language, and it’s stronger still, because we’re past it already. We’re at 390 parts per million or so today and rising about two parts per million a year. That’s why the Arctic is melting. It’s why the oceans are acidifying. And it’s why we need a movement around the world to force political action sooner rather than later. We’re running out of time.

    For the full interview, click on the video below:

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    Additional readings:

    Words of Power: Do You Understand the Power of the Pebble People? For Benazir Bhutto on Earth Day, with Help from Alice Walker, Yoko Ono and Bill McKibben

    Ending the Plastic Cycle

    Your Actions Matter: The  Shift From Raising Awareness to Raising Care

    Fourteen-year-old J.D. Russo speaks out about plastic in this youtube video. “People need to stop trying to raise awareness and instead raise care. Because saying that raising awareness implies that you are trying to get people to know about something. And people know, its  just that people don’t care.” J.D. continues, “People need to be shown that there is a personal impact on them and a reason why they should not use these plastics.”

    The solution, J.D. says, “needs to start with the consumers.” People are used to buying throw-away plastics…dont even think about it, get a plastic bottle…’Oh yeah, man, these are killing the albatross chicks. Its just once, I don’t usually do it.’ Maybe that plastic bottle in the stomach of the baby albatross that just killed it was somebody’s just once.”

    And Man created the plastic bag and the tin and aluminum can and the cellophane wrapper and the paper plate,

    and this was good because Man could then take his automobile and buy all his food in one place

    and He could save that which was good to eat in the refrigerator and throw away that which had no further use.

    And soon the earth was covered with plastic bags and aluminum cans and paper plates and disposable bottles

    and there was nowhere to sit down or walk,

    and Man shook his head and cried:  “Look at this Godawful mess.”  ~Art Buchwald, 1970

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