Occupying the Ocean is tempting, but, while some of us may wish to morph into an aquatic animal, sadly we’re a few gills short of having what it takes to spend months adrift at sea. Sure, sometimes surfers paddle out in protest. Whale wars continue on. The stars of both Sharkwater and The Cove spent significant time in the water to bring attention to the plight of sharks and dolphins, respectively. People sail the sea searching for garbage in hopes the news they bring back will spark change.
Our temporal relationship to the ocean aside, we nonetheless manage to inhabit – if not Occupy – it with our myths, our dreams, our poetry and, in a markedly less poetic sense, our trash, our toxins, and our demands upon its inhabitants. We love the seabirds as they take wing, but scarcely think of them as they choke and die on our plastic remnants. Even the most pristine Humboldt County beach serves up bits of plastic, Styrofoam and discarded netting when viewed up close.
For far too many people, the beach is a dumping ground. In our Humboldt Surfrider beach cleanups, we’ve collected everything from the ubiquitous cigarette butts to rusty bicycles. The accounting of what’s been collected throughout International Coastal Cleanup Day is so gargantuan that wrapping one’s head around the data is nearly impossible: 53 million cigarettes/filters (enough to fill 100 Olympic swimming pools), 117,356 appliances (enough to fill 32,600 dump trucks), more diapers than there are people in the entire city of San Francisco – and those are just the “high”-lights.
With the holidays en route and the Arcata Community Recycling Center closing down permanently just after,circumstances beg us to consider, once again, reducing and reusing as preferred alternatives. Everything you buy will likely end up wearing out at some point. Lessen the impact at the beginning by buying products with less packaging. Find ways to reuse. Sites such as ReadyMade and DIYreuse offer scads of ideas for how to incorporate all sorts of household leftovers into functional goods. We have some great area thrift/boutique stores offering reused and repurposed goods – one of my favorites is Shipwreck, over in Old Town Eureka, where all sorts of local people craftier than I sell fabulous things.
Beyond our individual obligations to do less harm, we need to pressure the people making decisions at the top to do so with ocean health in mind. The 1% needs to understand how much we 99% care about that beautiful, mysterious blue covering 70% of our planet. Need ideas? Come to Ocean Night, tonight at the Arcata Theatre Lounge.
Ocean Night fills the ATL with ocean-themed documentaries, surf movies and fun times once each month, usually on the first Thursday of each month (but not always). Tonight features Keith Malloy’s Come Hell or High Water, about his love of bodysurfing, and The Cycle of Insanity: The Real Story of Water. The Cycle of Insanity is a short animated film made by a collaboration of creative and dedicated volunteers at the Surfrider Foundation. Remember that water cycle we learned about in fourth grade? It’s been dramatically altered over time, leaving us with a broken system that wastes water and energy, pollutes our natural waterways, harms critical marine life, and fails to deal with flooding and other water management problems. The film highlights controversial water management problems and suggests solutions that integrate multiple economic and environmental benefits. More information at humboldtbaykeeper.org or surfrider.org/humboldt.
Other upcoming ocean-related events:
Thursday: Tune into KHSU 90.5 FM (or via khsu.org) at 1:30 for Econews, featuring InterTribal Sinkyone Director, Baykeeper Beth and myself discussing the Marine Life Protection Act with Baykeeper policy expert Jen Kalt.
Saturday, Nov. 12: Surfrider Foundation, Humboldt Chapter highway clean-up and sign installation at Camel Rock/Houda Point. See surfrider.org/Humboldt for full details.
Saturday, Nov. 19: Join Sierra Club North Group for a hike along Table Bluff and the mouth of Eel River. Carpool meets at 9 a.m. or be at the beach at 9:30 a.m. Full details from Xandra at (707) 441-0702.