Thursday, April 22, 2010

On this Earth Day ...

Earlier today, a deepwater oil rig 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana sank under the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The rig has been burning since Tuesday night, and eleven workers are still missing. The oil rig has the potential to spill 300,000 gallons of crude oil into the water in a single day.

It's Earth Day, and I can't help but feel a little down. Last month, the Obama administration announced that it wants to open more of America's coastline to deep water drilling such as this. And while accidents such as this one are rare, they underscore the hazards of messing with the fragile oceanic ecosystems.

About 50% of Americans think they are going to leave the environment worse for the next generation. It's easy to think that way -- I mean, it certainly seems like we'll leave it worse if we keep up our current behaviors. However, when we think this way, we forget that we can make small differences with each choice we make (especially the choices that involve how we spend our money. Because large systems usually change only when dollar signs point the way).

I was going to write an ah-me, I'm sad on Earth Day post. Instead, I'm going to highlight a few things you and I can do to help our beautiful oceans.

1) Eat wisely. Yum! As many of you loyal readers know, I eat a "flexitarian" diet that is mainly vegetarian, with some poultry and seafood. While I know that a vegetarian diet is truly best for the earth, I don't think I'll ever give up the occasional fishy meal. Some seafood choices are better than others. The Monterey Bay Aquariam has downloadable pocket-sized seafood guides that you can keep in your wallet and pull out at restaurants and stores to help you make more sustainable seafood choices. They are customized by your part of the country. Their Seafood Watch page includes recipes, news, and even an iPhone app! I'm going to bookmark it right now!

2) Use less fertilizer and eat organic. A dead zone is more than a USA Network vehicle for Anthony Michael Hall. It's also a low-oxygen area of the ocean (otherwise known as "hypoxic") where fish can't live. Fertilizer run-off is one major culprit in creating these dead zones. While you can help by using less fertilizer in your own garden, agriculture conglomerates use a lot more fertilizer than your Aunt Mildred in her tomato patch. In particular, be on the lookout for foods containing processed corn and soy, which you might not notice in many foods, and which were probably grown in less-than-sustainable conditions.

3) Reuse your shopping bags. You know the drill. Yes, we all forget our reusable bags sometimes. But it's worth trying to remember. Because those plastic bags are: a) made with petroleum products; and b) end up in the ocean - choking turtles, causing malnutrition in fish who think they are food, and basically creating a gross situation, that, let's face it, makes one embarrassed to be a human.

4) Love the sea. Snorkel. Sit in the sand and watch the waves. Look at this photo slideshow of the most beautiful waves (sent to me by one of our Greenies, Grace). Watch Hayao Miyazaki's sea-themed masterpiece, Ponyo. The more time you spend with the sea, the more you have invested in it, the more you're going to want to save it.

Enjoy this beautiful video of Bjork's song Oceania, in which the always-unique Bjork takes the POV of the sea. Happy Earth Day, friends.

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