I felt like it was a moment worth leaping on to help call attention to the ever present problem of ocean debris..............to remind her and others the problem is not something new and that the trash from Japan, sad as it is, will not simply land on our shore and be easily dealt with in a short period of time.
I go to the beach each day, picking up trash endlessly...............sorry to say, sometimes I am a bit down and don't bother since there is so much to deal with........Tonight was the worst since winter storms have already arrived. With the cold and early darkness, it is never easy to have a good walk, haul off some junk, play with the dog, and try to make a dent in the endless stream of junk.
Actually, I had ignored a huge chunk of rope for several days. Tonight, I just had to remove it and it was all I could do to haul it up and over the logs to remove it from the sea. Who knows where it originated! Multi-colored, it had to weigh more than 200 pounds. No matter, it will not wash back into the sea where it could actually re-circulate in the ocean and find its way in the currents to Japan!
Anyway, here is my letter to Maria Cantwell. I suppose I could have composed a better letter, but I wanted her to know about schools making a difference. Schools like Sharon Buda's Wyandont where kids learn about their connection to the ocean even though they are a couple of thousand miles from the sea. And, for sure, Debbie Charna's kids who helped create this Project SOAR! And, Lisa Keller's students at Bush School where she helps teachers guide projects that make a difference.
All I can hope for is that some funding finds its way to schools at which kids can ACT not just read about issues like this one. Education only matters if the world becomes a better, healthier place because of what kids learn. I'm not saying we should put kids in the seats of bulldozers and put them on the beaches.......I am saying we could have kids designing creative ways in which the plastics and other debris headed our way is dealt with in ways that first, do no harm to ocean life..............How about it kids? Any ideas?
Dear Senator Cantwell,
I just returned from the beach near our home on Marrowstone Island in Jefferson County. As often happens, I spent more time removing several hundred pounds of trash from the shore than tossing the stick for our Labrador. Tonight, it was mostly in the form of a 2-300 pound chunk of nylon hawser and some tires.
On my way home, I listened to an NPR report about a bill you are sponsoring to deal with the trash washing our way from the spring tsunami in Japan. The sadnesses visited upon Japan remain in all our hearts and that huge input of plastic, etc will be a serious problem to be sure. But I hope you are aware of how long it will persist and how it impacts the Pacific, wildlife, and people all across the ocean.
We know, based on studies, that the world's one ocean was already filled with about 50,000 pieces of plastic per square mile prior to the tsunami.
Here on Marrowstone, we receive trash from Hawaii and the distant west as well as tons from Seattle and Tacoma. I pick up several tons each year, including large quantities of bottle caps, and other items not recycled in Seattle.
According to NOAA, flip flops I find on our beach may well have washed away from beaches on Oahu or the Big Island. And so, it will not be a surprise to begin to find "new" pieces from Japan in the weeks and months, and years to come.
That is why I write. This trash heap will not simply fall on our shores in a single or even in ten or twenty events. It will not be an easy to manage clean up fundable by a quick vote and a rush of equipment aiming to scoop up and return or recycle items.
It is going to be a problem for generations to come. And so, I urge you to include in your funding, efforts to educate and involve young people who are already working hard to reduce plastic and other trash sources.
According to the USFWS, as many as one million seabirds already die each year due to plastics in the ocean. Whales are entangled in trash, sea turtles die, seals are threatened as well. All the while, kids in grades k and above are finding ways to solve the problem.
This moment, this pressing problem from Japan, this fundable issue can be a time when you and other lawmakers decide education is a key to the ultimate solution.
All that trash will be churning and washing and mixing with other debris for decades, if not centuries. Kids I now work with in grade school will be in college by the time good solutions are found to deal with the problems of clean up, recycling, and repurposing the trash.
Please consider ways in which you can fund educational efforts that put kids in place to help deal with the issues. No workers in machines can match the kids who think, consider, and act creatively. I know this based on experience as a biologist who works with them on the pressing problems of ocean pollution.
Kids have helped me find ways of dealing with ocean issues in the past. I know they can help you.
I suggest you help support projects at the Bush School in Seattle; Wyandot Elementary in Dublin, Ohio; North Kitsap Schools in our home state; Fishing Cove Elementary in Rhode Island; Columbus School for Girls in Ohio; and many schools in the Hawaiian Islands where the trash will first wash ashore.
I've worked with many wonderful teachers who can bring creative solutions to the forefront if you help them inspire their students to come up with ways to deal with this enormous problem.
I am sending a copy of this letter to teachers and others who can help you. Thank you for responding to the crisis, and thank you for thinking of it as a longterm problem with needs for educational efforts that involve kids directly in finding solutions.