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Problem Solvers

Environmental problems abound, but so do solutions. Contribute to our 2011 December Sail Green issue by telling us about a problem solver who's making a difference.

July 25, 2011

Sail Green Problem Solvers

The year’s barely half over, and already it’s been a rough one for those who fret over the well-being of Mother Earth. Though the 24-hour news cycle soon pushed the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan to the back page, only time will tell how widespread and horrid are the consequences from the disaster that sent radiation pouring freely into the air and sea. Closer to home, we’ve had our own problems this spring as rain and runoff swept across large areas of the U.S. heartland; the experts have only begun to speculate about what will result from the historic flooding that’s washed fertilizers and debris into the Mississippi delta, and from there to the Gulf of Mexico waters that are still recovering from last summer’s BP oil spill. Add to the mix your run-of-the-mill greenhouse gasses, shrinking ice fields, the documented acidification of our oceans, and the demand for resources brought on by the planet’s 6.92 billion people, and you can quickly grow doubtful that we’ll somehow manage to lessen the strains being placed on what is seemingly a shrinking, overburdened planet.

I figure others can argue about the scientific underpinnings of global warming and other alarming aspects of environmental science. I’ll just say that if you look around, you can’t help but conclude we’re altering our world every day; you can decide if it’s for the better or for the worse. I’ll go with the latter, and go out on a limb to say that we’re doing so in ways both big and small.

There’s not much we can do about the big stuff. I mean, how do you step in and reverse the effects of tremors and floods and the demands of a developing world that wants a chunk of the same “good life” we have? Get real. There’s an opportunity, though, for each of us to sweat a little and address the small stuff.

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Just a few nights ago, I took a long walk on a nearby beach. A couple, strolling faster, passed me by. Then the woman stopped, set down her jumbo Styrofoam coffee cup, and continued on. I assumed she’d be back to pick up her mess, but I was wrong. Instead Miss Piggy and her male headed through the dunes to the parking lot. The cup still sat there 45 minutes later, ready to be washed out by the incoming tide. Now there’s a problem that could easily be corrected.

Indeed, there’s lots that can be done to give Ma Earth a break, and these efforts can go well beyond just picking up after ourselves, though that’s certainly a good place to start. As consumers, we can choose which products to buy and the companies with which we do business. We can decide what foods we’ll eat, what trash we’ll toss, what we’ll use to keep the lawn green, the driveway ice melted, the hull clean. I don’t advocate that we ignore the plastic gyres swirling in our oceans; maybe there’s a way to clean them up. But in the meantime, how about we stop and take a minute to celebrate small victories that are well within our reach: beaches that get cleaned up, waste oil that’s recycled rather than thrown out, plastic bags that don’t end up in a landfill.

Look around your community, your boatyard, the places you sail to this summer. If you see someone giving Ma Earth a hand, let us know by sending a note—or, better yet, a note and photo—via email ([email protected]). You can also upload your photo with a description to our website using the tag Sail Green Problem Solvers. Instead of a Sail Green issue in December 2011 that delves into all that we’ve done wrong, we’ll look at what we’re doing right. We’re sailors, after all. When we see a problem, we figure out how to fix it.

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