So much of the eco-friendly green talk today revolves around greening our businesses through sustainabile manufacturing and business practices, and these are very important conversations to have. But often in our efforts to look at how we can simply consume less we forget to look back at what it is we are trying to save. For example, we need to recognize that one of our big efforts needs to focus on our oceans, seas and beaches.
It is a sad fact that as Americans continue to improve upon their own way of life and indulge in their creature comforts, they also continue to impact – and often damage – the world around them. Studies clearly show that increasing coastal populations, shipping accidents, overfishing and poaching, and climate changes are having a negative impact on marine ecosystems around the country, particularly in large tourist and fishing areas such as Florida. Various species of marine animals are being endangered, and even with good conservation efforts most of these habitats and animal species are slow to recover once threatened. Thus, protecting our oceans and beaches is something that needs to begin now.
The Danger in the Water has no Teeth The 1980 film Jaws sent people running away from the ocean in fear. Sadly, it would have been much better for the ocean if those people had kept running, never to return. Continual community growth along beaches and waterways is causing untold damage to our seas. Building processes erode the land and damage natural storm water management systems. Construction debris and the oils and other residues of modern life run along channels and through man-made storm drains into the ocean, unfiltered due to the over abundance of non-permeable ground surfaces (roadways and parking lots). In this way we pollute our water and erode our beaches and other water edges.
Additionally, water pollution causes a loss of marine life, as animals struggle to survive in substandard water that is laden with bacteria and heavy metals, among other undesirables. Furthermore, sometimes man’s efforts at positive change – perhaps in the form of bringing some new species of fish into a region to help in some way – often backfires, as the change simply unbalances the natural eco-system more and creates new problems. Certainly, the biggest danger to those oceans that we so love is ourselves.
Losing Beaches Costs in Many Ways Our beaches are suffering the same fate, as they become polluted with chemicals, tainted storm water run-off and litter. Light pollution is also a problem, as street lights and those from nearby homes damage some animals’ natural instinct to head towards the moon above the water in an effort to reach the safety of the sea – this has created huge problems for sea turtles all along the southern coast of the United States. And few people need to be reminded of the damage that a large oil spill can cause. Even a spill occurring hundreds of miles off the coast can ravage a beach, as we saw in 1989 with the Valdez oil spill and recently with the BP spill along the Gulf coast. These spills result in deadly, floating oil that decimates the oceans and eventually reaches the sand where it creates a sludge that endangers wildlife and renders the beaches unusable to humans. In addition to damaging our eco system we also damage our economy through loss of tourism and our human ability to enjoy these otherwise beautiful surroundings.
Making Promises and then Making Good on Them Various organization and governmental mandates have attempted to protect our oceans and beaches. But what it really comes down to is each individual, in two important ways. First, to save our beaches we need to see this time as a turning point, when we recognize that it is still early enough to stop this damage but that we may reach that point of no return all too soon. Each person needs to commit to their own responsibility, working in small ways to save our oceans by keeping them clean, managing storm water responsibly and so on.
Additionally, we need to demand accountability from those who serve us. Specifically, we need to look at the companies that we buy from and what their stance is on ocean safety and how they treat these waterways. By refusing to do business with irresponsible companies we can make an impact and force corporate responsibility.