Maybe it's because of all the horror of the Gulf Oil Spill down South, but it seems to me that people here in California are getting a lot more riled up lately about saving our own waters from the same fate. Because we MUST.
In that vein, I recently went out with the Santa Monica Baykeeper folks to observe National Oceans Day, and also to take a look at what shape our beloved Bay is in. Started in 1993, the Baykeeper's mission is to protect and restore our waters through enforcement, field work, and community action. As we've seen down in the Gulf, if people are allowed to do whatever they want to our environment, they will - and with disastrous results.
So it was that I woke up early on a Sunday morning and pedaled over to the Marina to meet up with Brian Meux, Baykeeper's Marine Programs Manager, and Kristy Pyke, their lovely P.R. Lady. The idea was to take the boat up to Point Dume and meet up with reps from Heal The Bay, The Surfrider Foundation, and Below The Surface, who were paddling out on stand up paddleboards to highlight our most diverse and productive ocean area, and check out the health of the kelp forests that keep our entire oceanic eco-system thriving (hopefully) while we were at it.
It was a misty morning, with waves just big enough to make us happy that we'd behaved ourselves (somewhat) the night before. It was, in all honesty, a joy just to look down and see blue water, after all the black globby images we've seen coming out of the Gulf Of Mexico. It was not a joy, however, to see a giant cluster of mylar balloons floating by, way out at sea. I've said it before and I'll say it again ... LEAVE YOUR DANG BALLOONS OFF THE BEACH!
Your kids will still have a happy birthday, I promise. They kill marine life, period. That is not a good lesson to teach the birthday party kids, now, is it? We scooped up that bunch of balloons, and just wished we'd had a chance to wring the necks of those who thought it best to leave them in the sea. Grrr.
Cruising along, we spotted the Paddlers up ahead, and we all met up to discuss what they were doing, and what we can ALL do to make sure that we continue to have beautiful beaches and waters to enjoy for generations to come. It's all about involvement, after all. Each of the organizations mentioned above has events or clean-ups you can volunteer for pretty much every week. And you should.
It's good for the soul to participate in things that are bigger than you,and that make the world better in one instant. I pick up after some of you fools every morning as I walk along the beach, and you have the instant gratification of it being more lovely than you met it each morning, just by bending down and grabbing that broken bottle (REALLY?!) or picnic remnant or stupid balloon scrap.
We were all encouraged (and one surfer a little spooked) when a gigantic purple striped jellyfish wafted by right under the guy's board who was next to the boat. If that big jelly was happy where he or she was, things may be looking up for our Bay. The stories these guys can tell you, from their paddle-outs, their aerial surveys, and kelp forest dives are full of both dismay, and hope.
Dismay that people actually still have the mental capacity to think it fine to dump old toilets and tires IN the sea, 3 miles out from the coast! What in the world is WRONG with these brains that could do that? Dismay at the "Plastic to Plankton ratio" that some say is like 6 bits of plastic to each one of plankton. I just almost puked as I typed that, but it's true.
But there is hope for us yet. I felt it as we raced across the waves and watched about 30 dolphins race alongside us and in our wake, jumping out into the sunshine and gracing us with their sleek beauty and natural smiles. Hope that we were all out there early in the morning, because there are these organizations and people who care so much, and actually get out to DO SOMETHING about it.
Hope was evident again this past weekend as Baykeeper, Surfrider, Heal The Bay, and a whole bunch of concerned citizens met up for "Hands Across The Sand" down by the Venice and Santa Monica Piers, and at over 650 other coastal beaches around the world at noon our time.
We all gathered by the Venice Pier, and talk was less what you did last night, and mainly all how much we love our beaches, and how badly we all want to preserve and IMPROVE them, and especially save them from any oil related fate. On that note, Venice friends and neighbors laid down on the sand to spell out "Go Green" and "End Oil" out of humans. Then all of us who were not being used in a letter, held hands all across the beach to demonstrate to the world that we mean business about our beaches. We have to.
As the motto of Below the Surface states, "Be The Solution". That can mean many things, but it HAS to mean doing SOMETHING. Bring your own bags to the market. BAN Plastic bags. Use a stainless steel water bottle every time, and phase out those plastic ones. Participate in beach clean-ups. Throw your beach trash away in the first place - duh. Get rid of your cigarette butts in an ashtray, not out your car window, jerks. (I will make a citizen's arrest on that one. Every time.) Reduce your filthy oil habit, as best you can. Reuse and Recycle. Ride your bike. Take a WALK, L.A.! Hold hands across the sand with your friends to bring attention to it all. Walk the talk.
As Summer takes over Venice, get to know your H2o. Our health depends upon its health. Imagine our Summer months down at the beach, looking out at black tar islands and choking sea creatures, instead of shimmering blue waters full of life. That would wreck your buzz for sure ... and we really don't want that.
- CJ Gronner
*Photos by Paul Gronner (Baykeeper) and Sean James (Hands Across The Sand).