As we all know, crews are working at cleaning up a major oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico – a process which, according to an article in Tuesday’s Vancouver Sun will take at least four to six weeks after the well is plugged. After that is complete, the process of restoring the environment will take years. President Barak Obama has promised that:
“the U.S. government [will] ‘ride herd’ on BP to make sure that it paid damage claims from Gulf Coast residents, who have complained that the company is not paying them promptly.”[…read full article]
Today, June 8th, on the second annual World Oceans Day, I wonder who will pay “damage claims” to the animals, the plants, and the ocean itself which are all suffering and dying under this blanket of oil.
I know that there is little I can do personally to help clean up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, aside from donating money. I have no skills to offer the Coast Guard, and no technical expertise in cleaning up oil. And in my daily life I know that I will never personally cause an environmental disaster on that scale. However, I also know that there are little things that all of us are doing every day that damage the oceans. And those are the things that we can do something about.
Here is a list of simple actions we can all take to help protect not only our oceans but our lakes, streams, and rivers and all of the animals and plants which depend on them:
1. Educate yourself: Check out the library or your local (used) bookstore for information about environmentally friendly products and practices, as well as the issues surrounding conservation and environmentalism. Then pass the books along to your friends! Or, check out websites like Green Living – today’s article is about World Oceans Day and includes more suggestions to get you started.
2. Participate in a Shoreline Cleanup: The Vancover Aquarium’s Great Canadian Shore Cleanup takes place all across Canada in September, but they have suggestions for actions you can take year-round. You can also help by picking up litter along the shorelines and putting it in trash cans when you’re out on walks or at the beach.
3. Sign Petitions: There are many petitions which seek to protect our oceans. For example, you can sign the David Suzuki Foundation’s petition to help protect the ocean from oil spills, or Alexandra Morton’s petition to save wild salmon.
4. Show Your Support: When the government makes decisions to protect oceans, such as yesterday’s announcement that Gwaii Haanas National Park could soon become the Park and Marine Conservation Area Reserve, write to your MPs and MLAs to thank them and encourage them to make similar decisions in other places.
5a. Be Careful With Waste: This is one of the most important steps you can take, and one of the biggest. This includes recycling and re-using, as well as reducing the amount of packaging you buy, investing in re-usable produce bags and shopping bags, and disposing of old paint, batteries, cell phones, and other toxic items responsibly. (Ask the local works yard or city office where they can go.)
5b. Don’t Throw Toxic Waste Down the Drain: Many drains go directly into the lakes, rivers, and oceans. This means that when you pour paint down the drain, flush old medication, or put batteries in the dump, toxic substances can end up in the water system, where they affect fish and other wildlife. Make sure that doesn’t happen by finding out where these things can be disposed of properly.
5c. Dispose of Plastics Properly: Plastics are one of the most hazardous substances for wildlife. Some animals think it is food, especially plastic bags. Other animals get their necks caught in plastic rings such as the ones that come off of 6-packs of cans. Make sure that you recycle plastics, and that you cut the rings which come off of the 6-packs before disposing of them.
6. Buy Sustainable Seafood: As we told you here, Greenpeace has released its report on which grocery chains stock sustainable seafood. You can also get information from Sea Choice, including cards which go in your wallet to remind you of which species are sustainable and which to avoid. Ask at your fish counter and in restaurants where the fish comes from before buying.
7a. Use Green Cleaning Products: Cleaning products contain a multitude of harmful chemicals – both for you and the environment. Do your research and buy green products, but beware Greenwashing; that is, products saying they are green when they aren’t. Better yet, make your own cleaning products with ordinary household items like vinegar, baking soda, and lemon juice. You can find lots of recipes online – and then the only things going down your drain will be natural things.
7b. That goes for laundry soap and dishwasher detergent too.
8. Watch fun Videos!: You can watch Sylvia Earle win her TED prize online here, or rent Blue Planet. Watch it with a friend and get ready to learn more about the oceans we take for granted.
9. (Your own Suggestions): What do you do that protects the oceans that I’ve left out here? Let me know and I will add it to my list. Let’s see how many suggestions we can get.
HAPPY WORLD OCEANS DAY!