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Saturday, February 23 , 2019, 4:30 am | Fair 37º


Karen Telleen-Lawton: Don’t Be ‘Leftbehindus’ in Securing the Future for Our Marine Environment

Did you catch the Earth Day Festival at Alameda Park last weekend? Food artisans produced sumptuous local food and drink, musicians like the “Upbeat” filled the air with joyful noise, and exercises and interactive demonstrations kept us moving and learning.

Each year I’m more impressed by local organizations’ ability to turn what can be depressing into hopeful and action-oriented messages. Through all the booths ran a singular upbeat theme: We can be partners rather than adversaries of nature. The logic is simple. As Robert G. Ingersoll wrote, “In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments: there are consequences.”

Living by the ocean, it’s easy to think of every day as Earth Day. The thin ribbon of Highway 101 traces a lovely but restless border between the uplifting Santa Ynez range and the erosional power of the Pacific Ocean. Willets and other shorebirds flock along the wet sand, scattering to divert around beach walkers. The beauty of the South Coast from the isolation of the islands is all the more amazing for the millions of people supported on the mainland.

Every day we’re treated to the pleasures of living near the ocean. Earth Day reminds us that our special privilege as ocean people comes with the responsibility of caring for marine health. From our spot on the planet, we are very aware of marine debris.

Our beaches are depositories for everything from cigarette butts and bottle caps to car tires, human and animal waste, and plastics of every shape and size. A similar sordid variety of trash is found in the stomachs of marine mammals and fish whose health and survival are threatened when trash in their digestive tract compromises their system. A huge gyre of international trash converges around the north Pacific, driven by wind and ocean currents.

Carp Beach
A poster at Carpinteria State Beach labels cigarette and cigar butts with scientifically nomenclature, humorously conveying a serious message. (Karen Tellee-Lawton / Noozhawk photo)

Even aside from direct effects on the marine environment, human health and the economy are compromised. Discarded fishing nets and other marine debris are navigation hazards. Transported invasive plant and animal species reduce the diversity of the marine habitat, making it more vulnerable to disease and climate change.

Even our smallest actions to “reduce, reuse and recycle” help. I spotted a poster at Carpinteria State Beach recently that labeled cigarette and cigar butts with scientifically nomenclature, humorously conveying a serious message:

» Odorus majorus

» Wasteus minimus

» Cubanus insandus

» Stinkus enstainus

» And my favorite, Ladies leftbehindus

I searched in vain for this poster at the Earth Day Festival. Instead, I found a plethora of nonprofits in the “Public Square,” any of which can help direct our efforts to live sustainably in our environment.

Here are a few I spotted:

» Channel Islands Restoration (I’m on its board)

» Community Environmental Council

» Get Oil Out

» Habitat for Humanity

» Heal the Ocean

» Land Trust for Santa Barbara County

» Los Padres Forest Watch

» Santa Barbara Audubon

» Santa Barbara Channelkeeper

» Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

» Sierra Club

» ... and dozens more!

So many ways to be part of the solution! Don’t be “leftbehindus” in adding your voice to a more sustainable future for our marine environment. And let's hope that at the end of the weekend, there was so little trash (Wasteus minimus) that city sanitation department had little cleanup to do.

— Karen Telleen-Lawton’s column is a mélange of observations spanning sustainability from the environment to finance, economics and justice issues. She is a fee-only financial advisor (www.DecisivePath.com) and a freelance writer (www.CanyonVoices.com). Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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