Photo: cleanbodiesofwater.org

Photo: cleanbodiesofwater.org

Yes, they might be in your toothpaste, face wash, and spa-like exfoliant! Micro beads, tiny plastic particles that give that buffing component to your products and then marketed as making you squeaky clean, are rinsed off of your body, enter our waterways and end up in our oceans. “By the billions,” according to Rachel Abram’s research for the poignant article in the New York Times “Fighting Plastic Bead Pollution.” 

“Once dispersed into the ocean, everything from plankton to whales is ingesting these plastics,” said Tanya Cox, Marine Plastics Officer with Fauna and Flora International (FFI). “In the water, they attract persistent environmental toxins, such as DDT, which work their way up the food chain until they are ultimately consumed by humans. All of a sudden, this not only becomes a pressing environmental issue but one that could directly affect humans.”

photo: savethewater.org

photo: savethewater.org

So, what can you do? Start by saying no to single use plastic and by making sure that your special products don’t include the plastic ingredients that are polluting you and our oceans.

“Checking really is easier than it sounds,” according to the special “Good Scrub Guide” produced by FFI and its partners, Surfrider International and Marine Conservation Society. “Just take a peek at the ingredient list on the back of your product. polyethylene and polypropylene are the two main types of plastic to look out for. To be on the safe side, also check the product is free from polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) and nylon and you’re good to go.” Still wondering? Check out the  “Good Scrub Guide” or put the “Beat the Microbead” app on your smartphone. Choose well, we only have one ocean and one you!

Download the “Good Scrub Guide” and find the “Beat the Microbead” app  here.

 

Thinking of a picnic outing on Mother’s Day?  Make your picnic perfect and plastic free! Plastic is forever! And because it breaks down over time into small pieces, most of it ends up in our waterways and finally our oceans, where it is mistaken for food by the fish that we in turn eat.

A Perfect Picnic along the Charles River, Boston

A Perfect Picnic along the Charles River, Boston

Below are some fabulous links to W2O’s favorite plastic free websites to inspire you to nix the plastic and bring reusables when planning your day at the beach or picnic in your community.  Newly marketed “bioplastics” are not the answer here. Products that are promised to be green aren’t neccesarily compostable unless they are disposed of properly. Lesley McClurg for Capital Public Radio (full article here) explains, “You might buy the tableware believing it’s better for the environment. But, that depends on where you toss it out.” So beware! Products marked “compostable” might not be the best choice.

Consider using stainless steel cutlery and glass containers for your day out. Packing with a bit of thought adds flair, sophistication and makes a ho hum event special. Think about using a wicker basket and lovely blanket with glasses and plates or simply use an old bedspread, reusable bag and any covered containers that you can easily pack and then bring home. Nix the plastics and show off some innovative creativity and style. Start a conversation with your guests about why you made the choice to make your picnic perfect and plastic free!

Photo: foodimentary.com

Photo: foodimentary.com

 

Eco Lunchbox has a great selection of beautiful lunch boxes and bags complete with utensils and cloth napkins.

ecolunchbox-picnic-abes

Snazzy ideas from Eco Lunchbox

Life without Plastic has a variety of economical cool plastic free options. Check out their sale items.

Life Without Plastic! the good life!

Life Without Plastic! the good life!

 

 

 

 

 

 

This hamper, although a bit pricey, is a classic from Crate and Barrel and will last you a lifetime.  Careful that you don’t get sucked into the melamine and acrylic gear marketed alongside the basket. Instead opt for the cool class bottle! Cheers! peterboro-handmade-picnic-basket

And finally, check out the following links to learn more about plastic pollution and the easy steps you can do to start living a plastic free life:

Surfrider Foundation: Rise Above Plastics
Center for Biological Diversity: Ocean Plastic 

Photo: George Steinmetz

Photo: George Steinmetz

W2O’s event Water Rising: The Impact on Humanity, was a huge success. The Imax was nearly full; our luncheon sold out. Union of Concerned Scientist Senior Analyst Erika Spanger-Siegfried’s explanation of the science of warming oceans inspired conversations about the affects of sea level rise across the globe. The juxtaposition of what actions rich and poor nations are taking to mitigate and prepare for rising seas was clearly shown in George Steinmetz’s moving photography. But success for W2O is measured by what happens after you leave our events. Are you taking the message home to your family and communities? Educating to inspire action is our mission!

Please take a look at the action card, given to each attendee at our event, and consider how you can help reduce emission that have ramifications close to home and as far away as Kiribati, the island nation and home to our event guest Ambassador Baaro.

Han_W20_Apr9_-10

photo credit: Li Han

Founder and Chair of W2O, Barbara Burgess says, “Now is the time to take action to protect our blue planet.” Join W2O, “like us” on Facebook to make sure that you are up to date on all of our events, and tell a friend about what you are doing today to take action on this important issue. Thank you for joining with us to make our blue planet sustainable!

Installing lightbulbs during the energy audit

Installing lightbulbs during the energy audit

With our upcoming W2O event Water Rising: The Impact on Humanity right around the corner, we are taking another look at our own energy usage and thinking about how to curb emissions right here in our homes. Making everyone’s home energy efficient would go a long way to curbing human induced climate change that leads to our warming oceans and sea level rise. Getting a home energy audit is the first step and it is FREE! All it takes is a couple of hours of following a trained auditor around your house. We stumbled upon Martha Stone-Martins personal testimony of her experience with Homeworks, an energy company from Woburn Massachusetts. The disclaimer to this testimony, which reads like a love letter, is that Martha’s web design business, Linkwell, helped Homeworks build their webpage five years ago. Our personal relationship with Martha validates her testimony which came into our mailbox as a neighbor to neighbor “wow, I loved this” moment completely unsolicited! Here is Martha’s unedited email:

Sorry for the blast but thought I would share this favorable home owner experience. A few years ago, Linkwell did a website/logo for this firm in Woburn called www.homeworksenergy.com. They are a firm that does insulation, weatherstripping etc. But most interesting is they are a contractor for MASS SAVE which offers free energy audits of your home. It took me a year to finally call to do one but it was so worthwhile that I had to share.

You can call MASS SAVE for a list of contractors or go to homeworksenergy.com to schedule.
Blair came to my house (she has been doing home audits for 5 years and has a master’s in sustainable energy) on time, armed with her computer, tools and printer. 3 hours later, I had $1000 worth of free LED bulbs (nice ones that emit warm light), 2 programmable thermostats and a special energy saving power strip. We went room by room with her infra red tool that measured heat loss. Happily we learned that our house has good insulation and the windows are in pretty good shape. But she could have showed you exactly where your walls may needed more or a window needed weatherstripping. She showed me the impact of shutting blinds or curtains in the winter. She checked the flues in both the heating system and the hotwater for CO2 leakage. All the data was loaded to MASS Save and I received a final report with her recommendations. She prepared a quote on site to do a a bit of foam insulation where the exterior walls hit the stone foundation in the basement and weatherstrip the doors. This quote for work which will be done by homeworks came to about $550. But with the MASS Save incentives, it will cost us $64.00.

Blair Kershaw from Home Energy Works writes up a detailed report, given to the home owner, to complete the energy audit

Blair Kershaw from Homeworks Energy writes up a detailed report, given to the home owner, to complete every energy audit

Homeworks also recommends Window Woman, window-woman-ne.com from Peabody who can renovate existing single pane windows in old homes. That was also a very positive experience. Alison came out and looked at all our old windows that I assumed we would have to replace someday. She commented that in shape single pane windows with storms are almost as energy efficient as new double pane. They offer services to tune up (check glazing, replace ropes with more stylish chains, fix broken parts that hold the window in firmly) as well as restoration and complete replacement. She also pointed me to a storm window person if I wanted to replace some of these.

So with the MASS Save 40 free LED lights and the rest I just purchased onsale at Lowes last weekend ($15 LED floods for $5 and $10 LED reg size for $5), and a few cranky hours with a teenager on a ladder, we are all LED. All warm light, all dimmable. Looking forward to our next energy bill.

DSCN4614

Martha Stone-Martin
Principal, Linkwell Services, LLC
www.linkwell.com

 

Photo: George Steinmetz

Photo: George Steinmetz

With our upcoming event on April 9th, Rising Waters: The Impact on Humanity, W2O is researching island nations and their struggles for acknowledgment and help regarding their plight of losing their homeland and livelihood as a result of rising seas.  How do we, living so far away from most of these coastal communities, help raise awareness that carbon emissions have directly affected the most vulnerable populations?

The topic of sea level rise is gaining momentum in the press and being discussed across the globe. Cities everywhere are making sea level rise adaptation strategies.  The Guardian has announced that it “is embarking on a major series of articles on the climate crisis and how humanity can solve it. In the first, an extract taken from the introduction to THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING by Naomi Klein, the author argues that if we treat climate change as the crisis it is, we don’t just have the potential to avert disaster but could improve society in the process…”

“We know that if we continue on our current path of allowing emissions to rise year after year, climate change will change everything about our world. Major cities will very likely drown, ancient cultures will be swallowed by the seas, and there is a very high chance that our children will spend a great deal of their lives fleeing and recovering from vicious storms and extreme droughts…There are ways of preventing this grim future, or at least making it a lot less dire. But the catch is that these also involve changing everything. For us high consumers, it involves changing how we live, how our economies function, even the stories we tell about our place on earth. The good news is that many of these changes are distinctly uncatastrophic. Many are downright exciting.”

Over the winter break, W2O was fortunate to have a terrific intern game to learn more about how W2O works and what messages we use to communicate protecting our  oceans. We asked intern Lizzie Savage to choose an island that is in eminent danger from encroaching seas and give us a sense of the challenges that these communities face. With gratitude to Lizzie, we have this profile to share:

The small island nation of Tuvalu, located in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and Australia, was once known for its white sandy beaches, and expansive coral reefs. However, in the past decade or so, Tuvalu has become more popularly known as one of the many small island countries whose population risks extinction due to sea level rise.  Tuvalu has been recognized as highly “vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change and environmental degradation, including “coastal erosion, flooding and inundation, increasing salinity of fresh ground-water supplies, destruction of primary sources of subsistence, and destruction of personal and community property.”  Each one of these impacts contributes to making life on Tuvalu more difficult and increasingly uninhabitable.

No matter the circumstance, having to leave the life you know and love in your home country for a new and daunting life somewhere else is not easy. Although the living situation in Tuvalu has become increasingly burdensome and unsafe, inhabitants have a hard time bearing the thought of leaving, and for good reason. “We don’t want to leave this place. We don’t want to leave, it’s our land, our God given land, it is our culture, we can’t leave. People won’t leave until the very last minute,” explained Paani Laupepa, the former assistant secretary of Tuvalu’s Ministry of Natural Resources.  Tuvaluans are faced with extreme hardships, such as frequent flooding that reaches to the middle of the island destroying crops and trees, or salt water seeping through holes in the ground creating puddles one to two feet deep which often surround homes and offices. Living a life in Tuvalu is not easy, but for many it is their home, and home is not something you easily give up on. Generations upon generations have built their lives, and endless memories in Tuvalu and have planned to continue doing so for generations to come. The sad truth though, is that if nothing is done to prevent further sea level rise, the island nation of Tuvalu will not be around long enough to be a home for future generations.

As climate change poses threat to the lives of Tuvaluans, some seek a life elsewhere. For most, this elsewhere is New Zealand. “New Zealand has agreed to welcome 75 immigrants (from Tuvalu) annually,” assuming that the they are of good standing, have basic English skills, are in good health, under 45 years old and have a job offer in New Zealand. This gesture, however, will only make a small dent for the nation of Tuvalu, whose population is nearing 10,000 people. “In 2001, the Australian government was asked to consider accepting migrants from Tuvalu. It refused to commit to [the] request.”  In order to ensure the survival of this small nation, and others among it, larger and more powerful countries will have to step up and be open to sharing their communities with those who are being displaced from their own.
New Zealand recently granted residency to a Tuvaluan family who claimed that if they were to return to their lives in Tuvalu they would be putting themselves at risk. The family had been living illegally in New Zealand for many years while simultaneously trying to gain work visas and status as refugees.  Gaining residency in New Zealand is extremely difficult because the International Refugee Convention does not consider those who suffer as a result of climate change to be refugees. The Convention “doesn’t provide an open ticket for people from all the places that are impacted by climate change. It’s still a very stringent test and it requires exceptional circumstances of a humanitarian nature.”  The Tuvaluan family who gained residency in New Zealand was the first to do so on humanitarian grounds.
Although there is only one success story in regards to humanitarian based residency appeals, it represents hope for more similar stories of its kind in the future. As many small island nations continue to suffer as a result of climate change, more and more families and individuals will begin to seek residency elsewhere.  In order for these nations to find safety and a new home, the developed nations of the world must open up both their hearts and their borders to the ever-growing number of climate change refugees.

 

 

 

 

Sitting in the ocean means experiencing waves, changes in temperature, variations of color, textures between your toes, the giving over to the motion that gently (and sometimes not so gently) propels you in directions that you have little control over. Witnessing the tides-sometimes “oh so low” and often “oh! too high” is astonishing in it extremes. How can we measure something so alive and ever changing?

“If you could take planet Earth and move it out into deep space so that the sun, moons and other planets did not affect it and there were no temperature variations worldwide, then everything would settle down like a still pond. Rain and wind would stop, and so would the rivers. Then you could measure sea level accurately. If you did this, the level of the ocean’s water projected across the entire planet would be called the geoid.” This is the reality from a simple web search on measuring sea level rise from WikiHow.

MacMillan Arctic Expedition in 1926. Original photo NOAA Photo Library.

MacMillan Arctic Expedition in 1926. Original photo NOAA Photo Library.

Clearly measuring sea level rise is not an easy or exact science because of all of the variables that our dynamic, powerful beautiful ocean embodies. To complicate issues, when measuring sea level rise scientist must include movement of the land in and around the water. “Because the heights of both the land and the water are changing, the land-water interface can vary spatially and temporally and must be defined over time. Depending on the rates of vertical land motion relative to changes in sea level, observed local sea level trends may differ greatly from the average rate of global sea level rise, and vary widely from one location to the next,” according to NOAA. There are graphs, assessments, and a slew of documents from prestigious institutions, some confusing and some, thank god, worth reading for their simplicity and clarity.

For a very long time, sea level rise was measured with a tidal gauge, a simple tool that works by measuring the height of water relative to a fixed point on land. Today satellite equipment has taken over but fancy equipment doesn’t mean that data can ignore the variables that make sea level rise so difficult to predict. The important fact is, that data over a long period of time tells us that the sea is rising and that without cuts in emissions, it will keep rising with catastrophic results to many coastal communities across the globe.

Women Working for Oceans invites you to explore sea level rise at Water Rising: The Impact on Humanity on April 6th. National Geographic Photographer, George Steinmetz, will take the audience on a photographic look at how sea level rise affects coastal communities, rich and poor, around the world. Erika Spanger-Seigfried, from the Union of Concerned Scientists, will review the basic concept behind warming oceans, rising sea levels and human’s contribution to this critical global issue.

To read more about sea level rise, here are some websites that are easy to understand and thoughtful in their presentation. At Skeptical Science, you can even choose “basic” or “intermediate” language around the topic of sea level rise. Yale Universities report by Nicola Jones reviews data and questions what we really do know about sea level rise covering topics of long and short-term trends in data, melting polar ice sheets and governmental reports. Contributor to the article and sea level researcher at the University of Texas, Don Chambers, adds “I always tell people if they live under 3 feet above sea level, they should be worried about the next 100 years,” says Chambers. “We probably can adapt to a certain extent. The problem is that we’re not planning for it.”

 

:http://e360.yale.edu/feature/rising_waters_how_fast_and_how_far_will_sea_levels_rise/2702/

http://www.skepticalscience.com/sea-level-rise-predictions.htm

NOAA Photo: Morgan McHugh

NOAA Photo: Morgan McHugh

Some of you have already made your plans for the upcoming school break. Whether you are going to some exotic place or just staying in your “no place like home” environment,  exercise some thoughtfulness about our blue planet while on vacation. Breaks from the busy schedules of work and school are are good time to think about fresh ideas and an easy time to try something new. Did you pack an empty reusable water bottle and reusable bag for the journey?  Will your kids pledge to turn out the lights in their rooms each day before heading out from home base? Are you choosing restaurants that are conscientious about keeping a green/blue establishment? Taking a book? Try BlueMind by Wallace J. Nichols, a book that speaks to your love of the oceans.

Bring W2O blue mindfulness on vacation this year!

Photo: S. Burkus

Photo: S. Burkus

1st Place Art Award: Dafne Murillo from Lima Peru

1st Place Art Award: Dafne Murillo from Lima Peru

There is so much to say about saving the oceans and the expressive messages through art and essay from the contestants of the annual “Ocean Awareness Student Contest” at From The Bow Seat remind us that fruitful action sometimes begins at a young age. W2O board member, Linda Cabot, is the founder of From the Bow Seat, an organization that encourages middle and high school students from across the globe to submit art and written work about ocean awareness that is juried annually. Students receive cash prizes for their efforts.

Pour yourself a cup of something warm, find a comfy chair, and read this year’s winning essay, Plastic Pollution and How Individuals Can Change the World, by Katherine Rigney, a high school junior from Chelmsford Massachusetts.

Check out all of the winners of From the Bow Seat’s 2014 contest here!

Dr. Matral:Bigelow

photo: Laura Lubelczyk, Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences

 

 

Marine biologist Dr. Paty Matrai is talking about Coccolithophores from her office in Maine’s Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, where she is a lead research scientist. This intimidating word is a type of phytoplankton (remember that from science class?), or a tiny marine plants. Abundant and vital phytoplankton are both the smallest, but most important microorganism in the marine food chain and are key to a healthy ocean and planet. Disturbances to these plants, such as ocean acidification (the increase of  carbon dioxide in the oceans that produces carbonic acid, which reduces the ph of the water) affects the entire marine population. Phytoplankton produces much of the oxygen in the ocean and half the oxygen on land. They are effectively responsible for creating the oxygen in every second breath we take. Turns out, some varieties of this ocean movie star are also stunningly beautiful.

Chain-forming diatoms from the genus Thalassiosira (Bigelow Labs)

Chain-forming diatoms from the genus Thalassiosira (Bigelow Labs)

Dr. Matrai has worked at Bigelow Laboratory in East Boothbay Maine for 20 years. A native of Chile, she came to the United States and studied Biological Oceanography at UCSD’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography. She is particularly interested in how sulfur cycles through the ocean, the biological production and consumption of organic sulfur and halogenated compounds, and the role of phytoplankton as both a source  (through respiration) and sink (taking in for energy) of carbon dioxide.

Over the years, Dr. Matrai’s work has taken her north to the Arctic for stints as long as six weeks sampling and analyzing ice cores and the microscopic creatures of phytoplankton that are hidden within. A job not for the faint of heart with cold temperatures that require lots of trial and error to find just the right gear for keeping warm and dry. While she is working intensively in these conditions, she is also conscious of the beauty that surrounds her.

“I marvel at the shapes, ridges and color of the ice.” Dr. Matrai offered.

“When you visit these places that are hardest to get to and have few inhabitants you feel an urgency to communicate to the rest of the world how delicate these systems are.” she adds.

W2O will help the New England Aquarium host Tiny Giants, a photographic exhibit from Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, of the microscopic creatures that are vital to our very existence. On January 15th please join us to take a closer look at the ocean. Tickets are on sale now!

 

 

DSCN1903At W2O we believe that protecting the oceans is protecting ourselves. Thank you W2O members for attending our events, learning about ocean risk and enabling us to donate thousands of dollars to Marine Protected Areas. Your gifts are saving the oceans and we are thankful.

Read this wonderful article from Thomas Friedman “Stampeding Black Elephants” and be inspired to give back to the environment that sustains, feeds and protects you. Be thankful that, as Mr. Friedman puts it, “The planet will always be here.” But be aware that “This is about us.”

“Protected forests, marine sanctuaries and national parks are not zoos, not just places to see nature. “They are the basic life support systems” that provide the clean air and water, food, fisheries, recreation, stable temperatures and natural coastal protections “that sustain us humans,” said Russ Mittermeier, one of the world’s leading primatologists who attended the World Parks Congress in Sydney last week.”

That’s why “conservation is self-preservation,” says Adrian Steirn, the South Africa-based photographer who also attended the conference.

So, how about you? Tweet and share why you are thankful for all the bounties of the ocean. #howaboutyou.