Environment and Cruising – #77

Yep, it’s time to talk a little about the environment, from a cruiser’s perspective.

While out sailing for two years, I was unexpectedly enlightened about how effective my fellow humans and I have been at defiling our irreplaceable planet home. For example, while making our way across the South Pacific on Low Key, we took a month to explore the island archipelago of Fiji. We saw some amazing things. But, as in most of our stops, we also saw more evidence of the not-so-good effect that humans have on our planet. In Fiji, most of the reefs that we snorkeled were bleached white. It wasn’t until I did a little research that I found out why. It turns out that the bleaching is happening to reefs all over the world. It’s caused by an increase in water temperature and CO2 and exposure to too much UV light, a result of ozone depletion.

In Bora Bora I met an Australian fisherman who was on vacation. He said it is normal practice these days for fishermen to go in to have skin tumors removed every year. Later, while spending three months of cyclone season holed up in Sydney Harbor, I had a chance to find out more about the effect of our thinning atmosphere on the population there in Australia (Oz). One of the things I learned was that in many Australian schools, the children are not allowed to play outside in the middle of the day because of the oddly high skin cancer risk. It seems that Australia, along with the other southern hemisphere countries, is particularly affected by the Ozone depletion that collects over the poles, especially Antarctica. Another thing I learned is that without an atmosphere, the UV rays from the sun would kill a human in a matter of seconds. Did you know that? Sounds like something we want to keep intact.

When I got back, I did some more research and was disappointed to learn that it is my own country that holds the position as the world’s worst polluter (CO2 emissions per capita). FYI: There is a consensus that global warming caused by increased CO2 levels (currently the highest level in 650,000 years) will lead to worsening heat waves, floods, droughts, extreme weather, rising sea levels, and the spreading of infectious diseases. I see a couple of those that could affect the quality of my future cruising adventures.

Even primitive Brazil, who shares the U.S.’s ecological pariah status, has conquered their dependence on foreign oil. Brazil no longer imports oil because they grow it. Brazil has switched over to ethanol. By next year they expect to be producing enough ethanol from crops to run every passenger vehicle on 100% ethanol. I say that if Brazil could do it, we could do it in our sleep. As it is, we pay some of our farmers to not farm. We could pay them to grow fuel products.

I’ve been in some of the most beautiful parts of the planet, far far away from the comforts of home, blissfully sitting amongst my cruising friends from all over the world. Over our beverages of choice, the sun sets and our conversations span many fascinating topics. The environment is a dear subject, especially to this group, whose day to day life is immersed in some of the most pristine environments on the planet. At some point in the evening, my foreign cruising friends were likely to broach the subject of what we Americans think about our current ruling party’s wholesale anti-environment policies. “The intelligent nations of the world need a rallying point,” I’d tell them, “a seemingly insurmountable environmental blockade to keep you all focused. That’s what our Grand Oil Party provides.”

It looks unlikely that I’m going to have kids or grandkids to worry about so why do I do it? Why do I recycle, drive a car that’s not bigger than I need, turn off lights/air conditioning/heaters that I’m not using, mock powerboaters (it just slipped out), buy green products, and vote with the planet in mind? I’m doing it for you. I’m doing it because it’s the right thing to do. I’m doing it as a favor to the planet that’s done so right by me. I’m doing it for future generations because I think they would appreciate being able to play outside or to see at least some of the amazing things I have seen.

I used to take long walks into the hills of islands that we were visiting with friend and fellow sailor Tania Aebi. We’d discuss the state of things and at one point Tania enlightened me to an interesting fact. She pointed out that the planet has been here long before us and will be here long after us. All of the pretty stuff that you are worried about will come back after we’re gone. The thought was comforting. Still, everyone needs a challenge. As a country, if we can overcome the income drain of the terrorism thing (which has been around for thousands of years, just not as well hyped as now), we could stop falling behind Europe in envirotech. Just as we latched onto and then dominated the internet revolution, the U.S. could catch up and run free in the vast arenas of the technology of living clean. In case those of you that are voting your pocketbooks over the future of your race missed it, I’m saying that there’s money to be made, more than the internet or oil ever produced.

In fact, there’s no downside. In striving for a cleaner planet the quality of your life goes up in every way. Jobs are created, people are healthier, reasons for war diminish, and we as a country can go back to doing what we used to do best—setting a good example for the rest of the planet. (Of course the oil companies will suffer a bit, but from the looks of things they should have enough money to hold them over through the hard times).

Well, I feel better. I’ve waited a year to put that down. I figure since we’re fast approaching voting season (November 7th), now would be a good time to speak up for cruising and humanity and the planet in general. All I can ask is that you research your vote and then do what’s best for you, for your kid’s kids, for all of US.

*For info on related issues goto http://www.seafaring.com/, click on Marine Links, click Bull Boards-Blogs-Info, click Eviro Info.


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