“Water Water Every Where…”

“…and not a drop to drink.” So intoned The Ancient Mariner, throat slacked with thirst, dying from lack of water yet surrounded by it as far as the eye could see. To borrow a phrase from today’s parlance, ” That sucks!” Or one from my generation, “What a revoltin’ development this is!”

Exploring the “everywhere” part of this sad statement we must scratch our head. After all the earth is a pretty watery place. According to the US Geological Survey, 71 % of the earth is water and a bit more than 97% of that water is ocean. There ought to be enough to get a drink somewhere, no? But of course, we also know that that vast majority of it is undrinkable salt water. Man has spent untolled hours of thought and billions of dollars trying to figure how to get the salt out, everything from hugely expensive desalinization plants to towing icebergs, halfway around the globe. The cost per cup is staggering.

More and more of what is drinkable is more and more polluted. But so far except for the pollution, these are the problems of those of us who live on the earth’ s surface, not under it. It is time to pity the poor fish and not just to be good guys. If we don’t start doing something about their ocean habitat the impact on those of us who live above it will be devastating. We will die. Where to begin?

While not the only solution, one large one is captured in one word–plastics. The other of course is climate change but that’s for another day. Once the miracle invention, plastic has become Frankenstein, a monster uncontrollable and capable of killing us. Of yes, it is metaphorically just as ugly too.

The world is beginning to awaken to this problem and it quickly hit upon a solution. Ban straws. As Charlie Brown would say, ” Good grief!” While cruise ship captains do their best to steer their ships away from your seeing it, there are massive, no beyond massive, what? clumps? highways? pools? galaxies? of plastics floating around out there. The bulk weight of plastic dumped annually into the oceans is eight million metric tons. Do yourself a favor and re-read that.

Sure, within it are enough straws to girdle the globe multiple times. And those of plastic should go, no doubt. But then too we have: cups, saucers, plates, eating utensils, chairs, tables, toys, games, bags from shopping for groceries, dresses, medicines, and also pieces of ships, planes, cars, motors, and other assorted stuff with plastic components. You name it, if it’s made of plastic there is a lot of it floating around in the ocean. Also for another time is that world-upsetting resource called oil from which plastic is made. I’ll say no more.

Now to the sea’s inhabitants and plastics. They eat it and choke. They eat it and they shred their stomachs. They eat it and it wraps around their snouts and ties their mouths shut. Get the point? The solution is stunningly simple. Just stop throwing all that crap into the water! Would that it were that simple. It’s already illegal to do that. But who’s watching and in which territorial waters? And what are the penalties? It’s so tempting to take out the ole binocs, sweep the horizon, see nothing, and throw the garbage overboard rather than bag it up, take it back to port, schlep it off the deck, and probably have to pay for disposal. Dear me. Such trouble.

So, along with this ruinous flotsam and jetsam, we add dead and dying animal life, life that on its own should be allowed to live but more parochially is needed to feed us and fertilize what we use to feed us.

Look I’m not a scientist, likely you are not either. I am just an angry, worried citizen with a typewriter who likes fish and is getting to the point where I’m about to roll up the windows (actually slide them open) and yell, “I’m sick and tired and won’t take it anymore!” I don’t have any panaceas, but I do have a few thoughts:

  • if you are out in a boat, or in a boat with others, do not throw anything into the water except a fishing line attached to something or your body. And if someone else does, shame them.
  • if you see another boat dumping into the ocean, large or small, take down their registration number and report them to the Coast Guard
  • organize and participate in beach cleanups. What someone throweth on the beaches, the tide taketh out to the depths.
  • and here’s one that will shock the world into revolution…pressure Congress to pressure the UN to organize world-wide “Ocean Days” like Earth Day.  While treaties should make this an everyday occurrence, on Sea Days every ship, raggedy to grand, from every country teeny GDP to huge, with fishing and cruising fleets of 5 or 5,000, should scoop up what glops of garbage they pass, bag it, tie it, and bring it to shore.

Extraordinary thought, if I do say so myself.

Truthfully, folks, we need the reincarnation of Ernest Hemingway to lead the charge. Until then all we’ve got is us and as you remember Pogo reporting, ” We have seen the enemy and he is us.” So true–at least from my perspective.


For more of Bill Gralnick’s finger-pointing, sooth-saying, and attempted wisdoms, check his blog http://www.atleastfrommyperspective.net or this space most every Sunday.

And as he says, “Read! It’s good for both of us.”

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