A priceless moment? Maybe, but effective ocean protection demands we quantify it via “surfonomics.”
The title and author are long forgotten, but I remember the story I used to read to my children. Mom and Dad didn’t have a lot of money, but they lived in a beautiful place and spent as much time as possible outdoors. When their children complained, the parents pointed out that while the family didn’t have a new car or the latest gadgets, they were able to watch the sunset almost every evening. They could stroll along the river at leisure. “How much is a morning on the beach worth?” Mom would ask. “What’s the value of watching the blackberries blossom and ripen?” Dad would say, gathering said berries for the family’s pancake breakfast.
The questions were rhetorical, the point being that nature’s “value” transcends that of mere money. A wonderful point – and one I could relate to while raising a family on a combination of student loans and part-time jobs as I worked on my degree – but when fighting political battles, awe and intrinsic value take a back seat to modern day economics.
Enter Chad Nelsen, environmental director for the Surfrider Foundation. Nelsen recently earned a doctorate of environmental science from UCLA and his work on surf economics was written about in the Washington Post last month.
The coast of southeast Alaska is renowned for its stunning beauty, and the pocket beach outside the town of Sitka was no exception: dark sand piled with tangles of storm-tossed logs and fringed with emerald grass. From a distance, the beach looked pristine.
But as our boat pulled closer, we began to see what we had come for: trash. Chunks of polystyrene foam, plastic bottles, lengths of line, bits of faded blue tarp and pieces of netting were wedged in the piles of driftwood and strewn in the beach grass. It was time to get to work.
I was in Sitka to take part in a series of beach cleanups that brought together staff from Ocean Conservancy, the Marine Conservation Alliance Foundation and the Sitka Sound Science Center, along with volunteers from Allen Marine and Holland America Line. Together, we set out to find and remove marine debris that had washed up on the shores of nearby islands.
Much has changed since a teenaged Feo Pitcairn took his first wildlife photographs and developed them in his parent’s cellar.
For one thing, he’s no longer using that darkroom; his equipment now includes high-definition digital cameras that produce images with up to 40 million pixels.
His work has been showcased at the Smithsonian, on PBS and in countless books, magazines and calendars. And his film “Ocean Voyagers,” narrated by Meryl Streep, has been converted to 3-D and nominated for an award at the upcoming BLUE Ocean Film Festival.
Most recently, he’s transitioned from natural-history filmmaking back to his first love, still photography, and he’s launching an online gallery to share his work with the world.
A former Ocean Conservancy board member and long-time supporter of the organization, Feo has also witnessed a great deal of change in the health of our ocean during his many years as a photographer. He shares his experiences and insights—as well as a slideshow of beautiful ocean images—after the jump.
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When the dog days of summer blast in, there’s nothing like a romp at the beach with your canine friend to beat the heat. My golden retrievers love a beach on the Delaware shore where they are welcome after 5 p.m. for a frolic in the surf. And over the years, I’ve learned a few things that make a good evening great.
Planning ahead makes for the best beach trip possible, so before you head out, find a beach where dogs are allowed and check out the rules on leashing. When outside for longer periods of time, your pup needs the same things you do, including plenty of fresh water and protection from the sun. And remember: The urge to run and swim will be irresistible; if your dog isn’t used to a lot of activity, take it easy to avoid pulled muscles or exhaustion.
Surfers cross a debris-laden barrier island at Gamo Beach, Japan. Credit: Nick Mallos
A good wave is always worth the sacrifice. It’s a unanimous sentiment shared by surfers around the world. For surfers at Gamo Beach, Japan, though, it’s not pounding surf that yields a challenge.
Instead, a 200-meter-wide body of water requires them to paddle out to a barrier island, only to traverse another 100 meters of beach where remnants of houses, car parts, bottles and innumerable other tsunami debris items litter the sand. Still, they reach the waves.
Walls of water 10 feet tall formed this island, left this debris and destroyed—or at least severely damaged—everything in its path as it moved inland. Debris piles five stories tall are the only elevation visible on the coastal horizon.
The cleanup effort here is much further along than in the Tohoku region, but progress is relative considering the magnitude of destruction. I joined forces with 11 members of Cleanup Gamo and Jean Environmental Action Network to address this remaining debris in the best way we knew how: a beach cleanup.