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On track, but still a long way to go

We discuss important environmental topics on the pages of WindCheck each month. This issue, in particular, is loaded with articles with an environmental focus, and the message from each is clear: We may be on track toward healthy oceans, sounds, bays and coastlines, but we have a long way to go.

I can remember, for years as a junior sailor, seeing (and smelling) masses of dead fish littering the Long Island Sound shoreline. I also recall the thick, murky brown water and all sorts of man-made flotsam bobbing up and down. It was certainly no wonder that the fish couldn’t survive and that other water-dependant animals fled the scene. I am confident that our kids will not see the same brand of devastation that I witnessed when I was young, and for that I am pleased.

In recent years we have seen osprey, numerous fish species and other marine mammals returning to waterways in the Northeast, and I can even see my boat’s rudder through the ever-clearing water. People are becoming better educated on the impact of their actions on the health of our environment, more stringent laws are in place to limit or eliminate discharge, and Mother Nature is working hard to heal. The positive trend is great, but we are not there yet. I hope that the current improving state of our environment does not cause people to throw their hands up and say, ‘We’ve done it!’ There is still much to be done and complacency is a giant hurdle.

The concept of environmental stewardship is promoted everywhere from product packaging to the classroom, and thanks to musician Jack Johnson, a generation of kids is growing up with the mantra ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.’ That’s laudable, although

I think some environmental education may even be working against us. I have been either on or near the water on several occasions and heard the justification ‘It’s okay, it’s biodegradable,’ with respect to a paper product or other item being tossed away. I still see people fertilizing their lawns, feet from where the runoff will directly enter the water table – just because the label on the bag says ‘eco-friendly.’ I am not an expert, but it seems to me that terms like ‘biodegradable’ and ‘eco-friendly’ are often misused, promoting environmental indolence. With limited exception, nothing should be tossed overboard or washed away.

So, is buying an eco-friendly or biodegradable product actually enough? Surely it’s a step in the right direction, but that doesn’t mean we should stop there. We need to continue to do more to ensure we leave nothing in our wakes – and in this issue there are groups, companies and individuals going a step further and serving as inspiration for all of us.

Sailing is inherently a sound partner for environmental stewardship. Without a healthy coexistence, sailing would not hold the same wonder and beauty that we enjoy while on the water, and so we should consider it our duty to exceed the norm. Our Contributing Editor, Joe Cooper, has taken strides to make the waters he sails upon cleaner, and identifies several entities in his Coop’s Corner article on page 40 that he is working with to do so. Additionally, he will no doubt be moved to act when he reads the Sound Environment article on page 32.

There are plenty of ways to get involved, even during the cold months. For example, Clean Ocean Access, a Rhode Island organization with whom Coop proudly volunteers, is organizing two coastal cleanups this month: Hull Cove in Jamestown on December 6, and Corys Lane in Portsmouth on December 13. I am sure that no matter where you reside, there is an effort nearby in search of, and appreciative of, any assistance.

To those of you who have adopted responsible practices for cleaning, painting, storing and enjoying your boat, participated in a shoreline cleanup, or become eco-active in any way, keep up the good work. Things are improving out (and under) there, but we cannot become complacent. Our job as environmental stewards is ongoing, and we’re just getting started.

See you on the water.

Chris Gill


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