Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Trashy Talking Turtlers: Week 13

Hello Trashy Talking Turtlers,

It is with mixed emotions that I write this final newsletter. Although I am looking forward to not having a deadline or the pressure to get the newsletter done, I will miss checking my email and seeing all the kindred messages from you all. I remember feeling disappointed once turtle season ended last year and the only emails I seemed to get were junk mail.
And, of course, I would not be honest if I did not say that I am somewhat disappointed that Wrightsville Beach did not see more nesting activity this year.
However, I am very excited and proud of the work that the WBSTP volunteers have done in terms of cleaning our beach and helping our oceans to be a safer habitat for all marine life. And I am just as excited about the nesting activity across the state. According to http://www.seaturtle.org/, North Carolina has 845 reported nests so far!

Numbers for Week 13
Note: There are nine days this week, so we will add 12 zones (six per day) making the total number of zones 54 instead of the usual 42.
We picked up trash in 27 of the 52 zones (50%)
Zone 0 = 2.83 bags
Zone 1 = 4 bags
Zone 2 = 5 bags
Zone 3 = 7 bags
Zone 4 = 5.25 bags
Zone 5 = 5.5 bags
Total Number of Bags for Week 13 = 29.58
Grand Total from June 1 – Aug. 31, 2010 = 496.24 bags of trash—not including items too large to fit into bags.
Please give yourself a hand, high-five, pat on the back and take a bow. You definitely deserve it. Job well done. The earth thanks you!

Work Continues for Nancy Fahey
Although we may be finished monitoring the beach by foot, Nancy Fahey, our tireless leader, will continue to monitor the beach by ATV through September 15th. We should all send her positive sea turtle thoughts because you never know with the turtles. Not only is Nancy monitoring for nests, but she is also taking time to pick up trash. In just two days, she has collected 11 bags of trash. If we added that to our grand total, we would have 507.24 bags of trash. Among the trash Nancy has collected, she has picked up at least 12 balloons in two days.
I know we have talked about balloons before, but one more time won't hurt, right?
Letting balloons go is pretty cool to young kids and they love to watch the balloons float into the sky. I remember when I was in elementary school—yes, I can still remember that far back—we released balloons with our addresses inside hoping for pen pals. It was a project that I enjoyed very much. However, in that lesson about helium, no one ever taught me about the risks to the environment when a balloon deflates, lands and becomes trash that breaks down into toxic particles or is ingested by wildlife. Perhaps we did not know back then about the detrimental effects of letting balloons go, but now we do. So, we can either ignore this knowledge or face it head on like Nancy did yesterday.
Yesterday, after collecting more balloons from our shore, Nancy learned from two different sources that a local agency in Wilmington had released lots and lots of balloons to celebrate the success of their clients. Being the true environmental and sea turtle advocate that Nancy is, she picked up the phone and called the agency. She explained her concerns with the release of the balloons, including the example this sets to other agencies and individuals who may use the release of balloons as a symbol of celebration. Nancy pointed out that sea turtles and other marine life often ingest balloons for food and become very sick. She also explained that marine life can become entangled in the ribbons that are attached to the balloons and often become injured or die as a result. Nancy encouraged the representative from the agency to go to http://www.seaturtlehospital.org/ and view the picture on the homepage of the balloons that have been passed by some of the sea turtles that have been rehabilitated at the hospital.
The agency representative was very open to what Nancy had to say and left Nancy with the feeling that the agency would not release balloons in the future. And to be fair to the agency, they did take the extra steps to special order biodegradable balloons and also used raffia instead of ribbon. Nancy did thank the agency for their consideration of the environment, but encouraged them to celebrate in a different way in the future such as releasing butterflies, planting trees or planting a field of wildflowers. We know that even if items are biodegradable, they are still litter (paper is biodegradable, but if it is on the ground, it is still litter) and just because items are biodegradable, it does not mean that it is safe for wildlife.
As Nancy and I were discussing this situation, we thought of all the times people release balloons on the beach during celebrations or even during memorial events. The idea occurred to us that it would be nice if WB had an ordinance against releasing balloons on the beach. It really seems like such an innocent gesture, but if individuals were aware of the consequences of this one act on the environment, many would abandon it all together.
Thank you, Nancy, for advocating and educating on behalf of our planet!

It starts with me!
I have highlighted Danielle's blog several times in this newsletter and yet I feel compelled to do so again. I am so impressed and inspired by her dedication to clean litter from Wrightsville Beach that I am thinking about joining her. Why not pick up cigarette butts for 20 minutes a day, two days a week? Danielle and her family have picked up 2,171 cigarette butts in just seven days.
I will definitely keep reading her blog and I encourage others to do the same. Danielle has a great way of writing about and photographing the typical trash that we see on the beach when walking. If you look at the pictures on her blog, you will surely recognize items that you, too, have collected. She is definitely a kindred spirit.
One more reason to check out her blog today is that she wrote about the sea turtles and has a picture of our potential nest. Thank you, Danielle, for bringing attention to this issue. When I originally wrote the draft for this newsletter, the blog about the sea turtles was not yet posted. So, you can imagine that when I checked the blog this morning before correcting the final draft, I was excited and had to include it here: http://itstartswithme-danielle.blogspot.com/.

Stay Tuned
WBSTP and Surfrider Foundation are joining forces to help keep America beautiful with the Big Sweep on Saturday, Sept. 25. We will need volunteers to make it a big success. It will be very exciting to join the community in an effort to clean our beaches and waterways. Please stay tuned for ways in which you can help. I will be contacting you via email very soon.

A sincere thank you to all of you who have monitored sea turtle activity before sunrise; to those of you who have missed the sunrise because you were bent over the sand picking up trash; to those of you who walked the beach with your significant other, but could not hold their hand because your hand was carrying a trash bag; and to those who inspired and educated others about sea turtles and litter. You are all saints!
I think about all the trash we have collected—some of it was fresh and some of it had been spit out by the ocean and was covered in barnacles and sea life. Renee mentioned that it seemed the ocean was giving us another chance to pick up the litter that was spit back at us. I like this thought. Isn't that such a positive way to think about the litter that comes back to us from the ocean? It is as if Mother Ocean trusts us enough to help and protect her. Indeed, we will.

So, I feel I must once again include the "Sea Turtle Zen" from the book Animal Speak:
“...Turtles remind us that the way to heaven is through the earth. In Mother Earth is all that we need. She will care for us, protect us, and nurture us, as long as we do the same for her. For that to happen we must slow down and heighten our sensibilities. We must see the connection to all things. Just as the turtle cannot separate itself from its shell, neither can we separate ourselves from what we do to the Earth...”

Peace and Blessings,
Ginger Taylor

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