bare feet in the sand

the beauty of nature in a consumer economy


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Mangroves and shrimp

I love shrimp.  In fact, I love seafood.  I’m very aware of the scarcity of cod in the Northeast U.S.  But I wasn’t aware until recently of the devastation that shrimp farming causes.  It has caused me to pause a little before ordering shrimp.  I read a book on mangroves, which turns out to be all about shrimp.  It’s called Let Them Eat Shrimp: The Tragic Disappearance of the Rainforests of the Sea by Kenneth Warne.  He is a reporter and it tells of his journey to various places all over the globe that have mangrove forests.  It’s beautiful (and kind of sad) that all of the places are facing essentially the same problems, whether they’re in India or South America.  Shrimp farms destroy the mangrove ecosystem while bringing no replacement benefit to the local communities who depend on it.  I was really glad to hear about that these communities who find food, and materials for building and making fire, and essentially live on the mangrove forests still exist.  I hope that all the efforts described in this book are able to save those communities.  Shrimp farms seem like capitalism run amok.  They take one product, shrimp, and make as much of it as possible in order to make as big a profit as possible, for the one company that owns the farm.  They don’t care about the local people, or the local ecosystem.

rhyzophora_mangle_red_mangrove_trees_small1mangroves-fish-healthy

Mangroves are important, more important than I realized.  They are a carbon sink – they capture carbon that otherwise would be released into the air and increase global warming.  They protect shorelines from storms.  They give safe harbor to different kinds of baby fish as well as a vast number of species including birds and mollusks.  Their nutrients feed off-shore reefs.  If you’re not interested in the science of ecology, local ecosystems (including the human component) or mangroves, this book may not be for you.  But it confirmed for me how fascinating and important I think all of this is.

Here is more reading (from the websites where I found the pictures), if you’re interested:  Mangroves in Ecuador and Mangrove Hub


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Monterey Bay and marine biology

I have spent a lot of time recently thinking about how I want to make a difference to the environment.  Little things that we do everyday are certainly a part of it.  Being aware of the impact we have is important and I will continue to write about various ways to do that.  But I’m beginning to think that my road to feeling like I’m making a difference lies in a new career.  And that new career has to do with the ocean.  In fact, I’m back to where I started.  I began writing this blog because I was looking into environmental issues and wanted to share what I was discovering.  My first post was about my love for the beach which is where my concern for the environment started.

The beach is what I want to study, or rather coastal ecosystems.  They are being broadly affected by humans – fishing and littering, by climate change – warming oceans, rising sea levels and they are some of the most beautiful places on Earth.  I think I can find a way to help.  I’m looking into programs in marine biology.  It’s quite a change from theater, but it means a lot to me and interests me.  I read a book recently that inspired me.  It is called The Death and Life of Monterey Bay and I would recommend it to everyone and anyone.  It chronicles all the ways that humans hurt the ecosystem of the bay, but then also tells the story of how the bay has been restored.  Change is possible.  A lot of what I’ve read has only spoken of the problems that exist, and maybe hypothetical ideas on what to do about them.  Monterey Bay is a success story.  I hope similar successes can happen elsewhere.


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A Week at the Beach

I just spend a week on Cape Cod.  It is possibly my favorite place on Earth.  I have visited the town of Wellfleet every year since the day I was born.  It is remarkable in that there are many fresh water kettle ponds very close to the ocean.  In the middle of the 90 degree days, a swim in a pond was perfect.  Then I would spend the early evening in the beach.  As beautiful and relaxing as it was, I didn’t stop thinking about the environment, carbon or sea level rise.Newcomb Hollow Beach, our family’s favorite, had changed dramatically in one year, although it had actually gotten wider.  At the same time, I could see erosion of the dunes.  Two recent hurricanes had definitely made an impact.

Dunes

I enjoy taking pictures, especially while walking on the beach.  What I don’t enjoy is seeing litter on the beaches.  There were also a lot of signs trying to make sure that people were respectful to the environment.  I’m glad that someone cares but also disappointed that the signs were necessary.

Beach Mosaic


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A Walk on the Beach

Today I went for a walk on the beach.  I hadn’t been to the beach yet this year and I love the beach.  I went to Carson Beach in South Boston, which I had never been there before.  I didn’t last very long; it was over 90 degrees and there was no shade.  In fact, I burned my feet on the sand as soon as I arrived there.  I had to wear shoes to take a walk.  The soft sand was too hot and near the water was covered in shells, rocks and glass.  It was a beautiful day and the beach is also beautiful.  The green trees around it make you forget that you’re in the middle of Boston.  It wasn’t that crowded because most people did have to work today – or left town for an extra long weekend.

I wish that I could have enjoyed the beach without having to think too hard.  Instead I think about ocean pollution and wonder what the glass shards used to be and where they entered the ocean.  I wonder who cleans up the beach because I’m sure more litter ends up on it.  I wonder how many more 90 degree days there are going to be this summer.


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the beginning

I fell in love with the natural world in the summers at the beach.  Every year my family spent at least a week on Cape Cod while I was growing up.  And I have gone back for at least a few days every single year of my life, mostly still with my family.  I’m not sure I’ll ever think anything is as beautiful as the beaches of Wellfleet.  The water may be cold but to me it’s not the ocean unless it numbs your feet after ten minutes.  I’ve seen those beaches in bright, hot sun and in wind and rain.  But they are always beautiful.

As I grew older and became more aware of humans’ devastating effects, I worry that all that amazing beauty is fading.  I recently read in a book, Crazy Horse and Custer, about how when the English settlers first arrived in Ohio it was covered in beautiful forests.  They spent years cutting down and burning all of those trees in the name of progress.  I’d like to think that we (as in the human race) have learned better, but I fear that’s not the case.

I believe that when it comes to confronting a societal problem (and I do think that our disregard for the Earth has become rooted in our society) the first step is awareness.  And maybe with awareness and knowledge that will go with it, enough of us will take the correct steps toward fixing this problem.  I have decided I need to do my part.  Image