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Practical protection: The best defense is a good offense | TIDAL LIFE

As my last several columns have looked at the bigger picture I’d like to get back to writing about something practical.

Trouble is, I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t done anything practical around here at all. I’ve been working long hours, and stumbling home too tired to do anything in the garden, around the house or aboard the boat.

Luckily, after the first few months the weeds and the dust don’t get any worse. The weeds do, however, threaten to go to seed. I’m trying to keep ahead of that.

I don’t think the sense of overload is just about work, though. The oil spill in the Gulf is taking a toll. I can’t stop worrying about the mammals, birds, fish, mollusks, crustaceans, plants — and people, too — that are suffering.

Every morning and every evening for the past eight weeks, I’ve read the latest news on the debate about the amount of oil spewing, where the slick would head next, when it would come ashore, how long the devastated ecosystem will take to heal or if it can, which oil executive made which stupid gaffe and what goofily named techie gadget is the next big hope for slowing or stopping the flow. Then a lightning strike set fire to the tanker that’s siphoning the oil from the containment cap. Ha ha! Irony is added to the mix! BP (and the entire Gulf) just can’t cut a break.

I want to get back to the basics of living responsibly around water, in order to avoid writing and thinking too much about the Gulf spill. I don’t want to dwell on it more than I already am, and I’m betting readers would like to have their attention directed elsewhere as well.

So let’s talk about the World Cup.

Just kidding. While I’m a soccer fan and sprint down to La Casita to watch a game at lunchtime every day, there’s nothing about the cup that links directly to the water, or to practicality for that matter. So I’ll try to keep the soccer metaphor noise below the level of a vuvuzela.*

In the realm of taking care of the environment, the right thing to do is change our minds about how we go about our lives. Unfortunately, practicality often gets in the way of doing what’s right. It’s not easy to decide what actions should follow once that change of mind has been accomplished. And practicality itself can be hard to define.

Kitsap Sun environmental reporter Christopher Dunagan, writing recently about some Kitsap property owners who think the state is out of line in limiting bulkheads, wrote:

“Extreme property-rights advocates argue that nobody should restrict the use of their land without overwhelming scientific evidence or other clear justifications to support restrictions. Extreme conservationists, on the other hand, argue that nobody should remove pieces of the ecosystem until they fully understand the effects of their actions. Neither position is tenable.”

Ahem.

While it may be true that under our current way of doing things neither position is tenable, the Gulf spill is teaching that a lot of what we currently do is completely untenable for the well-being of anything other than the bottom line. (And even that is taking a hit in the spill debacle.) In drilling for oil, in property use, and in so much more than medicine alone, we need to apply Hippocrates’ dictum “to do good or to do no harm.”

I could argue that, here on my own small piece of private property, I’ve accidently done something right. By doing nothing I’m not making any impact, therefore, no bad impact.

If only it were so simple. Just the fact of my house existing does harm because of all the systems it links to. And if I want to do something good? What should I do to help the stricken Gulf? Should I stuff hair cuttings into panty hose to make absorbent booms? Should I disconnect from the grid? Should I never fly in a plane again? What?

Practical, tenable, simple. Those words seem to be losing their meaning as life gets more and more complicated.

So here’s something right that every one of us can do today. Go to the beach. Enjoy the fact that Puget Sound isn’t covered with oil. Sit on a clean log and be thankful that back in 1977, in the face of pressure from oil companies to build a major oil port at Cherry Point, U.S. Sen. Warren Magnuson took the practical step of banning supertankers from Puget Sound.

While there, you might run into a group of Beach Watchers. This month and next, they’ll be out on several island beaches performing the annual Intertidal Monitoring.

The program began as a response to the Exxon Valdez disaster. The Intertidal Monitoring data is a catalog of all the life on our shores. Should a large spill ever occur here, we’ll be able to tell the spiller the value of what was on our beaches before they messed them up.

In today’s world, that’s practical, tenable, simple.

For more information:

Watching our water ways:click here.

*World Cup Vuvuzela: click here.

Getting to the Water’s Edge: click here.

Supertanker ban: click here.

Beach Watchers Intertidal Monitoring:click here.

Questions or comments for Tidal Life? E-mail tidallife@whidbey.com.

The Tidal Life blog is at click here.

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