Should you buy those seashells sold by the seashore? On beach walks, seahorses and collecting sea shells

Kelp on beachesI love seashells.  I am a collector of little shells and interesting objects I find while walking on the beach.

While some beaches are known for their variety of seashells and for beach combing (like those in Florida, Hawaii and Gulf states), at the beaches here in  Monterey Bay, you will likely run into seaweed or giant kelp that have lost their tether and left their undersea home, rather than shells.  It is not a beach you visit to collect seashells.

Kelp on the beach web

My grandson, Gabriel, having fun with kelp that washed up on the beach.

But…you will see sand dollars, broken clam or mussel shells (perhaps remnants from many sea otter lunches), a lot of driftwood, and depending on the beach, pretty little stones, or smooth glass pieces.

Lining up sand dollars with barnacles web

The boys lining up their find of sand dollars… At this beach walk, each of the sand dollars they found (oddly) had barnacles growing on top.

The few shells that do end up on the beach are usually clean, because the animal that lived inside was already eaten by other creatures, shore birds and beach scavengers…or have rotted away before the tide and waves pushed them onto the beach.

My grandsons have picked up my little beach object collecting habit, and we have come back from beach walks with bits of shells, a pretty rock or tiny driftwood.

I started to put  their treasures in glass jars, not because they are colorful or striking like those found at other beaches, but because they liked it and picked it up, and it was a little treasure to them.

Beach combing shells

Some of the little shells and rocks my grandsons collected are in this glass jar.

Although Monterey Bay beaches are not known for pretty seashells, tourist stores — especially those at the Fisherman’s Wharf — do sell colorful sea shells from different parts of the world.

Just as people enjoy eating seafood when visiting seaside towns, people also like buying shells and related products as souvenirs.  I’m sure stores that sell seashells and dried up starfish and other marine animals can be be found in just about any seaside community that caters to tourists.

seashell-store-california

A few years ago, during the off-season for tourists, I stopped by a store off of Highway 1 that sold shells and seashell products.

Their sign indicated “Sea Shells from Around the World”… but really, the majority of the shells are from a certain part of the world, and that is the Philippines.  In fact, when I went inside to browse, about 90% of the shells were marked as being from the Philippines.

Why is this?  First, the Philippines has a rich and diverse ocean life (cited as “the center of the center” of biodiversity by researchers at the California Academy of Sciences) with an amazing array of seashells — many of which are prized by collectors.

Second, the Philippines is a poor country…so those in the shell trade could easily exploit locals with low pay to collect these shells for export to tourist shops.

Sea shell shop off season

Sea shell shop Monterey Bay “Off-season”

Growing up in the Philippines, I was accustomed to seeing seashell products fashioned into jewelry, necklaces and decorative items, or dried marine animals like starfish, seahorses glued onto frames and home decor items.

Because they were so common, I always thought that these seashells and marine animals were picked up by beach combing… as in, the creatures are already dead and washed ashore.

After a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seahorse Exhibit, I learned otherwise.  From my blog post about the exhibit…

This is not the case, and much of these animals are collected ALIVE and dried to make these souvenirs.

I am saddened at how uninformed I was  about this practice! Family and friends, please do not buy these souvenirs.

With everything else happening to our oceans, we all have to do our part to stop this. And please spread the word about protecting these fragile and fascinating creatures.  In the process, we also protect and  preserve their homes —and our home. More here

This poster from the Aquarium says it best…

Seahorse 1 rd

In support of World Oceans Day and as part of a series for the Earth-Friendly Chroniclers blogging challenge, I am again posting this information.

If I made this incorrect assumption about the shells and dried starfish or seahorses sold at tourist shops, then there are probably others who do not know this information.  More from a shell article in Wikipedia:

…the majority of seashells which are offered for sale commercially have been collected alive (often in bulk) and then killed and cleaned, specifically for the commercial trade.  This type of large-scale exploitation can sometimes have a strong negative impact on local ecosystems, and sometimes can significantly reduce the distribution of rare species.

I am also re-posting this video from the California Academy of Sciences, on the dramatic decline of seahorses all over the world.  Excerpt from my post about seahorses:

…The huge economic boom in China means even more trouble for seahorse populations, as seahorses are highly sought after for use in traditional Chinese medicines.

US Customs at the San Francisco airport recently confiscated a shipment of at least 1,000 seahorses, and the US Fish and Wildlife turned over the dried seahorses to the California Academy of Sciences to help determine their source.  See full post here… including a link about the sea dragons (and seahorses) supply chain and market.

Have you heard of, or used products with dried seahorses?

I can’t help but think that we are doing the same thing to our ocean and its resources, as we did with our forests.  Are we going to look back 25 years from now and find out we unknowingly wiped out certain species of marine life because of unsustainable fishing… and what seems like an innocuous shell collecting hobby?

Can we stop and first find out how these shells are harvested?  If it is done sustainably, or if these creatures are collected beach comb style, then we can happily collect to our heart’s content.  But if not, then we need to find ways to educate the public so we can make responsible choices about the shells we buy.  I don’t want my grandchildren to ask why our generation let the same thing happen to our oceans, as we did to our forests in the Philippines.

Are you  a seashell collector?  If you buy seashells from seaside tourist shops, should the shops let consumers know if the shells were collected from the shore, or sustainably harvested?

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To participate in the Earth-Friendly Chroniclers’ blogging challenges hosted by Jane from Just Another Nature Enthusiast or to see other submissions for the theme “Healthy Oceans – Healthy Planet” click here.

Philippines – A Marine Biodiversity Hotspot (Post for Earth-Friendly Chroniclers’ #11)

When my daughter was little, one of her favorite places to visit was the California Academy of Sciences, located within San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.  We spent a lot time looking at exhibits there, from the dramatic dioramas in the African Hall to working in a show at the Morrison Planetarium.

Of all the permanent and temporary exhibits at the Academy, the place where we spent the most time was the Steinhart Aquarium.  It was a fascinating place for kids and adults, and when we had family visiting, it was often a place we took them during their stays with us.

The California Academy of Sciences looks much different today than it did when we lived in San Francisco and the Bay Area, and the Steinhart Aquarium now feature a Philippine Coral Reef Exhibit.

Philippine Coral Reef at SteinhartThe 212,000 gallon exhibit includes the largest display of living coral in the world — all from the Philippines, a country that has the most diverse reef ecosystem in the world.

I’ve always wondered what the connection was between the Steinhart Aquarium and the Philippines, and recently learned that researchers from the Academy have worked in and around the Philippine archipelago (of over 7,000 islands) for over 100 years.

Last year, a team of scientists from the Academy explored new sites and depths in an area of the Philippines off the coast of the main island of Luzon, near Batangas.

Map of Philippines highlighting Batangas

This area  — near Isla Verde — is called the “Coral Triangle” and reportedly has over 1/2 of the world’s species of coral.

Isla VerdeFrom the Academy’s website…

Within the Coral Triangle is an area known as the Verde Island Passage—waters teeming with such an abundance of life that Academy scientists suspect it may be “the center of the center” of biodiversity.

Our 2014 expedition sought to document the astounding life in the Verde Island Passage by collecting and identifying species not yet described (and in many cases never before seen) and creating a base of knowledge that will help to protect this area going forward.

And what Academy researchers found in this “Coral Triangle Area” last year was amazing.  On June 8th, 2015 — and to celebrate World Ocean Day — they made this announcement:

100 new marine speciesHere are photos of some of the new marine species found during the expedition…

Philippine new nudibranch

 

Multi colored Philippine tunicates

Nudibranch Philippines

These new marine species are stunning, and how incredible to learn that there are still undiscovered species living in our oceans!

And who knows… perhaps one of these newly discovered creatures will help us produce a cure for cancer or hold keys and answers to the mysteries of life on our planet.

So the challenge is…. how can areas like this “Coral Triangle” be protected, knowing what we do about the severe threats to marine life and the health of oceans surrounding the Philippine islands due to pollution, over-development of coastal areas, poverty, overpopulation, climate change and unsustainable fishing practices?

From the Academy website:

To combat these dangers, the Academy developed a practice of rapidly translating data collected in the field into effective marine conservation actions.

By working with Filipino and international governments, organizations, and communities, we’ve been able to create real-world change.

Real world change means that as new discoveries are made, scientists take the data and work in collaboration with Philippine government officials and decision makers so that in turn, policy makers can take immediate actions to help protect these areas.

I realize solving the problems that harm our oceans are complex, and will require global cooperation and focus — especially as it relates to pollution and poverty.  But it seems to me, the method directed by Academy scientists may be a good model if immediate steps are indeed taken to preserve natural resources.

It is easy to be cynical (I know I am at times!) but I do think this approach, and increasing awareness about marine life is a positive step towards helping us — and the next generation of human beings — to be better stewards of our oceans and our natural resources.

Maybe the next time someone is tempted to leave trash or plastic bottles on the beach, they will remember these amazing creatures and the harm that it will cause…and do the right thing.  Ideally, the new generation will place as much focus on conservation issues as is placed today on celebrity news / political gossip.  Yes, I’m hopeful!

This video from the Academy tells how the 7,107 islands in the Philippines came to be…and the urgency in studying its marine biodiversity hotspots.

Have you heard of these new discoveries?

Are you hopeful, as I am, that scientists, conservation groups and a willing government / policy makers (and we, the public) can reverse the decline of our ocean’s health… or do you think it is too late?

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This post is part of a series in support of the Earth-Friendly Chroniclers blogging challenge hosted by Jane from Just Another Nature Enthusiast.  To take part in this blogging event and to see other submissions for the theme “Healthy Oceans – Healthy Planet” click here.

Previous Earth-Friendly Chroniclers articles posted on LolaKo.com are here.

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Related:

10 Ways to Rise Above Plastics

Article about the plastic bag ban in California (California is the first U.S. State to ban single use plastic bags)

Link to California Academy of Sciences

Purple flowers for Cee’s Photo Challenge — and they are invasive in this part of California

I’ve seen this plant with beautiful, spiky purple flowers growing around Monterey Bay for many years.  I took photos a few months ago when they were in full bloom.

P1180902

The flower photo above is from a shrub growing in the wild, near the Salinas river, where the river merges with the Pacific Ocean.  I spotted it while taking photographs for a post about my watershed.

I’ve always found these flowers attractive — and also photographed some in bloom at the entrance of Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey.

Monterey Fishermans Wharf yellows and pink 1

I read on one of the blogs I follow that Cee’s Fun Photo Challenge theme this week was purple, and remembered these flowers.  I have wanted to take part for a while, and thought the flowers were perfect to post for the theme.

Not knowing the name, I did an image search and learned that they are called Pride of Maidera (Echium candicans).  It is a perennial shrub native to the island of Maidera in Portugal, much loved by bees and butterflies for its nectar.  It is drought tolerant, and a popular ornamental plant in coastal California.

Great to know!  Except… it is also an invasive plant species, and now being removed in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park National Recreation Area so that the native habitat can be restored.  Sigh 🙁

And so… I’m also linking this post to Just Another Nature Enthusiast’s challenge — Earth-Friendly Chroniclers #9 — focused on invasive plants.

Here is another beautiful purple flower from a plant that I know is not native to California.  Right  now, it is growing all over our landscape, from fields, to the side of the roads and embankments.

Do you know what it is?

Wild Radish flowers purple

The flowers are from a wild radish.  Most wild radish have white flowers, but sometimes, they also have purple flowers.

From the CalFlora website:

Wild Radish California

I pulled out one of the plants and sure enough, I get that it is a wild radish… It is tiny, but the root smells like, and looks like a radish.  A miniature of the “daikon” types I see at Asian stores.

Wild Radish  roots

Wild Radish notes

Some more purple flowers for the theme… and I’m pretty certain these are not invasive here in my little part of the world.

My favorite purple flower shot thus far are the wisteria at the Pacific House Memory Garden, posted for the changing season photo challenge.

Memory Garden Wisteria

Click on the photo for more garden images, taken at the historic Monterey downtown area.

And lastly, a non-flower related (but these young girls are pretty as flowers!) photo of Baile Folklorico dance group members, performing for a community celebration on the occasion of Cesar Chavez Day.

P1180870

Click on the photo to see more dance photos, for the commemorative holiday that celebrates the legacy of civil rights and labor movement activist Cesar Chavez (promoting community service).

Holding hands on the way to a nature park

I love this picture of my first-born grandson, Jun, holding the hands of my sisters.  It is very sweet, and I can’t believe how tiny he was, and how big he is now.  We were on the way to a nature park…

On the way with Juns hand held by great aunties

It was on my bulletin board for many years, and I’m glad I printed it, because the hard drive on the computer where I stored the original digital photo CRASHED.  I lost all the photos in the series.

So now it is scanned, and in digital format once again.  I know…back up, back up, back up, right?  I treasure my photos, and better at backing up photo files now.

Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum) is everywhere – post for Earth-friendly Chroniclers’ #10

Poison Hemlock flowers 1It is easy mistake the poison hemlock plant (Conium maculatum) with another plant called “Queen Anne’s lace” (Daucus carota – and also called wild carrot).

Poison hemlock and Queen Anne’s lace belong to the same family of plants (carrots and parsley).  So, not only are the delicate, pretty white flowers similar, the leaves are similar too!

Over the years, I’ve enjoyed seeing the beautiful white flowers of these plants in different parts of California.  I spent a lot of time on the road in my prior work — and a lot of time stuck in traffic in the Bay Area — which means, a lot of time to look out the window and see plants growing on the side the road.

I thought these flowers all came from the same plant (Queen Anne’s lace) and did not know very much about them.

Through the Earth-Friendly Chroniclers’ Challenge this month — focused on biodiversity — I now know that there are two different plants with very similar flowers that grow here in my ecoregion.

Blue Sky and trees

Challenge, #10 asked that we play a naturalist version of I “Spy!” at our ecoregion, to take a camera, and observe what we see.  I went to the greenbelt space behind where we live here in the Central Coast.

I “spied” these familiar flowers and wanted to know more, because there were many of the plants here.  Most were already flowering, with white, lacy blooms.  There were rather tall plants (taller than me) and some of the flowers came from shorter plants.

Unlike the yellow starthistle or iceplants (posted for Challenge #9), which are listed as a high priority invasive plant, the Calflora website listed the poison hemlock (Conium maculatum) as a “moderate” problem.

Poison Hemlock in CaliforniaWhile it is good to know that this plant is not (at least not yet) as problematic as the iceplant or starthistle in California, it was disturbing to learn that these plants have naturalized here and are now invasive.

Even more disturbing is to learn that all parts of these plants are toxic (flowers, seeds, leaves, canes)…and even the dead parts of the plants can remain toxic for up to 3 years.

Poison Hemlock flower details

And not mildly toxic, or an irritant, but really TOXIC, as in the plant is deadly for humans and animals.

Poison hemlock is native to Europe’s Mediterranean region.  The ancient Greeks used the plant to poison prisoners condemned to death — including the philosopher Socrates.

The Death of Socrates by Jacques-Louis David 1787

The Death of Socrates by Jacques-Louis David

Because these plants are in the same family of plants as carrots and parsley, it is understandable how people can accidentally ingest the plants.  From a May, 2015 Food Safety News article:

All parts of poison-hemlock can kill humans and animals, even when it is dried. Foragers can easily mistake it for wild carrot (Queen Anne’s Lace), parsley, parsnip, sweet cicely, anise, fennel, wild chervil, and caraway, as well as other plants in the parsley or carrot family (Apiaceae), such as the violently toxic western-water-hemlock, or watercress, which is in another family.

…“Misidentifying poison hemlock or other toxic plants can have truly tragic results,” says Alison Halpern, executive secretary of the Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board. “Learn from an expert before foraging for wild plants, and if you think you have poison hemlock on your property, contact your county weed board, conservation district, or WSU Extension office to learn how to safely get rid of it.”

While poison hemlock is considered invasive, the Quee Anne’s lace plant, though not native to California (and a plant that has also naturalized in the wild), is not considered invasive.

Queen Annes Lace CalfloraWhich means…the plants that I’ve observed growing by the side of the road and in other places in California for all these years, were likely poison hemlock and not Queen Anne’s lace.

In other parts of the U.S., it may be easier to differentiate the two based on bloom periods, but in California, the flowering periods are similar:  Poison hemlocks bloom from April to September, while the Queen Anne’s lace flowers from May to September.

Poison Hemlock Plants

Poison hemlock plants can grow up to 8 feet tall.

Last summer, my grandsons and I spent time a lot of time walking around this greenbelt area (where there are also invasive Himalayan blackberries — and poison oak).

They know to stay away from poison oaks…and I’m glad they did not try to pick any of these flowers.

Poison Hemlock flowers 6

Unless you are absolutely sure which plant is which, it is best to treat these lovely flowers as poisonous, and to be careful of handling them.

I don’t have photos of the Queen’s Anne lace plant yet, but you can view a good collection at this USDA plant database page.

Poison Hemlock flowers

If you want to learn more about how to remove this toxic plant from your area, please contact your local agency, e.g., for Monterey County, start with the Agricultural Commissioner’s office, or see this USDA State Resource page.

The King County (Washington State) website has a section on noxious weed control. Excerpt and link below…

Removing poison hemlockWhen digging or mowing large amounts of poison-hemlock, it is best to wear gloves and a mask or take frequent breaks to avoid becoming ill.  One individual had a severe reaction after pulling plants on a hot day because the toxins were absorbed into her skin…(click here for more).

Poison Hemlock Plants 2Since writing this post, I’ve noticed these plants in spots (by the roadside mostly) here in Monterey County, and I’m surprised that it is not listed on Monterey County’s weed threats.

Do poison hemlocks grow where you live?

Did you get the flower and plant confused with the Queen Anne’s lace flowers, as I did?

The Iceberg in Monterey County’s field of greens

Iceberg Lettuce

Head of Iceberg lettuce growing in the field

A few months after immigrating to the U.S. with my mother and younger sister, I had my first job — and it included cutting into plenty of iceberg lettuce heads.

I was 16 years old and my job was a waitress at a chain of family style restaurants in Portland, Maine. Part of my work was to do simple food preparation, and to restock the salad bar.

The kitchen manager showed me how she wanted the Iceberg prepared… “Cut it this way, and include the core — people like to eat that” she said.

The iceberg lettuce was what you started with, the base of what you piled everything else on to, at the restaurant’s salad bar.

Because it was 1979, the salad bar consisted of potato “salad”, macaroni “salad”, 3-bean “salad” and other items like sliced beets (from the can), tomatoes, croutons, crackers, eggs and a variety of dressing.  It is nothing like what you would see today at buffet restaurant salad bars, where there are always more than one lettuce option — and at least some spinach leaves!

At 16, I didn’t give much thought to where the Icebergs (or really any vegetables) were grown.  But I’m pretty sure the Iceberg lettuce I was cutting into — especially since it was the start of winter in Maine — likely came from the Salinas Valley in Monterey County, California.

Field of Greens

I’ve lived in a few places in the U.S. (and Germany) since we left Maine many years ago, and now live in Monterey County.

Besides the beautiful coast of central California, a prominent feature of the landscape here are the farm fields.

Salinas Valley Fields web

Monterey County is an agricultural powerhouse and the only county in the United States with more than $1 Billion in annual vegetable sales.

As you can imagine, growing this much of anything means this place is enveloped in farm fields.

Field of Greens 2

There are farm fields next to schools, near shopping centers, neighborhoods, and on both sides of Highway 101 heading south of the county, if you are driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

There are also farm fields surprisingly close to the ocean, where expanses of sandy soil — some of which were once wetland areas — were turned into farm fields.

Sand Dunes across field of iceberg Lettuce

The most valuable crops grown here are lettuce leaves (for bag salads or packages of mix greens) and lettuce heads.

Lettuce grows well in sandy soil, and cool, mild weather…and yes, indeed, we have lots of sandy soil, and very mild weather here, perfect conditions to grow lettuce.

Although the potential of the land in this area as fertile farmland was discovered in the 1860’s, commercial farming did not take off until the expansion of the Southern Pacific railroad lines.

Starting in 1875, Chinese laborers who came with the railroad expansion worked to drain lakes and swamps in the valley, creating 500 acres of arable farmland in and around Salinas.

A few weeks ago, I went to the Salinas River National Wildlife Refuge (under management of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service).  To get to the refuge, you have to drive on a dirt road that ends at the refuge parking lot, facing the Pacific Ocean.

Both sides of the dirt road have farm fields.  Since I’m always curious about what grows in farm fields, I pulled over to take a look…

Field of iceberg Lettuce 2

The fields were filled with rows upon rows of Iceberg lettuce.  I didn’t think people still ate Icebergs, especially now that there are so many more salad greens available in the market.

When my daughter was young, I opted to buy romaine or other types of lettuce after I learned that icebergs were composed mostly of water, and had the least amount of vitamins compared to other lettuce varieties.

Truck with boxes of produce

Truck loaded with boxes of lettuce

But it turns out that Americans still love their Icebergs!

Through writing this post, I learned that of the 35 pounds of lettuce that a typical American eats per year, most of it (about 22 pounds) is the Iceberg variety.

A press release from Salinas based produce company Tanimura and Antle had these interesting Iceberg lettuce facts:

  • The Iceberg was also called “crisphead lettuce” because of its ability to stay fresher longer than leaf lettuces
  • The name “Iceberg” comes from the way the lettuce was packed and transported on ice, making the heads look like icebergs.
  • Records indicate that the first carlot shipment of Iceberg was made in 1919 and took 21 days to reach New York from California.
  •  By 1931, 20,000 railcars were shipped annually. In 1950, over 11.5 million crates of Iceberg was grown, packed and shipped in Monterey County, California
  • California produces approximately 72% of the Iceberg lettuce grown in the U.S, and the Iceberg variety accounts for 70% of the lettuce raised in California
  • Depending on the time of year Iceberg is planted, it takes anywhere from 70 to 130 days from planting to harvest.

So…although the Iceberg’s popularity is dropping, it is still more popular than the Romaine type lettuce (a favorite for those who like “Caesar” salads — like my daughter) and other salad greens.

I suppose because it is a  mild tasting lettuce (not bitter), and stays fresh longer than other varieties, it is understandable why it is still a favorite for many salad eaters.

Field of Greens 1

You never have to tell my grandson Gabriel to eat his salad — he is known in the family as the salad lover.  He is only 8, but as long as I can remember, he will usually ask for a second serving of salad, which made me think that my grandsons’ had palates from another planet.

Do you still eat Iceberg lettuce?  If not, what type of lettuce typically makes it to your lunch plate or dinner table?

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NOTE: This post is part of learning about, and understanding the soil where I live (2015 is the International Year of Soils — designated by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations) See this post from  http://justanothernatureenthusiast.org/2015/04/19/unless-earth-friendly-friday-soil/ for more information.  I’m also learning more about what remains of the wetlands in the area, as I read that 90% of the area’s wetlands were drained for commercial farming purposes.

Related: If you would rather grow than buy your lettuce, visit the University of Illinois “Watch your Garden Grow” website for tips about growing lettuce, best varieties for your region, and recipes.

Radio report at NPR on food waste and “Landfill of Lettuce” (What happens to salad past its prime)

The Iceplant Invasion: Post for the Earth-Friendly Chroniclers’ #9

Ice Plant flowerIceplants (Carpobrotus edulis) are also called “sea fig” or “hottentot fig” and the second plant I’m learning about, and featuring for the Earth-Friendly Chroniclers’ Challenge #9.

The focus for challenge #9 is biodiversity and invasive plant species…and what Jane, the host of the Earth-Friendly Chroniclers’ call the plant “bullies”.

As with the yellow starthistle (my 1st post for this challenge) which grew all over Contra Costa County, the iceplant is another plant I mistakenly thought as native to this part of the central coast of California.

Ice Plant by Fort Ord Dunes 1

Photo taken just a few weeks ago at Fort Ord Dunes National Monument area. Don’t let the pretty pink flowers fool you, these plants are very aggressive, and crowds out native sand dune plants.

Why did I think it was native?  Well, because these plants are plentiful all along the coast, especially around the Fort Ord Dunes area (photo above).

Articles about the beautiful coastal Monterey County town of Pacific Grove feature images of iceplants in full bloom —- including on the official city website.  The Perkins Park area of Pacific Grove is noted for its “magic carpet” of iceplants.

City of Pacifc Grove Website

Main page of the Pacific Grove official website. The mass of pink flowers are all iceplants.

Among the first scenic coastal photos we took when we moved here, featured ice plants in the background.

The photo below is my grandson, Jun-Jun, at a popular beach side / highway stop near Seaside, California.  He is surrounded by…you guessed it, ICEPLANTS.

Jun surrounded by iceplants

And at a paved road area at the Fort Ord Dunes (part of the Monterey Bay Coastal Bike Path) here is Jun riding his bike with his grandfather, where you can see iceplants growing on both sides of the road.  To the left of the photo is traffic from California State Highway 1.

Jun and Jeff riding bikes at Fort Ord Dunes

The photo below of my younger grandson, Gabriel, zooming away (actually, slowly foot pedaling away) on his toy cycle shows more of the red-hued leaves of the iceplant in the background, facing the Pacific Ocean.  Yes, way more iceplants.Gabriel at Fort Ord Dunes area

Iceplants are found on many beaches here in the Monterey Bay.  The greenery you see on the sand dunes below at Fort Ord Dunes are indeed…more ice plants!

Fort Ord Dunes beach and iceplants

Iceplants are so common in this area that it is easy to assume that they have always been here.

Non-native plants have been brought to California since the first contact with Europeans.  A little about the big problem of the loss of grasslands, and native coastal plants from ElkhornSlough.org:

Approximately 99% of California native grasslands have been lost over the last 200 years, making them one of the most critically endangered ecosystems in the U.S.

Loss of coastal scrub in some parts of California has also been severe. Within the Elkhorn Slough watershed, coastal scrub assemblages often face threats from infestation by tall exotic weeds, such as poison hemlock, fennel, and jubata grass.

Because most of California has a mild Mediterranean climate, it is easy to see how plants from other parts of the world, especially with similar weather, can naturalize here.

Iceplants creep across Moss Landing State Beach

Iceplants growing across the Moss Landing State Beach area, farm fields across the river water.

Typically, these plant invaders have no natural enemies, or wildlife that eat the plants, so it is easy for them to become plant bullies.

Photos above of iceplants spilling past fence areas at the Moss Landing State Beach pathway.

Apparently, iceplants are really good at crowding out native plants…the photo below is a good example:Ice plant circling the native plant

The plant in the middle of the photo is a beach Sagewort (Artemisia pycnocephala), which is the most common California native plant found around sand dunes.  You can see that this one is being encircled by the aggressive iceplant, which will eventually choke out the sagewort.  Iceplants are very good at spreading!

While iceplants in their native South Africa are great for the wildlife there (where turtles, snakes, antelopes, lizards and other animals eat the plant’s leaves, flowers and seeds) it does not provide food or shelter to native California coastal wildlife.

Ice Plant Bagaud French Mediterrennean

Photo of iceplant covering landscape on the French Mediterranean island, Bagaud island, in the Port-Cros National Park. Photo by Vincent via Wikipedia and public domain

In parts of the Mediterranean coast where the iceplant naturalized, the plant also helps other invasive species to thrive.  I found this part about invasive mutualism of interest from a Wikipedia article:

On the Mediterranean coast, Carpobrotus has spread out rapidly and now parts of the coastline are completely covered by this invasive species. Moreover, another invasive species, the black rat, has been shown to enhance the spreading of the ice plant through its feces. As the ice plant represents a food resource for the rat, both benefit from each other (invasive mutualism).

Invasive Plants in the Western United States

Here is more about invasive plants from the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in California:

Estimates indicate that invasive plants are spreading at about 4,600 acres per day on federal lands alone in the Western United States.

Weeds have invaded approximately 17 million acres of public rangelands in the West – more than quadrupling their range from 1985-1995. In northern California, yellow starthistle increased from 1 million acres in 1981 to 10 million acres today.

While the yellow starthistle were introduced by accident, the iceplants were planted in this area on purpose.

Ice plants at Moss Landing Harbor

Ice plants at Moss Landing Harbor (in the water are two Southern Sea Otters)  Click on the photo if you would like to see more photos and learn about sea otters that live in the Monterey Bay area.

Concerns about soil erosion, and the belief decades ago that iceplants would help to stabilize soil and sand dune areas led to mass plantings, especially in military bases, like at Fort Ord.

In the 1970s, drought issues and the need to use drought tolerant vegetation along California highways led CalTrans — the California Department of Transportation, who manage over 50,000 miles (80,467 km) of the state’s highways and freeways — to plant iceplants on some freeway embankments and dividers.

Except…the folks who promoted the use of iceplants to stabilize soil did not have the information we now have, or the awareness about biodiversity issues, and the extent (and ability) of these plants to crowd out native plants.

On the use of iceplants as a soil stabilizer, from a Wikipedia article:

Despite its use as a soil stabilizer, it actually exacerbates and speeds up coastal erosion. It holds great masses of water in its leaves, and its roots are very shallow. In the rainy season, the added weight on unstable sandstone slopes and dunes increases the chances of slope collapse and landslides.

Oh no! So now what?

A lot of work will need to be done to remove iceplant infestations, and to re-plant native plants and restore dune habitat areas with California coastal plants.

The photo below from Moss Landing State Beach, where dune restoration projects are in place, gives an idea of what the sand dunes around these parts are supposed to look like…

Dune Restoration

Removing iceplants will give native plants a chance to recover, like the yellow sand verbenas (Abronia-latifolia)…

Abronia latifolia yellow sand verbena

and the Monterey spineflower (Chorizanthe pungens).

Monterey spineflower Chorizanthe pungens via Wikipedia commons

So that eventually, the dunes here will look more like the photos below, instead of iceplant intensive, like what we are used to seeing…

Monterey Bay Sand Dune Plants

Coastal cities and public agencies, as well as non-profit organizations are putting forth dune restoration projects, working sections at a time to remove highly invasive species like iceplants.

Native plants returning to dunes

There are still many iceplant patches in this area that need to be removed, but native plants are returning to dunes at the Moss Landing State Beach area.

This will take funding, a lot of work, a lot of volunteers, and educating the public about the “return of the natives”.

Native Plants Dune Vegetation

Because ice plants are succulents and have a high water content, burning is not a recommended way to eradicate these plant bullies.  They will have to be removed by pulling the plant out (thankfully, it has shallow roots), flipping them over and piling them up to compost in areas where it makes sense to compost them.  I’ve also read about cities and agencies allowing the use of a specific type of herbicide to kill the plants, under expert supervision (see the Pacific Grove city website and type in “ice plant” in the search box for more details).

I hope by posting this information and photos, you learned more about this invasive plant (as I have), and it is another step towards helping to control the spread of this plant bully in the Monterey Bay area.

To join in the Earth-Friendly Chroniclers’ Invasive Plant Challenge, click here, and be sure to visit blog posts for this event, including from South Africa / Cape Peninsula – by Nature on the Edge, from Australia – An Evolving Scientist and in Oregon, by challenge host Just Another Nature Enthusiast.

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Talk about iceplants just being part of the landscape here…we got this magazine yesterday, and I see the red hues on the iceplants make a very nice addition to the front page cover photo.  

Ice plants on cover of VIA magazine

Screen shot of digital version of Via Magazine’s Summer 2015 issue.  The spot is listed inside the magazine as from Marin County, California (in the North Bay, across the Golden Gate Bridge)

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ABOUT FORT ORD – DESIGNATED A NATIONAL MONUMENT IN 2012

If you visit the Monterey Bay area and want to go to a super clean beach without many visitors, check out the Fort Ord Dunes State Park.

In April, 2012, a large part of the Fort Ord area became a National Monument, and is federally protected from further development — a good thing for the Monterey Bay!

Before becoming a U.S. National Monument, Fort Ord land was used by the U.S. Military as a training area.  Starting in 1917 and up to the 1990’s, almost 1,500,000 troops trained at Fort Ord. In addition to its role as a major training base for the army, it was also a staging and deployment area for army troops that fought in World War II as well as the Vietnam war.

Ft Ord Barracks

Fort Ord Barracks — awaiting demolition. Despite the military base closed for over 20 years now, ice plants survive — as you can see on this photograph — and are seen all over the Fort Ord land.

The base officially closed in 1994, and many of the military structures (mostly barracks) have been demolished, and the land now houses facilities used by California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB), and other tracts of land are being developed for housing and commercial uses.

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More information:

Return of the Natives – A California State Universtiy Monterey Bay (CSUMB) community and school-based environmental education program to restore native habitat – On why they are doing this work:

The Monterey area’s natural landscape and ecosystems are under siege from an army of invasive “exotic” plant species or WEEDS.

Most have been introduced for horticultural purposes, or came as agricultural stowaways, from areas of the world that have similar climates to central California. Spreading onto disturbed soils such as road cuts, and lacking natural enemies, these non-native invaders quickly replace native plants and overrun fragile ecosystems.

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary page about Coastal Dune Community

The Importance of Native Species – Information and resource links from the Elkhorn Slough Foundation / National Estuarine Research Reserve

Coastal Training Program from Elkhorn Slough – Endangered Species Fact Sheet

About iceplants(Carpobrotus edulis) – Wikipedia article

President Barack Obama Proclamation – Establishment of the Fort Ord National Monument

From waves to a single California poppy for the WPC: Forces of Nature

My entry for this week’s Weekly WordPress Photo Challenge theme, Forces of Nature

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I took the above photograph after learning about “scale” in an earlier challenge. I think including the silhouette of the beach visitors adds to convey the vastness (and force) of the ocean, even in a small photograph.  What do you think?

Asilomar Coast  1 web

Asilomar Coast web

The WordPress Photo Challenge is truly a good way to improve photography skills, especially for an amateur and forever newbie like me, and to help with composition ideas.

I also started taking wave shots recently, and include these for the theme…

And a few weeks ago, while at a walk, I was struck by the persistence of this California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) to flower, even in a spot that looks unfavorable for growth.

Single Califiornia Poppy at railroad track Single Califiornia Poppy at railroad track 1

The poppy is the official state flower of California.  It is seen on scenic route signs and “welcome” signs along California highways.

Because this poppy is a state flower, it is illegal to collect it in the wild.  But, as you can imagine, if it can grow here along and in between the gravel filled railroad tracks, it is also easy to grow in gardens as it is drought-tolerant and self seeds.

California Poppy plant in bloom

California Poppy — plant in bloom by roadside, where nothing else is growing

When we lived in the East Bay, my daughter put out some seeds at the front of our home, and every year after that, California poppies showed up without fail during springtime.

More on the California Golden Poppy on Local Wiki, where they note “California Native Americans cherished the poppy as both a source of food and oil extracts”. and on an Arizona State University webpage  which includes information about these poppy plants and its traditional use “as a remedy for toothaches…and as tea for headaches”.

There is also an article on The Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano about how to make a poppy tincture.  Who knew!

California Poppy in front of Colton Hall Monterey

California poppies, springtime blooms in front of Colton Hall, Monterey, California

California poppies — if you are not familiar with these flowers — are really bright and pretty, and so lovely to see blooming en masse wild in a field or valley.  Note: If you want to see more California poppy photos, please visit the post with spectacular photography by Jane Lurie.

One year, my older sister, my daughter, and I drove out to Point Reyes (North Bay) for a visit during spring to see the wild poppy blooms.

If you like seeing wildflowers, Point Reyes is a must visit during springtime, as there are over 800 species that grow there. More about Point Reyes, part of the National Park Service here.and see this poster to get a sampling of the wildflowers you can see at the Point Reyes National Seashore.

When my younger sister  (who now lives on the East Coast of the U.S., but lived in California for years) saw the orange poppies for my post on The Changing Season photo challenge, it made her miss the area.

I wonder if California poppies evoke similar feelings for others…and does a little flower count as a force of nature?

Yellow Starthistle: Invasive plants and the Earth-Friendly Chroniclers’ Challenge

Sometimes, it is hard to know what plants are native to the area.  If you see it everywhere, for as long as you can remember, it must be native, right?

Field of Yellow Starthistles

Field of yellow starthistle – Photo via Invasive.org (Creative Commons) by Joseph M. DiTomaso, University of California – Davis, Bugwood.org – See more at: http://www.invasive.org/browse/detail.cfm?imgnum=5374358#sthash.rDPc2dA5.dpuf

Or maybe the weather and the soil is perfect for the type of plant, and actually it is an invasive plant — a “plant bully”, the theme for this week’s Earth-Friendly Chroniclers’ Challenge hosted by JustAnotherNatureEnthusiast.org.

Yellow Starthistle Detail

Photo – Creative Commons by Stephen Ausmus, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Bugwood.org – See more at: http://www.invasive.org

When we lived in the East Bay area (Contra Costa County, California), yellow starthistles grew by the side of the road, in between paved walkways, in open fields…and in our backyard.

The spines under its bright yellow flowers were notorious for its strength and sharpness, and often flattened my daughter’s bike tires.

These thistles were brought to North America  by accident in the 1800’s, and now grow in just about every state in our nation, and in Canada.

It is considered an invasive species in California, and as you can see from the first photo for this post, absolutely thrives in many parts of California.

From the California Invasive Plant Council:

Yellow starthistle is native to southern Europe and western Eurasia and was first collected in Oakland, California, in 1869. It was most likely introduced after 1848 as a contaminant of alfalfa seed. Introductions prior to 1899 were most likely from Chile, while introductions from 1899 to 1927 appear to be from Turkestan, Argentina, Italy, France, and Spain (Gerlach in prep., Hillman and Henry 1928).

By 1917 it had become a serious weed in the Sacramento Valley and was spreading rapidly along roads, trails, streams, ditches, overflow lands, and railroad rights-of-way (Newman 1917). In 1919 Willis Jepson observed its distribution near Vacaville and stated: “It is 1,000 times as common as ten years ago, perhaps even six years ago” (Jepson 1919).

Yellow starthistles grow and thrive all over Contra Costa County, and in particular in the Black Diamond Mine areas (part of the East Bay Regional Park District), where these photos of our dogs Jake and Sara were taken in spring and early summer.

Jakey Boy

Jake — our black lab mix and best pound dog ever!

Sara Sassafras

Sara — the smallest, and sweetest Newfoundland…

During hikes in the summer and fall, we had to check our dogs during and after in case thistle spikes lodged near their paws, or attached to their fur.

Jake and Sara Contra Costa County hike

Our dogs Jake and Sara — ahead of us in scenery typical of Eastern Contra Costa County, California. By summer, many fields (like this one) will be blanketed with yellow starthistle flowers…establishing itself in wider and wider areas…

By summer, you could see the yellow starthistle’s flowers across many of the fields and hiking trails.  It crowds out native plants…and because of its long tap root, uses water that would otherwise be used by native grasses and native plants species.

It took me several years to completely get rid of it in our backyard.  I don’t like using herbicides (or pesticides) so I manually pulled each one I found.  Because of its long tap roots, I had to get at the base of the plant (with gloves because the rest of the plant also had sharp and itch-producing properties) and do a sort of twist and pull motion to get at it, and then dispose of it in the garbage.

Garden area

After pulling out yellow starthistles from the backyard, we eventually had a decent garden and patio area. Photo of the garden area by the side of the house is of my daughter (in the middle) her friend, Jennifer at right, and our dog, Sara to the left.

With diligence, it is possible to get rid of yellow starthistles in an enclosed area, and once our garden plants and pavers were in place, I did not see anymore of it.

It’s another story in many parts of the Western United States.  Again, from the From the California Invasive Plant Council:

Yellow starthistle had spread to over a million acres of California by the late 1950s and nearly two million acres by 1965. In 1985 it was estimated to cover eight million acres in California (Maddox and Mayfield 1985) and perhaps ten to twelve million acres a decade later. It is equally problematic around Medford in southwestern Oregon and in Hells Canyon in Oregon and Idaho (Maddox et al. 1985). It also infests, to a lesser degree, areas in eastern Oregon, eastern Washington, and Idaho (Roch and Roch 1988).

Aside from small-scale manual removal, other methods to control this invasive species are listed on the California Invasive Plant Council, including mechanical methods (mowing down the plants before the flowers produce seed in the summertime).

The USDA has also approved and continues to experiment with insects that attack the plant’s flowers to minimize seed production.

Horse

Photo of horse taken at a ranch in Placer County, near the Sacramento Metropolitan area.

I’ve seen articles that indicated the yellow starthistle is poisonous to horses, but grazing by sheep, goats or cattle before seeds are formed can be an effective way to control growth if done at the right time (May and June).

Do you have an invasive plant in your area — or backyard and want to join in the WordPress challenge?  Click here for details about this challenge, and visit links for the challenge guideline.

My next post will be about another invasive plant where we now live in the Central Coast of California  —- the “ice plant”, which are seen along the coast and in the backyards of homes here in Monterey County.

Forest Man: A film about how one person CAN make a difference

The year 2015 is designated by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations as the International Year of Soils, with the aim to increase awareness and understanding of the importance of soil for food security and essential ecosystem functions.

I am posting this inspiring film about Jadav Payeng in support of this month’s Earth-Friendly Challenge — on the topic of SOIL — hosted by Just Another Nature Enthusiast.

In 1979, when Payeng was 16, he started to plant each and every tree of what is now 1,300 acres of a pristine tropical woodland — and singlehandedly created a forest that is larger than New York City’s Central Park.

From the website, Plaid Zebra:

Payeng first became interested in planting the forest after noticing the effects of desertification on the island’s wildlife.

According to the Water Resources Management journal, “An estimated 175 Mha [million hectares] of land in India, constituting about 53 per cent of the total geographical area (329 Mha), suffers from deleterious effects of soil erosion…”

The North-East Indian forest created by Jadav Payeng is now home to 115 elephants, 100 deer, numerous rhinos, Bengal tigers, apes, rabbits and vultures.

This inspiring documentary film is narrated by photojournalist, Jitu Kalita and made by Canadian filmmaker William Douglas McMaster. Jitu Kalita is a wildlife photographer and the person who discovered — and wrote about — the forest created by Jadav Payeng.

The next time you feel hopeless about environmental problems, or overwhelmed about the depressing news on climate change and start to think “what does it matter what I do…what difference is it going to make…I’m only one person…there is nothing I can do…” please think about what Jadav Payeng accomplished, starting with one tree.

Related: Article on the Earth Island Journal The Lone Green Warrior

Jadav Payeng photo

Jadav Payeng photo via article on Earth Island Journal

Have you heard of Jadav Payeng?  He is around the same age as I am…and it is amazing that in his lifetime thus far, he managed to create a forest that is larger than NYC’s famed Central Park.

Let me know what you think of this film, and if you can, please do join in this month’s Earth-Friendly challenge.

Unless…Water is a Precious Resource (an Earth-Friendly Friday Challenge) From the U.S. to the Philippines, a remembrance and how we take water for granted

I heard my niece, Stephanie, calling out for me from the bathroom of my mother’s house.  She is 15, and it is her first visit to the Philippines…

Rice Fields and Coconut Trees

Rice Fields and Coconut Trees — Verdant Philippines — drive from the pier to home. I can’t imagine not liking the color green, especially if you grew up in the Philippines.

Stephanie found the journey to the Philippines unbelievably long.  For her, it began in the U.S. state of Virginia — then to California, to first attend the wedding of my younger sister.

Several days after the wedding, we are headed from San Francisco, California to Manila — the largest city in the Philippines.

Sunset from above ground webAfter a long layover in Manila, we take another hour-long, plane ride to the island of Cebu, then head to the pier for a 2 hour “Supercat” ride — a catamaran style ferryboat service that shuttles people from one island to the next.  At the pier, we are picked up and all load into a van headed for my mother’s home.

But it is another 45 minute drive from the pier to our mother’s home…and by this time, we had been traveling for 24 hours.   While in the van, a travel weary Stephanie asked…”so what is next after the van ride?”

water buffallo kalabaw or carabao late 1800s

water buffallo (kalabaw or carabao) Photo from late 1800s.

I told her that after we arrive, we would have to ride atop a water buffalo (a “kalabao” or carabao) with our luggage, and head up to the mountains.  “The van cannot travel on those unstable roads” I tell her.

She shakes her head in disbelief…”A water bufallo???”.  I smile at her and tell her I am just joking…the van is the last leg of the trip, and soon, we would finally be at my mother’s home.

The following day, she wakes up and wants to take a shower.  It is hot, humid, and she is looking forward to a shower, especially after the long journey.  She is calling me from the bathroom because she has turned the water faucet handles and no water is coming out.

I knock on the bathroom door and ask her what she needs.”Is there a trick to the faucets?” she asked.  She opens the door, and I explain to her that there is no water pressure in the morning…and most likely, there will be no water available until the evening.  “How am I suppose to take a shower, then…and why is there a big garbage can size container of water in the shower?”

I tell her…”well Steph, that container of water is your shower”.

Tabo

A Filipino “Tabo”

I point to the “tabo” floating on top of the big container of water in front of her, and pick it up. “You see this thing Steph, it is called a tabo. You dip it in the water, then pour the water over your head and body to rinse.  Then you soap up, shampoo, then do the same with a final rinse”.

I tell her it’s a “tropical shower”, and add…”or…you can wait until this evening to take a shower, when the water pressure is back up”.   Her jaw drops…then she responds “Really?” I answer back “Yes, Steph…really.”

I giggle as I close the bathroom door and imagine the culture shock she must be experiencing.  Having grown up in the Philippines, and accustomed to preparing for water being unavailable from the tap, I find the situation amusing.  And then I think, well, all in all, it is good for her because there is so much we take for granted living in the United States.

Filipina with water jar

Photo of a young Filipina with a clay water jug, late 1800’s. My sisters and I fetched water during the early 1970s, and thankfully, the containers we had for our water were much lighter than the one from this photo…

While living in the province (“prubinsya” or away from the city) when my sisters and I were young, we experienced having to “fetch” water away from home.  A few times when the water wells dried up, we had to walk up the road to a natural spring site to get fresh water.

To this day, we all remember fondly our time in the province and once in a while still utter…”okay…mag-igib na tayo nang tubig” — translated to “let us go and fetch some water now”.  Then we laugh about it, because of how absurd it sounds, with all 3 of us now living in the states.

Can you imagine having to “fetch” water?  Picture our little tribe of kids walking on the gravel roadside with our balde (buckets), and metal containers, headed to the  natural spring source.  We fill our containers and carefully walk back — trying not to spill what we fetched.

I remember our older sister scolding us every few steps because of the water spilling out from our heavy containers.  She tells the group to be careful because we would all have to come back AGAIN if we keep letting water spill out.

We do our best, but I’m pretty sure we lost half of the water by the time we got back to our Nanay Lucing and Tatay Kerpo’s place (our Aunt and Uncle’s house).

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This post in support of Unless…Earth-Friendly Friday Challenge for World Water Day – Water is a precious resource; let us count the ways.

Although my take for this challenge is a little humorous, I do hope the post will make us appreciate how we take water for granted here in the U.S.  There are still many places around the world where clean water is hard to find — or does not even come out of a faucet.

Please check out these photos from the International Business Times for World Water Day (found via JustAnotherNatureEnthusiast.org) and you will think twice about ever wasting water again.

Water is everything to all of us on this planet. 

Without water, we cease to exist.  It’s as simple as that…

IMG_0001

Photo taken during the time of Stephanie’s visit, of a group of us swimming at a natural river “pool”. My daughter is at the front, both arms up — she was 13 then (and now I am a grandmother to her 2 boys). Behind her is my mother, and from left, my older sister, our cousin Donah, my cousin Ate Violeta, and her daughter.

This post is also dedicated to my niece, Stephanie, who celebrated her birthday this week.  Happy Birthday, Stephanie!   We are still trying to convince her to come and visit the Philippines again…

IMG

Stephanie’s Baby Photo

My mother had a water tower installed several years after Stephanie’s visit.  It is filled up every night, so that throughout the day, there is water available for cooking, washing dishes, gardening, washing clothes, or even….for taking showers.

Ready to visit again, Stephanie?

Happy Birthday

From left, my younger sister, older sister (celebrating her birthday) and her daughter —- my niece — Stephanie.

Unless…Earth-Friendly Friday – Pulse of the Salinas River (and about California’s severe drought)

This post continues on the WordPress weekly Earth-Friendly challenge with the theme of water.  For the first week we learned about our watersheds.  In Monterey County and the Central Coast, our watershed is the Salinas River Watershed.

Monterey Bay in context of Region 3

The second water challenge theme included taking a “Water Footprint Calculator” developed by National Geographic.

For this week, the challenge was to learn about dams that alter the flow of our river and tributaries, and the purpose of the structure (Economic? Social? Environmental?).

P1180887

The Salinas River near Highway 1, water headed towards the Pacific Ocean.

This challenge was truly…well,  a challenge!  I did not get to the other questions to consider AFTER I learned about the dams in the Salinas river because the answer to this question was not very easy to find.

What made this challenge confusing was that the Salinas River actually covers two counties.  Searching for dams in the Salinas River first yielded information about the “Salinas Dam” built in neighboring San Luis Obispo County (South of Monterey county and where the Salinas River begins).

The contract to build the “Salinas Dam” in San Luis Obispo County was signed seven months before the Pearl Harbor attack. It took 3 years to build this particular dam, for water headed to San Luis Obispo.  I include this information in my blog post because their local paper (The Tribune) had a series of blog posts called “Photos from the Vault” that revisited local history.  Imagine my surprise when I saw a connection to the Philippines (where I grew up) on one of the headlines related to the Salinas Dam, after Japanese troops took over the Philippine capital Manila  during World War II:

Salinas Dam WWII

It is a coincidence that had me sidetracked about information that was already a challenge to research.  It brought back memories of stories told by my aunts and uncles about their difficulties during the war, when they had to hide out in the jungle and head to the mountains when our area was occupied — beginning when my mother was still a toddler.

But back to Monterey County…where, (alas!) I found California State University at Monterey Bay’s “Central Coast Watershed Wiki” and this information:

The main tributaries of the Salinas River are the Nacimiento, San Antonio, Arroyo Seco, San Lorenzo, and Estrella Rivers.

Nacimiento_River_photo via wikipedia

Nacimiento_River_photo via wikipedia

The Salinas River watershed has three large dams in its upper portion: The Salinas Dam, built in the 1940’s; the Nacimiento Dam, built in the 1950’s; and the San Antonio Dam, built in the 1960’s. The Salinas Dam is managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers, and the Nacimiento and San Antonio Dams are managed by the Monterey County Water Resources Agency.

Nacimiento_River_Dam

Nacimiento River Dam photos via Monterey County Water Resources Agency

Further…

The Lower portion of the Salinas River is often referred to as the Lower Salinas River. The division of the river and its watershed in upper and lower portions is for administrative purposes only.

The Salinas River drains to both the Salinas River Lagoon and the Moss Landing Harbor in the center of the Monterey Bay.

So I will post this information for the challenge with this basic data, and will consider other questions posted for this challenge as time permits at a later time.

This information is important to learn, considering we are officially in our 4th year of drought here in California.  However, it is overwhelming and I am only beginning to understand all the organizations involved in providing water to the Central Coast Basin and their various roles (e.g., the Monterey County Water Resources Agency  and the California Department of Water Resources).

Based on the information below, sourced from government related websites…

Quality Water in Short Supply in Central Coastal Basin

…and because the area near where we live has already had seawater intrusion (I’ve posted information about this and sea level rise for the California King Tides Project) I’ll keep my blog post update for this particular challenge focused on seawater intrusion — at least for now.

Information on the California Drought

Several days ago, California’s drought conditions hit national news because our snow pack water content hit a new record low.  The annual measurement was at 5% of average, which broke the previous record of 25% of average in 1977 and 1991.

The photo below — where California governor Jerry Brown is standing at the podium — is at 6,800 feet elevation.  Normally, and for this time of the year, they would be standing on 5 feet of snow.  Instead, they are standing on grass!

California Governor Drought News

It is going to be a challenge to meet the new MANDATORY water reduction goal of reducing water use by 25%.  So, whether we like it or not, we are all going to be learning a lot more about water use, and our water sources…which makes this focus on water for the March Earth-Friendly challenges very timely.

To learn more about the latest California water content measurement (Sierra Nevada Snowpack) click here.  Excerpt:

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) found no snow whatsoever today during its manual survey for the media at 6,800 feet in the Sierra Nevada. Thiswas the first time in 75 years of early-April measurements at the Phillips snow course that no snow was found there. Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. observed thesurvey, which confirmed electronic readingsshowing the statewide snowpack with less water content today than any April 1stsince 1950.  Attending the survey with Governor Brown was DWR Director Mark Cowin, who said Californians can expect to receive almost no water from the meager snowpack as it melts in the coming weeks.
More here…

For more information on this Unless…Earth Friendly challenge, hosted by JustAnotherNatureEnthusiast.org, click here.

Unless… Earth-Friendly Friday: My Water Footprint and about the Filipino “tabo”

This week’s Earth-Friendly challenge continues on the theme of water (last week was about our watersheds – and our watershed in Monterey County is the Salinas River Watershed).

The challenge this week asked us to take a “Water Footprint Calculator” developed by National Geographic.  I highly recommend taking this survey — I was surprised at the information learned including:

  • It takes 880 gallons of water to produce a gallon of milk
  • 1 cup of coffee takes 55 gallons of water to make (we drink a lot of coffee!)

Here are the numbers for our household:

Water Footprint Calculator

Part of why we use less water than the U.S. Average is that we live in an area with very mild climate and we do not have a typical lawn (though our neighbors do, and one in particular has installed a “fake” or plastic lawn — see photos here).

So…it takes very little water to maintain the trees and shrubs where we now live, and we also save on energy bills because no one needs an air conditioner in this area.

We are older and do not need or buy as many “stuff” as most.  And again, because of the mild climate, our clothing do not need to be washed as often as say, if we lived in the Philippines or a hot climate where clothing would be drenched in sweat every few hours and must be washed frequently.

The area we can continue to improve upon to reduce our water footprint is our diets and to eat less meat.  Though we eat a lot of chicken, I do want to eventually transition more to a mostly vegetarian diet.  Cutting out beef and pork completely (which my younger sister has done) and some form of meat is still a challenge because

  1. Jeff grew up in the Midwest and although he is a great cook and we eat a variety of styles of food, his basic go to meal consists of a plate with a “meat”, potatoes, and vegetables.
  2. Pork is a big part of my Philippine culture and celebrations — as with many Pacific / island nations — and I’m not quite there yet in terms of completely cutting that out of my diet (see post “My Germany and Philippine Connection” and you will get an idea, since a Filipino party is not a real party without our “lechon”.

The bottom line is there are always areas to improve on,  in our household’s water footprint.

I recently met two women who go above and beyond most in their water saving efforts, and I add their ideas for this blog post.

Marilyn Water Saving HeroineThis is Marilyn — a water saving heroine.

She is a retired teacher and lives in Bakersfield (Southern California) where there are water restrictions in place because of California’s continuing — and severe drought conditions.

She told me that when she takes a shower, she puts a bucket under the tub/faucet to capture water that otherwise would go down the drain, while she waits for the water temperature to warm to her liking. She also uses her washing machine “grey water” to water her garden.

She has been able to reduce her water use and bill by 50% with these new habits!

Amalia Water Saving HeroineThis is Amalia — she lives in Marina (Monterey County, California) and is also a water saving heroine.

She is mindful about saving all the water she can, including using the grey water from washing her dishes to water her plants.

She is originally from the Philippines and does something that some Filipinos still practice — in the Philippines — and that most Filipino-Americans would not think to do here in the U.S.

She uses a “tabo” (pronounced as“TAH-boh”) to bathe.

So what the heck is a tabo, you ask?  Technically, a sort of water dipper and tool for taking a tropical shower!

The modern tabos are made with plastic and has a handle.  Traditional ones were made of hollowed bamboos with a handles, or large coconut shells.

Tabo

A plastic “tabo”. My older sister and I each brought one back from a trip to the Philippines, because we had not seen anything like it (with a handle) for sale here in the states.

The tabo is also used for bathroom hygiene and cleaning, and is pretty much a fixture in bathrooms in the Philippines — in private homes as well as in public places (work places, restaurant bathrooms, etc.).

Using a tabo to bathe is actually akin to an old-fashioned “military shower” where you rinse, shut off the shower water, lather, shampoo, etc., then turn the shower on again to rinse off.

Except that instead of the shower,  the tabo is used with a big bucket (called a “balde”) or other larger container of water.  Same idea, you dip the tabo in the bucket, pour the water over your head and body to rinse…then soap, lather, shampoo, then do a final rinse.  It saves A LOT of water.

Amalia is super dedicated to saving resources not for herself but as she put it “for my children, and their children…and those living here on earth after I am gone”.  She says she often gets into disagreements with her sister and family members about her eco-habits, and they don’t understand why she takes a Filipino style bath, telling her “you are in America now, why are you still using a tabo?”….yet she proudly sticks to her water-saving practices.

While I admire Amalia’s dedication to water conservation, I’m now quite fond of the American style shower.  Though she has inspired me to check to see if the shower heads we have use the absolute least amount of gallons per minute!  Always room for improvement, right?  🙂

To participate in this timely WordPress weekly challenge hosted by JustAnotherNatureEnthusiast.org, and inspired by the Dr. Seuss book, The Lorax,  click here.

NOTE: For this post, my explanation of the tabo is for its use as a “tropical shower”.  In the Philippines and other countries in Southeast Asia, a tabo is part of the culture — and specifically, the bathroom culture (and may be controversial or disgusting to non-Filipinos).  So if you really are curious, there is a comprehensive Wikipedia article about the Filipino use of the tabo, its history, and includes mention of a Filipino who was fired from his job in Australia for using a tabo.  Click here to read…

Related:

ecology_center_headerBerkeley, California-based Ecology Center’s Guide to Greywater-Compatible Cleaning ProductsWastewater that is discharged to the greywater system ends up in the garden soil and can either be beneficial or harmful to soil, water systems, and plant life. A common problem with improper use of greywater systems is salt build up in the soil…

2014 California ShowerMy post last year about California’s drought emergency as it relates to showers and crop production

 

baths v shower cat dog image

Which method uses less water — Bath vs. Shower? Question answered by Umbra at Grist.org

UNLESS… Earth-Friendly Friday: My Watershed – The Salinas River Watershed

Salinas River State Beach Sign webThere are several beaches on the California Central coast named after the Salinas river.

We visit these beaches often, but I did not think about the name, or about the Salinas River or its source, until the blogging challenge for Earth-Friendly Friday on the topic “Water – What’s Your Watershed?”.

The challenges this month will focus on WATER — and coincides with water related events during March (International Day of Actions for Rivers and the United Nations World Water Day).

To get started for the first week in March, the challenge is to think about rivers and streams, and to post photos. and take a look at watershed rivers/streams near us — and to tell a little about them.

Salinas River by Dole Facility facing east web

Photo of the Salinas RIver facing east, by California State Highway 1 byr the large Dole shipping facility near the city of Marina

This challenge is interesting because I did not know very much about watersheds — and in participating in this challenge, I learned something new!

The Salinas River Watershed

The watershed for our area is the Salinas river watershed and covers 4,600 square miles.   It turns out that the Salinas river originates in San Luis Obispo county (south of Monterey County) before emptying into the Monterey Bay — and merging with the Pacific ocean.

Information from the Sustainable Conservation website:

  • The Salinas River flows northwesterly through the Salinas valley (the valley lies in the Coast Ranges and is defined to the west by the Sierra de Salinas and east by the Gabilan Range).
  • It is 10 miles wide and 155 miles long
  • Primary land uses in the Salinas River watershed are row crops, vineyards, pasture and grazing lands, as well as urban areas, military bases and public open space

Problems Facing the Watershed

I’ve posted several articles on my blog about Monterey County’s mild weather, rich soils, and its multi-billion dollar agricultural industry.  The agricultural industry is a major source of jobs for many in this county, but is also a source of environmental problems.

Again, from the Sustainable Conservation website:

  • The intense agricultural production has created a variety of problems for the area’s natural resources.
    1. Rainfall and irrigation produce runoff that carries soils and associated pesticides and pollutants into the watercourses and down to the ocean.
    2. Clearing stream banks of vegetation has reduced and degraded habitat for avian and aquatic species.
    3. Erosion has filled the streams and reduced their natural functioning.
    4. The degradation of habitat and water quality has contributed to the steep decline in steelhead (fish) populations, and generally reduces the diversity of species and natural productivity of the area.
  • Unabated, this continuing loss of natural functioning contributes to the overall decline of California’s native plant and animal species and lowers the quality of life for our communities as well.
Salinas River by Dole Facility web

Salinas river flowing towards Pacific Ocean by California State Highway 1, facing west near Dole facility and town of Marina

The Salinas River Watershed is the 4th largest watershed in California.  Interestingly, the Salinas river is also known as the “The Upside Down River” because unlike most California rivers that flow west or south, it flows northward and has one of the largest subsurface flows in the nation.  From the Conservation Consulting website:

  • The river flows into one of the worlds most diverse marine ecosystems, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
  • The river is designated by the California State Water Resources Control Board as one of the most critical watersheds in California (more on California water resources, here)

I’m planning on visiting some river areas farther up our county this year and learning more about the Salinas river, including about the 20 wineries along Monterey County’s “River Road Wine Trail”.  I wonder…do these river road wineries follow the Salinas river or its tributaries?

Photo below from another California State Park beach area related to the Salinas river, near the town of Moss Landing, California.

Salinas River State Beach at Moss Landing 1

Photo after sunset near Salinas River State beach at Moss Landing

To take part in this challenge and to see responses.. click here.

This new blogging event is inspired by prophetic words written in 1971 by Dr. Seuss in his book – The Lorax …” UNLESS . . . someone like youcares a whole awful lot,nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

Story of the whole valley web Related: Oldtown Salinas photos and post about author John Steinbeck for WordPress Photo Challenge.

The Salinas River is mentioned in many of Steinbeck’s novels.

Quote below from his 1952 novel,  East of Eden…

“The Salinas was only a part-time river.  The summer sun drove it underground.  It was not a fine river at all, but it was the only one we had so we boasted about it –how dangerous it was in a wet winter and how dry it was in a dry summer.”

UNLESS…Severe Weather and Wildlife Well-being: Jellyfish Blooms

This post is in support of the new weekly WordPress blogging challenge Unless…Earth-Friendly Friday. This week’s topic is about severe weather and wildlife well-being.

Severe weather — from climate change that lead to ocean warming as well as excess carbon dioxide that increase ocean acidity levels — impact marine wildlife.

It may not be obvious to most of us because we can’t see what is happening, but severe weather changes are already affecting our marine wildlife.

Monterey Aquarium jellyfish exhibit

Jellyfish Exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium – photo Lolako.com

Warmer ocean waters contribute to jellyfish blooms.

The problem?

While jellyfish are fascinating and beautiful, and abundant jellyfish is a great food source for giant Pacific leatherback turtles that migrates from Indonesia to the Monterey Bay, sea turtle populations have declined at an alarming rate — so there are not as many turtles to keep the jellyfish population in check.

Moon Jellyfish at Monterey Bay Aquarium

Moon jellyfish exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium – photo Lolako.com

A combination of the decline in sea turtle population that feed on jellyfish and increasing jellyfish blooms creates an imbalance and a serious problem because  among the food jellyfish (like the Pacific sea nettle) eat as they drift in our oceans are small fish and fish eggs.

You don’t have to be a scientist to figure out that this overabundance of jellyfish eating fish eggs results in fewer fish for other ocean creatures to eat (not to mention less fish for human beings to eat).

Watching jellyfish exhibit at Monterey Aquarium

My grandson, Jun, mesmerized by the amazing Jellyfish exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

From an article on ThinkProgress.org on Why Aquariums are obsessed with Climate ChangeNote — Sarah-Mae Nelson, quoted for the interview is the Climate Change Interpretive Specialist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Jellyfish are another invasive intruder that can proliferate under warming ocean temperatures. These “weeds of the sea” have become more common in the Monterey Bay over the last decade, according to Nelson.

“We always had sea nettle jellyfish here in the late summer,” Nelson said. “But in the last eight to ten years we’ve been having huge blooms of them periodically — so much so that they’ve actually collapsed our water intake filters.”

Standing in a room lined floor to ceiling with jellyfish tanks, it was easy to imagine these boneless, brainless creatures expanding out from the aquarium and far into the ocean, decimating native species in their path.

Monterey Aquarium jellyfish exhibit 2

Pacific Sea nettle jellyfish exhibit at Monterey Bay Aquarium – photo Lolako.com

Beyond the Monterey Bay, jellyfish blooms are creating problems in other parts of the world….from a power outage at Sweden’s Oskarshamn nuclear power plant caused by water intake systems clogged by jellyfish, to fishing boats in Japan capsized as a result of fishing nets inundated with jellyfish (more info here).

Severe weather will continue to impact all of us, in our interconnected world.

To take part in this blogging challenge or to see photos and articles for the challenge click here.

This new blogging event is inspired by prophetic words written in 1971 by Dr. Seuss in his book – The Lorax …” UNLESS . . . someone like youcares a whole awful lot,nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

 

leatherback_scottbenson_noaa rd

Photo by Scott Benson via U.S. NOAA website

 

Related post on LolaKo.com:

Monterey Bay and our connection to endangered Pacific Leatherback Sea Turtles

 

 

Vellela jellie like creatures washed up on California beaches wb

 

Post about Vellela Vellelas washed up on Central Coast beaches last year (these are also called sea raftby-the-wind sailorpurple sail, and little sail).

UNLESS…Earth Friendly Friday PLASTIC WASTE REDUCTION – Ideas to reduce plastic and food packaging waste from 3 citizens at the Marina, California Farmers Market

This post is in support of the new weekly WordPress event inspired by prophetic words written in 1971 by Dr. Seuss in his book – The Lorax

” UNLESS . . . someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It’s not.”

The topic for the week is about plastic waste, and this blog post highlights 3 ideas from local citizens at the Marina Farmers Market (Monterey County, California) to reduce plastic waste and divert trash from going to landfills.

Fortress Micro Farm Eco Coffee web

Pictured from left, Michael – who works in Marina, Darrell, coffee stand employee and student at California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) and Amelia, business owner of Hidden Fortress Micro Farm in Royal Oaks, California

 1.  Bring your own coffee cups and take out containers, whether buying  from your favorite coffee shop or at the farmers market.

Michael, pictured at left, brings his own mug when buying coffee to reduce plastic waste (because even coffee shops that offer non-plastic cups often use plastic lids).

Bringing his own coffee mug is part of his daily habit — and started about 3 years ago.  He now works in Marina and originally studied Environmental Science at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB), so already knew about the amount of plastic trash individual consumers contribute to our waste stream.

2. Support practices that reduce waste and diverts trash from going to landfills.

Darrell, pictured at center, is a student at CSUMB.  In addition to working at the farmers market coffee stand (Hidden Fortress Micro Farms), he also works at the university’s coffee shop, where he reports that along with recycling bins, they have ordered portable, easy to maneuver compost bins to further divert trash from going to landfills.

Michael and Darrell brought up that Marina mayor, Bruce Delgado brings his own food containers at local restaurants when ordering “to go” …a great way for town leaders to set an example of small things we can do to reduce trash.

3.  If you own a business that offer “to go” food and beverages, encourage customers to bring their own containers by offering discounts.

amelia_tasting2Amelia, pictured at right,  owns this Eco-friendly farmers market coffee stand.  Her company sells coffee and teas at several Monterey and Santa Cruz County farmers markets.

She uses compostable cups, lids and coffee bags to reduce plastic waste, and beyond that, she also promotes habits that reduce trash by offering a discount of $.25 per cup of coffee if you bring your own coffee mug to buy beverages from her farmers market coffee stand.

Hidden Fortress Solar Powered Coffee

Amelia set up her business with earth-friendly actions in mind.  From the Hidden Fortress Micro Farms website:

…Our coffee operation is entirely solar-powered. We have a mobile solar generator (mounted on the farm’s pickup truck) that provides power for our coffee bar. Our coffee roaster, located at the farm, runs on propane and solar power.

Fortress Micro Farm Eco Coffee booth sign web

The group agreed that just as we are all accustomed to bringing our cell phones with us when we leave our home, we can also make a habit to bring our reusable containers when we head out for the day.

This is a habit I am working on, and my goal this year to keep a set of reusable food containers in the car.  I hate ending up with food packaging and containers — especially polystyrene / styrofoams which some towns allow, but typically cannot be recycled — when I order “to go”. 

Gayles Bakery Reusable Bag

Photo credit: Gayle’s Bakery web site

Note: Another local business — Gayles Bakery & Rosticceria — communicates via their web and radio advertizing to bring food containers for take-out orders to reduce food packaging trash.

To encourage a shift in habits, they offer a weekly $100 gift card drawing for customers who bring their own bags, food containers or mugs for take-out food.

I recommend viewing their environmental policy page to get ideas of how businesses and consumers can work together to reduce plastic and food packaging waste.

Most of us order food “to go” or take home leftovers from restaurants.  Shifting our habits when we buy our coffee or bringing our own food containers for take out can make a big difference in reducing, and eliminating plastic waste.

“We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee.”

— quote from Marian Wright Edelman, founder of Children’s Defense Fund

To take part in this timely WordPress challenge topic and to see other submissions for the theme click here.

Thank you to JustAnotherNatureEnthusiast.org for creating a place to share ideas about “resources and actions…for nature’s sake”.

UNLESS…Earth-Friendly Friday: Book Recommendation – Plastic, A Toxic Love Story

book_plastic_greyThis post is in support of a brand new weekly WordPress blogging event created and hosted by JustAnotherNatureEnthusiast.org.

The theme for the first challenge is Plastic, and I’m submitting a book recommendation.

The book Plastics – A Toxic Love Story, by science writer Susan Freinkel is comprehensive, and a fascinating read about the history of plastic and products familiar to all of us.

I highly recommend if you want to understand our love/hate relationship with plastics. For local residents, it is available at our Monterey County Public Library system.   Introduction below:

Here is an excerpt from a post on my blog right after the book was published:

Ms. Freinkel chooses eight objects to help tell the story of plastic:  The comb, the chair, the Frisbee, the IV bag, the disposable lighter, the grocery bag, the soda bottle and the credit card.

She examines how these objects are made, the history, the culture of plastics, and how synthetics affect our health and environment.

A speaker from a plastics manufacturer’s conference in 1956, is quoted as saying “Your future is in the garbage wagon”.

How true…and it turns out that today, the average American throws away 300 pounds of packaging a year — and this mountain of containers and wrappings accounts for about 1/3 of the municipal waste stream.

Initially, we had to be taught to throw away plastic items — especially after the depression era culture of “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without”.

But it did not take long for us to absorb the lessons — especially because everyone was becoming more prosperous — at the same time when many disposable products were entering the market.  Life magazine dubbed this (then) new era “Throwaway Living” .

To take part in this timely WordPress challenge topic and to see other submissions for the theme click here (http://justanothernatureenthusiast.org/2015/02/06/unless-plastic/).

This new blogging event is inspired by prophetic words written in 1971 by Dr. Seuss in his book – The Lorax

” UNLESS . . . someone like you

cares a whole awful lot,

nothing is going to get better.

It’s not.”

UNLESS…Earth-Friendly Friday: Plastic trash problems in California

This post is in support of the brand new weekly WordPress event inspired by prophetic words written in 1971 by Dr. Seuss in his book – The Lorax

” UNLESS . . . someone like you

cares a whole awful lot,

nothing is going to get better.

It’s not.”

 

Created by blogger Just Another Nature Enthusiast, this is my submission for the first topic: Plastic – an excellent choice for the first challenge!

THE PROBLEM

There is a huge problem of plastic trash — especially single use plastic bags — in California, where I live.

  1. California FlagCalifornia is the most populous state in the U.S….and its citizens use a whole lot of single-use plastic bags — about 14 billion bags yearly.
  2. Most plastic bags are NOT recycled, and many bags end up marring the landscape, and worse, finding its way to beaches, and then in the ocean.
  3. Because the California coast covers 840 miles (1,350 km), and 15 of California’s 58 counties directly face the Pacific Ocean, the chances of sea creatures ingesting plastics by accident — like migrating Pacific leatherback turtles that mistake plastic for jellyfish and other food — makes this problem beyond just blight on our beautiful landscape.
The beautiful California coast

The Big Sur Coast, Central Calfornia

HOW IS THE PROBLEM BEING SOLVED

I’m happy to report that on September 30, 2014, California Governor Jerry Brown  signed into law SB 270 —  the nation’s first statewide ban on single-use plastic bag, effective this summer!

The bad news is that immediately after the law was signed, a plastics manufacturing trade group called “American Progressive Bag Alliance” went to work and gathered enough signatures for a referendum in the November 2016 ballot.

The trade group gathered over 800,000 signatures, well over the 505,000 valid signatures needed for a referendum (and by the way…I’d like to understand why people signed…How can you be against a law that cut down on trash and protects our sea creatures?)

So…if the signatures meet the requirements, then the ban is suspended until Californians can vote on the matter.

I posted this chart in my September article about the bag ban, and I think it is worth including for this challenge if you have not seen it:

Print

IF IT IS NOT BEING SOLVED, WHAT COULD BE DONE TO IMPROVE THE SITUATION / OR PROVIDE A SOLUTION?

So…despite what the plastics manufacturers are doing to overturn the plastic bag ban, I do think the tide is turning about plastic bag use, and it is just a matter of time until there is a ban on single-use plastic bags for all the states in the U.S.

First though, it starts with each one of us, doing what we can to educate ourselves on the problem, and then taking action, even if it means WE pick up plastic litter when we can, as we are out and about with everyday routines.

For ideas on how to help clean beaches and keep plastic trash out of the ocean without having to take part in “official” beach clean-up days… please see my post One woman’s beach clean up or click on the photo below.

Beach Heroine

Find out about everyday heroes for PLANET EARTH and its inhabitants…like this woman…

After all, it just takes one person because…”UNLESS . . . someone like you cares a whole awful lot,nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

To participate in this timely WordPress challenge topic and to see other submissions for the theme click here (http://justanothernatureenthusiast.org/2015/02/06/unless-plastic/)

This is a terrific WordPress weekly challenge, and I congratulate Jane from Just Another Nature Enthusiast for creating a place to share ideas about conservation.

I believe that a lot of people do care!  What about you?