Maintaining hope, even in November

Posted: Tuesday, December 04, 2007

You can tell the days are getting short in Juneau when you read My Turns titled, "Why Try? It may be Hopeless." (Nov. 27) Yikes. Somebody plug in the Seasonal Affect Disorder lights.

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Don't misunderstand me: I get the point of Turning the Tides. The growing use and improper disposal of plastics throughout the world is indeed fouling our oceans and is a threat to fish, wildlife and the public. It's an enormous problem.

But people are doing something about it. Working with the commercial fishing industry, tribal and recreational groups, and with funding from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and others, the industry-sponsored Marine Conservation Alliance Foundation removed 150 tons of plastic debris from Alaska's shoreline this year.

We're working on curriculum to educate fishermen and school kids about the problem and what they can do to stop debris at its source. We're investigating options to recycle plastic debris and even convert it to energy.

Here in Juneau, more and more people are recycling and using cloth shopping bags instead of plastic. There's increasing attention - and funding - from the public and private sectors to tackle this problem.

The amount of trash collected during September's coastal cleanup in Juneau quadrupled this year thanks to many volunteers and the work of Turning the Tides, the Juneau Watershed Partnership, the Alaskan Brewing Co., the MCA Foundation and others.

Does more need to be done? You bet. The problem of plastics in the marine environment is as big as the ocean itself.

But rather than dwell on the hopelessness of a Herculean task, I hope Juneau residents understand that every small step they take to reduce, reuse and recycle does make a difference.

With more and more people taking the problem of plastics in our environment seriously, I think there's reason for hope - even in the darkest days of November.

Bob King

Marine debris coordinator, Marine Conservation Alliance Foundation


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