The boat is going just the right speed; cooling the skin from the burning Florida sun. As the vessel meets a wave, the drink I was holding flies out of my hand and into the water. The day passes with laughter and remarkable views of paradise. It is a life many only ever dream of.
As a resident of St. Petersburg, I do not take for granted the minutes it takes for me to pick up reading material and head to the beach. Or that the close proximity allows me to do it even if for only a half hour. I do not neglect the opportunities to regale over wine with my neighbors as we watch the dolphins backdropped by perfect sunsets over the Intercostal.
It is these moments in paradise that bring unmatched serenity to an alternate life of deadlines and harsh realities. But, for those moments worthy of a St. Pete postcard, I am living the dream.
So what happens to the dream life so many work their entire lives to experience if their little piece of paradise is irrevocably lost? Gone forever. That is what we face if we don’t take measures to protect our waters now.
While we may understand when it’s ok to eat the catch of the day, many of us don’t understand the pivotal role we play in protecting our waters. In truth, a floating beer can is more than an eye soar. Pollution is detrimental to wildlife.
“Plastic strapping and six-pack holders can strangle or entangle wildlife. Many birds are indiscriminate eaters, and ingesting small pieces of plastic or debris can kill them. Scientists estimate that more than one million birds and 100,000 marine mammals and sea turtles die each year as a result of this."
Still, mindless littering isn’t the only culprit. Have you ever wondered why it’s so hard to get fertilizer between June and September? City ordinances restrict the sale of certain fertilizers during those months to prevent things like Red Tide; an algal bloom caused by the large amounts of nitrogen and phosphorous in fertilizer run off which deprives our waters of life-supporting oxygen and light.
Would you want to bring home your catch that day? The Ocean Conservancy explains that “as rainwater flows off roofs, the ground, sidewalks, and streets to storm drains, it picks up pollutants such as street litter, pet waste, automotive oil, antifreeze, and lawn and garden chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides.” This run-off transforms our waterways and beaches from pristine playgrounds to unsafe wastelands.
It isn’t all doom and gloom though, this is the Sunshine State after all. The good news is that small actions make a big difference. Clean up after your pets. Pick up litter you may come across. Use less toxic alternatives to household cleaners or when washing your car or boat and encourage friends to do the same.
Want to go the extra mile? Do it literally!
Organize a beach clean up with neighbors. Better still, contact your homeowner’s association and request more eco-conscious alternatives and awareness campaigns. Campaigns can be anything from an informational piece in the monthly newsletter to the placement of ‘Drains to the Bay’ stickers atop storm drains (like I had my neighborhood display).
Regardless of what you do, do something.
Words by Leandra A. Gallego