5 must-see movies on marine debris

I am so excited to be in a town that is committed to reducing the use of plastic. Oak Park, IL will be implementing a 10-cent tax starting January 1, 2018. As trustee of Bob Tucker noted in August 2017, “What we’re really trying to do is change habits.”   Change for the good lawmakers … my favorite. Why should we care about changing the way we use plastic?

  1. In the ocean there are approximately 5.25 trillion plastic particles.
  2. For every foot of coastline there is approximately five grocery bags filled with plastic, according to estimates in 2010.
  3. Six continents have microfiber washing up on their shores.
  4. Each year, 8.8 million tons of plastic goes into the oceans.
  5. On average, Americans use 220 pounds of plastic per year.

If you want something MUCH more entertaining, and probably up-to-date, than my list of quick stats above here are some must-see films that are worth downloading for the treadmill or even showing in the classroom or your next community event.

A Plastic Ocean (2016/1h 40m/Netflix): Documents the newest science, proving how plastics, once they enter the oceans, break up into small particulates that enter the food chain where they attract toxins like a magnet. These toxins are stored in seafood’s fatty tissues, and eventually consumed by us.

The Plastic Age: A Documentary feat. Pharrell Williams (2014/17m/YouTube): We all talk about the Stone Age, the Iron Age and the Bronze Age, but what era are we living in right now? People are starting to refer to us as the – far less romantic – Plastic Age.

From the Waste Up – Life Without Plastic (2013/1h 16m/Vimeo for $4 rental or $8 purchase to download): Follows the lives of 19 people as they attempt to live without plastic. It explores the concepts of consumerism, waste, and convenience as well as the great abundance in going without. Live vicariously plastic-free as you watch these families navigate through this disposable world. 

Plastic Paradise – The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (2014/1h 25m/for purchase but also available on YouTube): Thousands of miles away from civilization, Midway Atoll is in one of the most remote places on earth. And yet its become ground zero for The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, siphoning plastics from three distant continents. In this independent documentary film, journalist/filmmaker Angela Sun travels on a personal journey of discovery to uncover this mysterious phenomenon.

Bag It (2010/78m; educational version 45 and 65m): What starts as a film about plastic bags evolves into a wholesale investigation into plastic’s effects on our oceans, environment, and bodies. We see how our crazy-for-plastic world has finally caught up to us…and what we can do about it.

UPDATED:

Also, an important addition to the list I forgot about is Smog of the Sea. You can get a free download link for the film, released in 2017, here. The music and cinematography (in part) are by the musician Jack Johnson and as the film overview summarizes, “The Smog of the Sea chronicles a 1-week journey through the remote waters of the Sargasso Sea. Marine scientist Marcus Eriksen invited onboard an unusual crew to help him study the sea: renowned surfers Keith & Dan Malloy, musician Jack Johnson, spearfisher woman Kimi Werner, and bodysurfer Mark Cunningham become citizen scientists on a mission to assess the fate of plastics in the world’s oceans.”


Oh, one more here. I am hoping to catch Straws SOON … maybe I can bring it to my new town and more change will come:

Straws (2017/1h 10m): “I highly recommend STRAWS as an educational and entertaining film about plastic pollution. Its brisk and engaging storytelling uses humor, fairness and heart to inspire plastic use changes we all can do…especially no plastic straws!” – Actor and Environmentalist Ed Begley Jr.

UPDATED: I actually just requested a free download for preview purposes so I’ll post on that later this week. Thank you #strawsthemovie.

I am really hoping that since folks finally are able to let go of plastic bags and soon straws that balloons will be around the corner. Anything that’s more harm than good is not worth it … kids don’t know if they just don’t see them. Check out some alternatives to balloons at your next celebration here.

Wednesday Wisdom: Susan Rockefeller

Susan Rockefeller is the CEO and Founder of Protect What Is Precious and Editor-In-Chief of Musings Magazine.

Find more great ocean and conservation quotes here and please feel free to share with your friends and family!

Also, ask away! If you have a question about something you found on the beach or just something you’re curious about just send an email to info@beachchairscientist.com or tweet us!

How do you talk about climate change to your neighbors?

On this website I’ve written about climate change extensively over the years. Sea level rise is a settled fact and 10 justifications ocean acidification is a serious concern were posts from five years ago and still very timely topics. But nonetheless it still seems like a subject that I tend to hesitate or stall when speaking to family, friends, and neighbors. It’s not that I fear that I might stumble upon skeptics or deniers but my technique for crafting the conversation with confidence just isn’t there. As a formal educator in the classroom I tended to have plenty of confidence as I was in a setting where I could do demonstrations and present and discuss realtime data often. I was very excited to stumble upon the Climate Stewards webinar on Teaching the Science & Rhetoric of Climate ChangeStrategies, Pitfalls, and Keeping Your Chin Above Water in Turbulent Times presented Dr. Krista Hiser and Dr. Wendy Kuntz from the University of Hawaii, Kapi’olani Community College.

Sometimes I tend to make evening webinars a background while working on other projects (Shhh …!), but, I was taken and envious of the course these professors had developed. You see Dr. Hiser is a professor of Composition and Rhetoric and Dr. Kuntz is an Associate Professor of Biology and Ecology. This is a marriage made in heaven for science communication and all of their students! In the presentation for their class they discussed the importance of this relationship and is highlighted in the class overview “Climate change is complex and multi-faceted. Student learning is most lasting and positive when reinforced across disciplines.”

An important aspect of the class they talked about was a service learning project so I’ve given up hope of taking it online anytime soon. However, my amazing takeaways (i.e., as a person that wants to keep it simple for the readers here) were some ideas on how to be poised and self-assured when skirting around the discussion of climate change. The professors brought up the controversial DYK that the Associated Press states that “to describe those who don’t accept climate science or dispute the world is warming from man-made forces, use climate change doubters or those who reject mainstream climate science. Avoid use of skeptics or deniers.” When I heard this a light came on for me … I thought well in any discussion all I might need to do is erase some doubt by pointing to mainstream climate science. Sounds easy? But, any audience is going to have to have an understanding of Earth’s Energy Balance. When I think of the Earth’s Energy Balance I tend to think of the atmospheric and water cycle with man-made ingredients such as deforestation and fossil fuel emissions added. This is a relationship that is clearly unbalanced and can be linked to an increase in carbon dioxide emissions since the Industrial Revolution.

The next part of the webinar included some advice on what would be most effective in conversations with confidence. Here are five ideas that I hope to practice in my new Chicagoland home:

  • Commit to having at least 3-5 facts that you can understand and CAN REPEAT
  • Provide measurable actions someone can do
  • Create a metaphor for what climate change is to you or your local audience
  • Name some of the impacts in your local or national area
  • Define what climate change may do in 20 years in your area

Some ideas that I will plan to avoid will be:

  • Stray from green rhetoric such as “the future”, “children” and “the earth”
  • Avoid any debate

Thank you to everyone at NOAA Climate Stewards, Dr. Hiser, and Dr. Kuntz for this important and informative webinar. You can listen to the webinar here. If you have any other strategies or ideas for effective climate change discussion please share below!

Seven silly science words: Part II

Remember what I was saying back in January? Science still isn’t scary and still has funny words. Here are a few more that just make me smile. Hopefully they make you smile when you say them or you know a fun science word too. Has anyone taught you a science word you love? If you have someone teaching you that can smile … you’re a lucky duck. What’s your favorite science word? Check out the first round of fun silly science words here.

What's your faorite sea science word?

Narrated by Winnie Miller

 

Otter personalities

What kind of car do you drive in the sea? An otter-mobile.

I know that was pretty funny, I know. Here are some memes to celebrate Sea Otter Awareness Week (this September 24-30) that really illustrates the breadth of sea otters.

BCS_OtterEmotions

Dunes: a demonstration on the importance of stability

In case you didn’t pick up on this via Instagram or Twitter I’ve recently relocated to Chicago. It’s a far cry from my Mid-Atlantic roots but actually much closer to lots of beautiful beaches and plenty of new inspiration. In fact, one place I cannot wait to visit is the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Here’s why:

Dunes are important (and you should never walk on them!) and should be rebuilt to maintain stability after any natural disaster. I mean … we don’t want to erode the beaches away. Dunes are dynamic and lend themselves as a main cause for a beaches unique features. They’re also such an indicator of the power of the ocean and wind. But, where would they be without stabilizers such as dunes grasses?

BCS_Dunes

Here’s a quick demonstration I’ve used in a high school class to illustrate 1) how wind carries materials (i.e., sand) to build dunes and 2) why we should protect grasses that stabilize dunes.

Materials: Dry, fine sand, blow dryer, twigs or branches (I have a bunch of strange fairy house trees and shrubs that make for cute miniatures), a cereal box with one side removed, eye glasses (definitely one for each student)

Prep: I create a dune without any stabilization in the center of the box. I think it’s good to make it fairly large (about six inches or so high so that something noticeable can occur.

Discussion/demo: Ask students to draw a picture of what will happen to the dune once the wind (i.e., created from the blow dryer) blows on the dune. In particular ask them what if they can predict if one side might get steeper and one side might increase its slope. I also introduce terms such as “windward” and “leeward” noting how the sand will basically blow over the leeward side of the dune. Once the demonstration is complete, and I’ve used the blow dryer on a low setting for about ten seconds about one feet away, I follow-up and ask them if the migration of the sand was the same as their prediction.

Next, I set it up again and ask them the same questions but I use the stabilizers. For the stabilizers you want to make sure that they are in firmly and won’t blow away (It’s one of those things I learned the hard way).

Outcome: The outcome should be that the students notice a difference with a dune that is stable verse one that doesn’t have vegetation. You can even mention that some dunes can be stabilized with artificial means such as rocks. Dunes that are stable can greatly improve beach erosion which is especially timely given the coastlines aren’t what they used to be. Thanks, climate change (that’s an entirely different discussion).

Note: I generally use quick introductions like this as a journal exercise to get the students thinking and warmed up. I typically ask them to break out a vocabulary section in their notes and copy down and words I might use (e.g., windward, erosion, leeward) and then set up a journal entry for the introduction to class.

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July is Plastic Free Month: A dozen quick & easy ways to ditch the single use

Every year I get so frustrated with myself for not making the commitment to the challenge for Plastic Free July. This year is different since I have no tests or classes (I write this as I sit in a training for AP Environmental Science!). 

My craziness is going to be lots of travel and that I’ll have two kids in tow. But, it’s going to be a commitment for just ME this July and I’ll see what I can “challenge” them with along the way. These are the dedicated twelve ways that will help me stay focused.

  1. Choose glass over plastic (think milk containers and on-the-go drinks)
  2. Use my homemade dish detergent (borax, castille soap, essential oil)
  3. Use my homemade laundry detergent (borax, washing soda, castille soap, baking soda)
  4. Use the Preserve triple razor and toothbrushes (they’re made from old yogurt cups and they come in pretty colors)
  5. Use my favorite shampoo bar (that I didn’t make)
  6. Not purchase coffee/tea using a cup with a lid
  7. Refuse the straw
  8. Bring bags (and bags!) to the grocer
  9. No online deliveries (that bubble wrap!)
  10. Carry my own plasticware (get a carry case for a spork so you can take it home and wash it; if I have a party maybe I’ll switch to these disposable bamboos)
  11. Carry a water bottle (there are so many places that have water refill stations)
  12. Eat local and fresh and no frozen foods containers or take out (this is my least favorite!)

Just a quick FYI, you don’t need a whole lot to get started when making your own soaps and detergents but definitely get a small food processor. What’s your quick way to reduce your use?

 

World Oceans Day is June 8th, but then what? 10 ways to show the ocean love throughout the year

Acknowledging all of the movements and days of awareness can seem like a lot to keep up. Just yesterday was World Environment Day and in two days it will be World Oceans Day. Of course, I want to celebrate, support, and demonstrate a commitment to making a difference every day and especially on these special days. The first step has to be “being prepared”! So here is a guide I created for all the important days to look out for the next year. Mark those calendars, add a reminder on your phone, get ready to throw down for some serious high key awareness!

BeyondED_bcs1

July is Marine Debris/Plastic Free Month when you can take the challenge and urge people to refuse single use plastic. Why does reducing our plastic use matter? Here are two alarming facts from Scientific American:

  • Chemicals added to plastics are absorbed by human bodies. Some of these compounds have been found to alter hormones or have other potential human health effects.
  • Plastic debris, laced with chemicals and often ingested by marine animals, can injure or poison wildlife.

August 5th is National Oyster Day! Did you know oysters spawn during the summer months and therefore tend not to be as tasty. This is the epitome of the old wives’ tale on why “you shouldn’t eat oysters in months that don’t end in ‘R’.” Find an oyster festival near you here.

This September hosts the 15th Annual Sea Otter Awareness Week during September 24th-28th in 2017. Did you know that the sea otter has a fur that is not as dense as river otters?

October is National Seafood Month. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries takes this month to highlight sustainable fisheries as the smart seafood choice. Learn about sustainable choices as well as lots of recipes (someone please make the flounder stuffed with crabmeat for me, please!) from FishWatch.gov.

The 15th of November is designated as America Recycles Day. It’s a national initiative from Keep America Beautiful to learn what can be recycled in your community, recognize what can be reduced, and identify products made with recycled content. Learn more here.

December into January each year is one of the largest citizen science projects: Christmas Bird Count. Each year since the early 1900s the Audubon Society has been at the forefront of organizing this event. Get the app and see what a remarkable value you can be especially in providing data for reports such as the 2014 Climate Report.

International Polar Bear Day is February 27th. Let’s not pretend it just because they’re cute and cuddly. After all, they’re ferocious and male polar bears might eat their young if they can’t find food. This day is all about calling attention to their habitat loss (i.e., they’re in need of some serious sea ice) due to climate change.

The last Wednesday in March is Manatee Appreciation Day. These slow-moving creatures are slightly adorable and slightly gnarly. Regardless of your feelings they’re populations are going down and it’s primarily caused by human interactions.

Many people reading may know that April hosts is Earth Day but did you know that April 25th is World Penguin Day? This is the time of the year when the penguins travel north from Antarctica as winter moves in on the southern hemisphere.

May finishes the annual list with World Turtle Day on the 23rd! Did you know that if you see a tortoise, turtle, o terrapin is crossing a street, you can pick it up and send it in the same direction it was going – if you try to make it go back, it will turn right around again! Also, drive slow.

Now, when can we fit in a celebration for horseshoe crabs?

Hurricane vs. Cyclone vs. Typhoon

Today is the start of hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean. Lots of times people are curious how these storms are different from, say, a cyclone or typhoon. Well, there isn’t any difference other than where they start. Each storm is a low pressure system that forms in tropical or sub-tropical latitudes. Light winds develop in the troposphere (the area closest to earth) that generally generates winds with a speed to about 75 miles per hour after a trigger such as a convergence against another front.

But, how they get their name depends on where they start. Here is a graphic from Lagoon Inside that helps to clarify.

  • Hurricane: Atlantic Ocean; Caribbean Sea; central and northeast Pacific Ocean
  • Typhoon: Northwest Pacific Ocean
  • Cyclone: Bay of Bengal, Arabia Sea; Southwest India Ocean; Southwestern Pacific; Southeastern India Ocean

Map

 

Turtle Day: May 23rd

Twenty three facts all about the ocean’s ambassador from the turtle community. Happy Turtle Day!

seaturtlesbcs

Additional resources:

  • http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/18/sea-turtle-facts_n_5505508.html
  • http://www.livescience.com/55507-sea-turtles.html
  • http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/turtles/
  • https://conserveturtles.org