~ Tim Dillingham
Executive Director, American Littoral Society
It sort of feels like summer. The weather is here, the crowds are (somewhat) cautiously going back to the beaches, and we are seeing the arrival of seasonal wildlife – ospreys, terrapins, butterflies and an increasing number of whales.
Amidst these comforting familiar signs of summer, we face new enormous challenges: a pandemic which is showing unfortunate resilience and possible resurgence, a nation struggling to come to terms with racial inequalities and injustice, and an election with tremendous consequences for environmental protection and coastal and ocean protection. These national challenges have cast their shadows on the sunny days and warmer weather.
The environmental issues which face our ocean and coasts, as well as marine life and their habitats, have changed little. One of the most persistent is the ever-growing impact of plastics in the ocean.
Single-use plastics – created at great environmental cost using fossil fuels and promoted as integral to our disposable culture – are a modern plague upon our waters and shores. From released balloons mistaken for food by sea turtles to microplastics ingested by fish, these human-made products are unfortunately omnipresent. And they are working their way up to food chain to us.
As a result, plastic pollution is on the front lines of educational, conservation and policy efforts.
This month, the Littoral Society is promoting Plastic Free July to help raise awareness around the issue and will amplify the good work of our many partners who are tackling this scourge.
Besides calling attention to our New York State Beach Clean Ups (which usually kick-off in September), we are also advocating for towns to join established Champions of the Coast like the City of Asbury Park, which just banned intentional balloon releases. Likewise, we will be pointing out opportunities for citizen action in support of legislative efforts in many states and US Congress.
There is much work to do in our nation and on our environment. The Society’s members, staff and programs are up for the challenge. We are grateful that the willingness to do and support the work does not change with the seasons.