Earth Day serves as a wake-up call to the Grand Strand

col-tbuzz (2)You ever play Trivial Pursuit and get one of the Sports & Leisure questions you know you can knock out of the park because you are a sports fan? Ninety-nine percent of the questions are sports-related, then you get that 1 percent curve ball like “What goes in a Cuba Libra?” or “How many face cards are in a deck?”

Those are the “leisure” questions that stump sports fans who can tell you the batting average of every baseball player since Babe Ruth but have no clue about yachting or gardening. Well, consider this column one of those 1-percenters that have more to do with life than the games we play between the lines.

Wednesday is Earth Day, but I’m not going to be one of those talking heads who say “Every day should be Earth Day.” Of course it should, but let’s get real. Most of us can go a whole year without considering the damage we are doing to our planet. Yet we live in a country with an insatiable taste for oil, where air conditioning keeps us cool but heats our planet, and where elected officials refuse to admit there’s anything to climate change despite the melting ice caps.

Those issues are particularly important to those of us who live on the coast. Rising water levels could put our community underwater in the not-so-distant future, and global warming can create massive hurricanes that could level our little corner of the coast. And the biggest issue facing our area in the future is offshore drilling, which President Obama recently opened for exploration.

If you didn’t see this week’s episode of “Frontline” on PBS, I suggest you get it On Demand. It shows the real story behind the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf, not the version BP is advertise about holding up its end of the deal. While BP is spending millions on ads, they are low-balling residents whom they promised to reimburse, trying to stall them into settling for insulting amounts.

Meanwhile, the invisable damage done by the oil spill won’t be fully realized for generations to come. BP cleaned up less than one-third of the total amount spilled, and that oil has made its way into the mud of the estuaries and has been introduced to the food chain. BP doesn’t mention any of this in their ads about what great guys they are for cleaning up after themselves. Gee, thanks.

These are lessons we need to learn when the oil companies arrive telling us about job creation and economic impact. But there’s a catch they won’t mention: They might ruin our beautiful beaches and Lowcountry habitats, as well as wrecking the thriving tourism and fishing industries. It only takes one miscue to create an environmental disaster that could destroy the area we all love.

The most visable and easiest issue to address is litter. I see it on the beach each fall during beach sweeps, anbd you won’t believe the stuff we find stashed on the beach – bottles, cans, blankets, plastic bags and a Nerf football. Can you imagine how many years it would take one of those to biodegrade? The one that makes me angriest is trash bags. Really? You bring a bag for trash and use it for litter?

There are small things we can all do to help save the environment – picking up litter, using less energy, turning off the water while we brush our teeth. But it’s going to take a major fundamental shift in our thinking as a species if we are to protect the only planet we have. We are tettering on the brink, and we are the generation that needs to step up if we are going to turn this place over to our children’s children and beyond.

So on this Earth Day, celebrate all you want and how you want. Spend the day at the beach, go surfing and swimming and enjoy all the great gifts Mother Nature has given us that we take for granted. Most of all, think about what you can do year-round to protect the planet – how you live your life, how you vote, and what you can do to make a difference. Let’s take a stand on saving the Grand Strand.

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