Feelin’ Green

Feelin’ Green

 

True confession time. I’ve tossed some garbage overboard. Even after becoming “enlightened” about environmental issues. Sad to say, the argument that cans and bottles break down swayed me until recently. Sure things “break down.” Aluminum cans break down in 80-100 years and glass bottles in about 1000 years. So, the sea floor is littered with a century of cans and bottles. So, I’m not exactly in a position to preach. But it’s a new year and a new era and it’s time to feel the green.

 

When I was in Europe this past fall, I was struck how environmental awareness had become part of the cultural fabric. In the narrowboat rental trade, there was even a guide as to how “green” a narrowboat vacation was, even factoring in the gasoline it takes to get to the starting point. Cars sold in the UK have a car tax that penalizes guzzlers. If you use more gas or pollute more, you pay commensurately. It is assumed that you will bring your own shopping bag to the market, and you pay extra if you don’t. (No, Mayor Nickels didn’t think that up all by himself) High tech windmills have been in rural Germany 15 years, and are considered just accepted part of the landscape.

 

Contrast this with the US. With laws in the US the common denominator, it often seems people think that whatever they can get away with is OK. Industry has largely taken for this approach, with the bottom line as the guiding principle. It’s only the threat of fines that drives many businesses to look out for the environment.

 

Of course, right now one can’t turn around without some company utilizing some green slant to sell their product or service. But, to many ears, it seems to have the same cynical tone came from George W’s White House for so many years. Calling oneself green to sell isn’t really being green, it’s marketing.

 

We don’t need a change of clothes, we need a change of fabric. It has already started. Remember when seeing someone dump a full ashtray out of a car was a relatively common occurrence? Nowadays such a perpetrator would at least get dirty looks and might even get a public lecture. There was a time when the guy with the Hummer got all the ladies’ attention, now the guy with the Smart Car is looking pretty smart.

 

What does this have to do with boating? There’s an organization in England called The Green Blue. It’s funded by The British Marine Federation and the Royal Yachting Association with various sources of private and public funding. One of its stated purposes is to educate boaters so that additional regulations don’t have to come to pass. The pamphlets and CD are simple and informative, though nothing terribly fancy. There’s even a little environmental quiz. Mike Golding, one of Britain’s sailing heroes, lends his name and serves as a roving ambassador for the effort.

 

The question is, is there something similar in the US.

 

It turns out there is plenty of information available, particularly if you want to spend hours online. There are federal, state and local authorities who all have some environmental element to the budget that gets spent on publications of some sort or another. Furthermore, in keeping with one of George W.’s many doctrines, outsourcing is done wherever possible. In this case, 41 states have outsourced boater’s education, including environmental education, to boat-ed.com.

 

As with the Green Blue in Britain, private organizations in the US seem to be at the forefront of actively promoting environmentally conscious boating. There’s the American Boating Association, Boat US Foundation and Sailors For The Sea. There’s a wealth of information in each, and free information online or even available to receive via mail.

 

In Washington’s case, the environmental awareness can be found online at http://parks.wa.gov or by ordering (for free) the Clean Boater’s Handbook from the State Printing Office (www.prt.wa.gov). The booklet used for the boat-ed.com education program, Adventures in Boating, can be ordered for free through the Parks Department.

 

Fine. All that information is out there. In fact there is a dizzying quantity of it. It’s equally clear that a concentrated, coordinated national effort to educate is not immediately apparent. It’s like an enthusiastic crew with no real skipper to make sure tasks aren’t being duplicated and things are running as efficiently as possible.

 

For instance, who has ever heard of the Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management? Here’s its mission statement: “To lead the nation's efforts to manage and conserve ocean and coastal resources.” Continuing its self-description it goes on: “The Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management (OCRM), part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), provides national leadership, strategic direction and guidance to state and territory coastal programs and estuarine research reserves.” It turns out there are nearly every government bureaucracy stakes its claim on environmental issues and devotes some valuable budget to it.

 

If this is the way it is with getting information out, it’s doubly so when it comes to regulation. The complaint most businesses have about environmental obligations is not that regulations are too onerous, but because there are so many laws, regulations and guidelines, many of which are confusing or contradictory, that they don’t know what to do to meet their obligations. One of the ways President Obama might save some money while doing a better turn for the environment would be to combine and streamline these efforts so that a consistent and strong national program could be implemented.

 

This is the month of a tremendous and overdue sea change in the U.S. A new administration will assume leadership. President Obama and whomever he chooses as his Secretary of Interior will hopefully behave nothing like President Bush, Gale Norton and others who abdicated their responsibilities to the environment and in favor of standing sentry for the rights of profit. That said, we all know the current situation. It’s the economy, not the pollution, that’s in the landfill these days. The new team won’t dare do anything to slow the economic recovery for a while. But then again, consolidating environmental education so that the information gets out there better and more effectively might help matters.

 

How about this: Those of us living here in the Pacific Northwest take it upon ourselves to be the environmental leaders. Our boatyards, marine trade association and environmental watchdog groups have already started it (see No Country for Old Ways, September issue). For the most part we’re already pretty good at it. But as individuals we can go further, picking up any trash we see, throttling back a little, using oil absorbent pad in our bilges, switching our Y-valves over to the holding tanks. At the same time perhaps our state and local governments can have a lunch or three and figure out how to promote and educate in a proactive, coordinated and cost effective way.

 

It used to be feeling green at sea was generally considered a bad thing. Now it’s a good thing.

 

 

 

Flotsam and Jetsam

 

 

 

The Washington State Recreation and Conservation Funding Board awarded more than $12.3 million to improve trails and boating facilities in 33 counties. Several launching ramps around the state are going to get some help and Olson’s Resort for salmon fishing will move into public ownership.

 

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The Pacific Science Center, University of Washington Applied Physics Lab and Sailors For the Sea have teamed to support a cicumnavigation of North and South America by Mark Schrader. The voyage will further research on the state of waters surrounding the Americas and further educational efforts along the way. The 64’ sailboat Ocean Watch will depart Seattle in May, headed for the Northwest Passage.

 

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So, you think the marine industry must be facing hard times? According to Showboats Magazine, the global order book for yachts 80 long and greater now exceeds 1000! Still not impressed? 616 of them are 100’ or longer, and 21 of those are 250’ or longer!

 

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