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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Better environment starts with all of us

Battle Creek Inquirer

EDITORIAL

As Earth Day 2008 approaches next week, complex issues such as global warming, renewable energy and contamination of our air and water are at the forefront.

Most of us are content to let scientists, environmentalists, politicians and industrialists haggle over the best actions to take to address these matters.

But that does not free us of personal responsibility when it comes to protecting our environment.

We can start by picking up after ourselves. According to a report released Wednesday by the Ocean Conservancy, too many of us are inclined to simply drop our debris wherever we choose. One Saturday last September, 378,000 volunteers scoured 33,000 miles of shoreline in 45 states and 76 countries, and came up with approximately 6 million pounds of trash. The Ocean Conservancy report catalogs the nearly 7.2 million items they found, ranging from omnipresent cigarette butts to fishing lines and plastic bags that pose lethal threats to wildlife. In fact, volunteers found 81 birds, 63 fish, 49 invertebrates, 30 mammals, 11 reptiles and one amphibian entangled in debris.

According to the report, 57 percent of the trash was related to shoreline recreational activities (food wrappers, bottles, cups, lids, etc.), 33 percent from smoking-related activities, 6.3 percent from fishing or waterway activities, 2 percent from dumping and less than 1 percent from medical and personal hygiene activities. Volunteers found vehicle tires, building materials, beverage holders - and 2.3 million cigarette butts, filters and cigar tips.

Disgusting? Yes. Surprising? Hardly. Our shorelines, roadsides, parks and forests have become the all-too-handy receptacles for a throwaway world.

While the Ocean Conservancy report found that volunteers worldwide collected an average of 182 pounds of trash per mile of shoreline, the U.S. average was 390 pounds per mile - the highest by far of any nation.

Perhaps the saddest part of the report's findings is that the problem is entirely preventable. We literally are trashing our world because too many people just don't care. We have become too lazy to take care of our own trash and too unconcerned about the people who come after us.

So as we prepare for the hoopla of yet another Earth Day, maybe we should take a little more time to clean up after ourselves.

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