New Perspectives on Sustainability

For the past two weeks our lectures on how people affect the marine ecosystem have changed my perspective on awareness of sustainability practices. Living in Bellingham, Washington for the past 5 years has opened my eyes to some sustainable practices such as ‘green building’ where homes and any other city building are built to be energy efficient. This efficiency is achieved by the use of solar heat instead of electric heat, and the design is made to control loss of air, heat, and moisture. Bellingham also offers organic food products at most of the grocery stores that come from nearby organic farms. Great practices such as organic delivery bins are encouraged where fresh organic fruits and vegetables from local organic farms are delivered right to your door. For people who usually rely on their car, the delivery bins allow it so no fuel is wasted and organic farms are supported. You can check out their mission at It seems to me that their business should be mimicked by others in as many places as possible!

Recently we also had the opportunity to contribute to a 20 acre organic farm called Sweet Earth Farm on San Juan Island. Here is a picture of us removing the weeds that were suffocating the orchard! We learned about how they avoid using nonrenewable resources, chemicals and other artificial substances in order to efficiently grow their crops. It got even more interesting when the owner would tell us about other organic farmers that have made 100’s of people food from just a small acre of land using permaculture practices. Permaculture is a sustainable land use design that is based on natural ecology. This design uses what is available in nature in order to maximize the use of the land, minimize the work needed to maintain it, and restore the environment. At first I speculated whether or not this method could actually supply a large sum of people enough food for a few months. She made me more of a believer by sharing more stories of other farmers who have been successful in this field of agriculture. Supposedly in Paris a small plot of land using the permaculture design was able feed the whole city! How amazing is that? I can’t recall the name book that claimed this incredible story as true, but if you want proof I could go back and find out! This made me even more interested in her farm and way of living. It seemed so different from the norm and exactly the way farming should be. She also made her own ointments, lotions and tea from an herbal garden next to her house. All of these self sustainable practices definitely sparked my own thoughts about creating an organic garden that I could live off of and be comforted by the fact I would be contributing to instead of harming the environment.

Our last lecture before voyaging out to sea on the catamaran was presented by Val Veirs and David Bain on the effects of cars on killer whales. Who knew that there is actually a strong link between the two? One of the reasons cars harm the whales is by the construction of roads. Roads typically are built to get people from one place to another, without thinking of what could be destructive to the surrounding marine life. How exactly do roads harm surrounding marine waters? Roadways that are built around streams create a larger impervious service. This service includes cement parking lots, crowded neighborhoods and anything that will decrease the soil band around streams. This soil is vital to the health of  streams because it is needed to filter the incoming water from these impervious services that sometimes contain waste, chemicals, and/or fossil fuels that leak from cars. The San Juan Islands in particular are known to have a very thin layer of soil, creating an inefficient filter system on the land. This filter system is important for the health of marine animals because anything that filters into the stream is brought to the ocean, where it is consumed by the fish that are eaten by the whales. People tend ignore the fact we live around a complex marine ecosystem that is sensitive to changes.  Another reason cars are harmful to killer whales is by the construction of low bridges that are built in places where the orcas typically travel through. An example of this situation was when the Hood Canal bridge was reopened in 2009.  It just so happens that around the time it was reopened the orcas started avoiding this passage. There aren’t many cases where bridges have this effect on the whales, but there are many accounts of fossil fuels contaminating marine waters. It is apparent that people need to raise awareness on the harmful effects of fossil fuels on the marine ecosystem so that alternative fuel options can be popularized!

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