Roman Sturgis Take care of each other and make good decisions.

April 22, 2009

Earth Day

Filed under: Blog — Roman @ 12:23 pm

In honor of Earth Day, I thought I’d post about a something relevant.

Isn’t Earth nice? I mean, isn’t it a nice place to live? It’s rather the best place to live, if you ask me, considering what we know about the rest of the universe—that it is cold and dark and for the most part, not life-sustaining. I’m not saying there aren’t other places in the universe to live. If there are, I’d quite like to visit them one day, provided I’m around that long. (Fingers crossed.) So much as we know, however, This Earth is THE Earth. Ought we not take better care of it considering we are all on the same life-raft?

Doesn’t it also make sense, that as we live in this closed planetary system, of which there is only one that we know of, we ought to keep it mostly intact? That would mean, if you asked me, keeping the oceans mostly alive, the fresh water mostly clean, the air somewhat breathable, and sharing the little room we have left on land (less than 30% of the Earth’s surface) amongst the rest of the creatures that happen to be alive at this moment.

Many species have gone extinct. Some, like dinosaurs, might have been living beyond their means–eating too much leafy fiber and emitting too much gas, which may have lead to their version of global warming. But, an asteroid hit and exploded most of their planet, leaving what furry little creatures remained. We’ll never know if dinosaurs would have made it to computers or nuclear bombs. Other species go extinct because of things we do to them: destroy their habitats and eat them.

On Earth Day, maybe you’ll consider what kind of seafood you eat, and research the impact that food has on the ocean. For a quick and easy cause: abstain from oysters and shrimp. A healthy adult oyster can filter 40 gallons of water a day. That’s probably just as important as what the bees do for our fruits and vegetables. Quick math: one adult oyster, 40 gallons times 365 = 14,600 gallons a year of filtration the eater of one oyster takes out of the system. I would say, until we can replace our oyster fisheries to a sustainable level, we should not be eating them, as their benefit to the overall ecosystem trumps their taste. Rather, convert the current harvesting industry into a conservation industry and share profits amongst stakeholders, as opposed to the current tragedy of the commons. This could become the example the world needs for a more comprehensive ownership plan for the oceans that addresses things like using large seine nets with otter trawls. The weighted boards and chains drag along the bottom tearing up the grassy ocean floor where early sealife tends to spend the first part its lifecycle. Long baited lines, miles long, kill of-age and too-young fish alike. Their practice is nonsense. The seagulls end up eating all the catch that is illegal to bring on board.

I’m not part of the in-vogue environmentalists who are responsible for Earth Day. But I can agree with them on this: we need to do a better job practicing good planet husbandry.

The first thing YOU can do is not litter. The second thing you can do is present an open mind to projects that seek to conserve resources. Projects like Cape Wind, for example, which will help us conserve the finite supply of oil that we have left on this planet. Like real-estate, no one is making crude oil anymore. All those dinosaur-era microscopic animals that were a part of the first blooming of life in the oceans are dead—they’re in the oil that we use for our heat and transportation. And even if we had the means to farm them and turn them into oil in a way faster than the natural cycle did for us, do we really think that’s a viable back-up plan? We need to use less. Maybe not necessarily in a depression-era “Use It Up, Wear It Out” sort of way (though that certainly would help). Maybe the first step ought to be just asking ourselves: “Do I really need that?”


  1. 1. Plant your veggie garden and make a commitment to eating locally produced food and beer.
    a. Use a rain barrel as your garden’s water source.
    2. Turn down your water heater – for every 10 degrees you turn down your water heater you save 5 percent in water heating costs.
    3. Check your windows and doors – the gaps around windows and doors in the average American home is the equivalent to having a three-by-three-foot hole in the wall.
    4. Compost.
    5. Shop at thrift stores.
    6. Convince your employer to institute a 4-day work week so you can turn off your computer and ride your bike somewhere.

    Comment by ctb3 — April 22, 2009 @ 1:04 pm

  2. Hear hear to both of you!

    And don’t forget to tote your totes to the grocery store and any other fine establishment you may purchase goods from.

    Comment by La — April 22, 2009 @ 9:38 pm

  3. Very nice, Roman! The path to sustainability is tough, but I think we’re all figuring out that with just minor changes to our daily lives we can make huge changes for the future.

    Comment by Jenne — April 23, 2009 @ 10:39 am

  4. Roman, I’m ashamed. Stop eating oysters? No. Take up oyster farming. Make some money by selling them to people, and clean up the ocean at the same time. Farming of oysters for food will increase their population far more than not eating them and just leaving them alone; and therefore it will do much more to clean up the oceans.

    Maybe farm pearls too. I suppose you need different species of oyster for pearls and for eating. Maybe we could engineer an oyster that tastes good, makes pearls, and does double duty cleaning up the ocean.

    Comment by Jim — April 24, 2009 @ 7:56 pm

  5. Jim, the problem with using straight-freemarket libertarianism in the oyster scenario is that it’s created a tragedy of the commons. Continuing to gather oysters while the population is being decimated would make sense if we could establish ownership over the oysters beyond the loose organization of oyster permitting, which is like a hunting license…you own what you gather, therefore, one is encouraged to over-gather. I’m thinking of the elephant herds in Zimbabwe, that are now owned by locals, and therefore protected from poachers.

    A several year moratorium on wild Chesapeake oysters would not be a bad idea. Allow the population to grow while supplying the demand through farmed oysters, as you suggest. That, however, would mean start-up costs, which would be passed on to the consumer, until the wild oysters were back in circulation, maybe around 2016 or so. But why incur the high costs of farming oysters when you can gather them cheaper? Until the wild oysters are given a break, and a chance to bounce back, and made illegal to harvest for a period of years, the potential oyster farmers out there will continue to run their cost-benefit analysis and see that it’s better just to let mother nature do the work. If we harness our own nature, we will create a demand for farmed oysters and help us recover the heavily impacted wild population. Once that wild population is back to a healthy level, why not establish a system for allowing them to be gathered, keeping in mind, we don’t want to over-gather again. I’m not saying stop eating wild oysters forever. I’m saying, let’s conserve them.

    Another point: once you take an oyster out of the Bay and put it in the food supply chain, you are making a decision to remove it from the filtration supply chain. Maybe we could approach this like trees: determine the optimal population of oysters, let it grow beyond that for a buffer, and for every oyster gathered “plant” another one. These little animals are the best water filters we know of, and they are filtering an enormous estuary, which is hugely important, as it’s where much of sealife (food) in the mid-Atlantic starts its lifecycle. If the oysters go, the estuary goes, and from there, the entire system can collapse. No joke. Banks and cars pale in comparison.

    I would say the ruination of the oceans is far more important to us, as a species, than the deforestation of rain forests. If I had to make that tough choice, I would say, save the oceans over the trees. Why? Well, primarily, because the oceans are where all the oxygen is produced. Algae convert much, much more oxygen than trees.

    As far a pearl culture goes, I think it is a different kind of oyster, and I think they actually plant the grain of sand inside the oyster. This is for commercial pearls. Every now and then, if you eat raw oysters, you’ll find a little nub of calcium which is the oyster’s way of covering the foreign body lodged inside if, usually sand or grit, to protect itself from contamination.

    Comment by Roman — April 25, 2009 @ 7:21 am

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