• Karen Heckman Stork

SOS -- Save Our Seas

We all came from the sea. And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And, when we go back to the sea…we are going back from whence we came. - John F. Kennedy, 1962

Recently in my new location of Wilmington, NC, a young endangered sei whale (a type of Baleen whale) was found beached on uninhabited Masonboro Island, a coastal preserve. Members of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington Marine Mammal Stranding Program were called to investigate. The 17-foot whale was severely emaciated and not with its mother. Whale stranding is extremely rare in this area, and experts noted there has been only one other such occurrence since the 1990’s. The heart-wrenching scene of volunteers trying to save the whale was difficult to watch.

After discussion with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), the decision was made to euthanize the animal. A necropsy (animal autopsy) was performed and plastic bags were pulled from the whale’s mouth. Even though this was not believed to have caused the animal’s death, it was a contributing factor and a reminder of the harm that plastic is causing to the creatures in our oceans.

Those of you who know me or have read my memoir “Screw the Eggshells” know that the beach is my sanctuary, the place where I feel most connected to the universe. For this reason, restricting the use of plastic bags has become my clarion call to action since moving to this seaside area. I feel so closely tied to the ocean and all its creatures that I am compelled to spread the word about how plastic is destroying this beautiful habitat and will eventually affect the livability of the entire planet.

Quite a few cities of all sizes in the U.S. currently ban single-use plastic bags including San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, and Honolulu. Washington, D.C. and other municipalities tax the use of such bags. In fact, in 2016, California voters approved Proposition 67, a statewide ban on carry-out plastic bags. Other countries are also joining this effort. Kenya, the United Kingdom, Chile, Australia and China have either banned or are taxing single-use plastic bags.

It’s a great start, but more work is needed all over the world. The mission is monumental and we must all do our small part. So pass the word, support the organizations who are attempting to solve the problem, and PLEASE DO NOT USE PLASTIC BAGS WHEN SHOPPING FOR GROCERIES. We do have other options.

Whenever I visit the beach, I have taken to writing a haiku about the experience. A haiku is a specialized form of poetry consisting of exactly 17 syllables in the precise form of three lines only with five syllables in the first and third lines and seven syllables in the second line. Following is the haiku I recently wrote about SOS —

Help save our oceans.

Pick up your trash on the beach.

The sea is alive.

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