Today's guest blogger, Gretchen Comcowich Student, shares her passion for the ocean.
My aunt and I connect islands every time my phone pings in my pocket.
She is calling me from two oceans away. Yet, catch us at the same time and we
could both be watching waves crashing. I am spending part of the summer working
on Nantucket island; she lives in Maui. But our cellular
connections aren’t the only things connecting these two
connects, whaling ports have been memorialized in both places, humpback whales
breach off the Kanapali beach near her with a few returning to
Nantucket, rebelliously spouting near Great Point Light. Then, of
course, there are all the summer homes. It's tourism that pumps life into
the economy in both of these places, but I can’t help but wonder if the utter
placation of vacationers will end up doing more harm than good.
would be nice if it were just the whales and the visitors that connected
Nantucket and Maui to the past. It would be nice if the blood stains from the whale ships' tryworks were the
last memories of human destruction of ocean.
reality might be worse than we want to consider, and much darker things
connect Maui and Nantucket than just cell phones and American
American predicts that even if we are able to prevent the global temperature
from rising more than the two degrees Celsius we have allotted,
those two degrees still mean the ocean could rise 20 feet.
If that happens, London would be underwater and the galleries in Lahaina near
Karen's house will be washed away. On my island, hurricanes
already blow water through the businesses on the Wharf and Easy Street. Thinking about a 20 foot rise creates images of all that
would be left of Nantucket -- the cranberry bogs near Alter Rock and maybe a few shattered cedar shingles. Then again, maybe
I have indulged in too much destruction porn on the Internet.
or not, we do know that, according to the journal PLOS ONE,
there are 269,000 tons of plastic waste floating in our oceans. Additionally, 5.25
trillion particles of micro plastic has been swept out to sea by our
own complacency. If I could track it, would I find some from Maui as
I scoop my fingers through the sand on Madaket beach as the sun set over Cape Cod? I don’t know for sure, but if the Great White
Sharks can travel from here to there, who says the plastic isn't riding
the gyres too?
also know that whales, sea lions, and polar bears are dying from pollution and
climate change. However, we often forget the thousands of other marine species because they linger out further than where we
snorkel among Hawaiian reefs or scallop in the Nantucket Jetties.
Images of the stomachs of dead sea birds laden with bits of old pens,
fishing line and trash cover the Internet, sea turtles die from eating
jellyfish-like plastic bags and other animals are dragged under to drown
by discarded fishing gear. Or they die slowly of starvation
because they are no longer able to hunt for food.
For many, giving up is not an option. Ocean saving organizations are everywhere. The beach protecting,
board lovers of Surfrider have 5 branches in Texas
alone, with branches in countries all over the world.
Other groups track sea turtles and fight for nesting beaches. Plastic
exfoliating beads, known for destroying sea life, are being removed from many
I look out at the sea from a Nantucket beach, my complicated feelings come in frothy waves.
I am saddened by the trash left by beach goers and the apathy about climate change, but optimism floats in on a wave of realization that no whale
ship will ever leave Nantucket Wharf ever again, and no plastic shopping
bag has been used to tote around the goods of Nantucket shoppers for the
last 24 years, both monumental issues.
I think of Karen on Maui, I worry about the over-loved, carbon-bleached reefs out
by the crater shaped rocks of Molokini, but I am encouraged by the
signs warning beach goers not to stomp on reefs, as damaging
them destroys one of the most important ocean ecosystems in the world.
Hope flops clumsily like a little whale calf learning
to breach alongside her mother. What it can grow into is as
astonishing as this whale's first several thousand mile migration to
feed off of Alaskan herring before returning to Hawaii to eventually give birth
to her own.
I am aware that our troubled oceans can't be saved quickly. Nevertheless, one more bike ride to work cuts down my carbon footprint, one more essay about our oceans informs another reader, and one more reusable cup I use is one more kept out of the landfill or into the surf. As we look out over the sea, remember, it's up to all of us to do all we can do.
About the Author: Gretchen Comcowich is a freelance writer
whose work has appeared in Gogobot.com, Travelshark.com and a wide variety of
other places. She is currently working on her MFA from Columbia College Chicago
in Nonfiction. When she isn’t traveling or writing, she is working as a
publicist, riding someone else’s horses or scoping out a new coffee shop.
Follow her on twitter @lidamarketing
About the Artist: Earl Thompson is a Native Oklahoman and Maui
based artist. He currently lives with his family in Maui and is often found
painting or photographing the island he loves, he is also an avid scuba diver.
Find his work at http://www.dakinefineart.com/