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“The snotgreen sea. The scrotum tightening sea.” ~James Joyce, 1882–1941.


When that was originally inked, I am sure that James Joyce wasn’t thinking about Coke and Pepsi bottles floating in the surf, plastic bottle caps killing seaborne birds by the nesting site, nor do I think he envisioned oceanic gyres—the giant, mid-ocean swirls of trash of our time. No. When I read his words, I know he was expressing the awesome beauty of the stormy sea: Of stomach-churning, monstrous waves; of roaring, sail-shredding tempests; and the sudden calmness and grandeur found in the eye of the hurricane.

While working this morning on the novel, a couple of couples in their dinghies motored by. From my vantage point a couple of floors above I watched in both amazement and joy at what they were doing — picking up what trash they could reach along the shore. And judging by the already full bags of trash in their inflatables, they were being very successful at cleaning up what the inconsiderate tossed aside.

There is always something that I (and you) can do to help make our oceans healthier, cleaner and better than what we inherited from past generations. And the first step is to stop being indifferent to it. Instead of stepping over a piece of plastic that I know will eventually blow into the water, I need — and promise — to take three seconds out of my day and throw it away.

There are organizations that, while not a joiner, I can emulate. There are things I can do, even when I am 1,000 miles from the nearest dirt, to help those who are tabulating and trying to diagnose the state of today’s oceans. I have downloaded the Secchi App and have built a Secchi Disk to help them monitor the phytoplankton levels in the Pacific Ocean.

From their website:

“The marine phytoplankton account for approximately 50% of all photosynthesis on Earth and, through the plankton food web that they support, they both underpin the marine food chain and play a central role in the global carbon cycle strongly influencing the Earth’s climate.

Living at the surface of the sea the phytoplankton are particularly sensitive to changes in sea surface temperature. A recent study of global phytoplankton abundance over the last century concluded that global phytoplankton concentrations have declined due to rising sea surface temperatures as a consequence of current climate change.

We need to know much more about these changes and you can help by making a simple piece of scientific equipment called a Secchi Disk and using the Secchi App.”

<a href="http://www1.plymouth.ac.uk/marine/secchidisk/Pages/default.aspx“>

A final, sad little note that’s sums up the state of our oceans was this scene I saw this morning: A seagull had become entangled in fishing line, landed atop a light pole here on Shelter Island, which then became entangled to the light. I am sure the ensuring cacophony of clarion shrieks didn’t last long before it died where you see it, just as thousands of other creatures needlessly die every week.



Please take three seconds out of your day and throw it away.