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Local Connection: Save Our Shores

As you all may be aware, the COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc on our local non-profits! The urgency to mitigate risk factors has also altered our priorities, sometimes in ways that are deleterious to our natural ecosystems. We want to encourage everyone to stop panicking and take a minute to refocus and re-prioritize. Being stuck at home could be a great opportunity to think about the bigger picture!

At the beginning of the year, when we first connected with Save Our Shores about this article, we could not have imagined what March 2020 would bring. We anticipated a big event on Earth Day, April 22. The new plan is a Digital Climate Summit.

Save Our Shores was created in 1978 specifically to keep oil drilling out of the Monterey Bay. It was a grassroots movement composed of concerned citizens. And it worked! A couple years later, they received their 501(c)3, making them a tax exempt non-profit organization. You can read a timeline of their achievements here, and see their 2019 impact in the attached image. The 1984 opening of the Monterey Bay Aquarium helped raise awareness of the incredible, unique and beautiful amount of marine life in these coastal waters.

Aptos Natural Foods spoke with Gail McNulty a few times as the events of the past weeks were playing out at ANF and S.O.S. respectively. First, we wanted to find out about her back-story. Gail wears a few hats at Save Our Shores; her official title is Sr. Manager for Communications, Youth Leadership & Climate Action! Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago through the 1980s, she danced to “The End of the World as we Know It” without much concern. By 2001, she was working as the Art Director in Macy’s 34th Street store in New York City. The events of 9/11 were a wake-up moment for her. Wanting to use her life to make a difference, she became a New York City Teaching Fellow, earning a Masters in education at night, while teaching high school in the Bronx. Later she and her husband moved to Washington, D.C. while she was pregnant with her daughter, and she became “a hippie parent,” home birth and all. By the time she moved to California and eventually Santa Cruz, she had spent a decade as a stay at home mom and active community volunteer. A prior job that involved a ton of research and participation in public meetings raised her awareness of local and global environmental issues. Then the October 2018 UN Report giving only 12 years to limit the impacts of the escalating climate crisis followed by the horrific 2018 California wildfire season compelled her to do everything in her power to raise awareness about the urgency, scope, and scale of societal transformation needed to protect our children's future.

She got to know Katherine O’Dea, the Executive Director of Save Our Shores, and eventually started working for S.O.S. Speaking with Gail is truly energizing, as her passion and sense of urgency about our global environmental crisis is compelling and centering.

Gail believes that California can make a difference. As the wealthiest state in the wealthiest nation on Earth, we have the 5th biggest economy in the world! We have a great influence and our innovation and environmental stewardship can have a widespread impact! But in order to do that, we have to be able to look at ourselves with humility. What are we doing right and what are we doing wrong? We have 850 miles of coastline and the ocean along that coast is acidifying faster than the sea anywhere else in the world. We need a Green New Deal, and a Blue New Deal to protect our oceans. We need to carefully examine California’s corporate agriculture methods, water projects, coastal economy, and the ongoing fossil fuel production considering how the ways we are using our land impact people, animals, and the planet. What things can and must we change to ensure we are creating the most benefit and the least harm?

Beyond all of this, Hollywood and Silicon Valley have tremendous worldwide influence. If our tech industry were to harness its innovative power to bring a Green New Deal to life while our entertainment industry worked to popularize the concept in the same way they made movies to boost morale during WWII, we could fast forward the ‘story of what can be’; build the political will for change; and launch a just, sustainable future.

One small example of California’s leadership and influence is the plastic bag ban, which originated in San Jose, spread to California, and then beyond. You can read about that in the Rolling Stone article Gail shared! Among the most interesting facts in this article, is the revelation that the non-profit Keep America Beautiful was started by the plastics industry, in order to shift blame for pollution to the consumer. It’s also helpful to see this detailed accounting of what happens to our used plastic. Most goes to landfill. Tragically, what is meticulously sorted into a recycling bin by an American or European often ends up polluting the once-pristine rural landscapes of developing countries in Asia. Now that China has stopped accepting our plastic, much is incinerated, sending toxic smoke into our atmosphere. The plastics industry is causing $13 billion in damage to the ocean each year (if you can put a dollar amount on that) according to the United Nations.

These are all considerations we must keep in our consciousness as there is a new campaign fueled by the plastics industry to leverage the COVID-19 crisis to lift the plastic bag ban. This despite the fact that a study published recently in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the novel coronavirus is most stable on plastic surfaces.

This article describes some of the more insidious ways that this crisis is being turned for profit, and helps explain why ANF has decided to not to ban reusable shopping bags!

On the local front, all of the staff at Save Our Shores are working reduced hours. In order to stretch their limited financial reserves as far as possible in order to navigate this crisis and be ready to return to full capacity when the situation improves.

What can you do?

Consider donating to Save Our Shores! Even a modest amount is helpful. While the COVID-19 pandemic is raging amongst our human population and we must do everything to keep ourselves safe, the plastic pandemic is still raging against our Mother Earth. If we destroy her in the process of saving ourselves, then we still destroy ourselves.

Be mindful of your consumption. It can be discouraging in the latest conditions, to keep attempting sustainability, but here are some things you can do!:

  1. Use a compostable bag (available in our produce and bulk areas) to transport your goods home. Then, make sure to transfer them into your own container for safer storage. Compost the compostable bag.

  2. Buy products packaged in aluminum or glass where available. If buying bulk liquids, buy a glass container along with them (or you can still reuse your own for bulk soaps!).

  3. Don’t buy things you don’t need. We know it’s scary to imagine a time of scarcity, but we don’t want to imagine all those goods going to waste when the current crisis has passed either!

  4. Keep using your reusable shopping bags and pack your own bags at the register.

  5. If you take a paper bag, make sure to re-use it as much as possible, and then use it for your compost!

Attend the Digital Climate Summit on April 22!

Help spread awareness by talking to the people you’re quarantined with, the people you talk to on the phone or video chat, and those in your social media networks!

Thank you for supporting ANF and S.O.S. We would love to hear more of your ideas about how to keep looking out for the planet in these troubled times!

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