The Surfrider Foundation creates awareness of environmental threats to our waterways with clever photo contests. To rise up against plastics, “Found Objects” asks contestants to collect the colorful crap at the beach, arrange it, photograph the collection, then post the image online along with six words that sum up the eco-art. That contest will happen again this fall. Now through June 15, the “Protect and Enjoy” competition asks for still images or video of a place you love that deserves protection.
Just the word protect in the title immediately brings to mind the offshore drilling the Department of the Interior is threatening to enact. From 2019 to 2024, they intend to open up 90 percent of the U.S. coastline, including the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic oceans, and the eastern Gulf of Mexico, for the benefit of the gas and oil industry. Commercial fishing, tourism and recreation stand to lose billions of dollars, not to mention the squandering of our precious oceans.
Fighting the “Draft Proposed Five-Year Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program” is a primary campaign for Surfrider. On social media the effort is called Drilling is Killing, and it’s no exaggeration. Killing our marine eco-systems and destroying our favorite seashores and surf breaks is one death. The other is caused by the seismic blasts used to locate extraction sites. This underwater sound is so loud, it murders or critically injures our fellow mammals: whales and dolphins. Spotting whale spouts and dolphins swimming by just outside the breakers is one of the best parts of sitting on the beach.
The San Clemente-headquartered nonprofit urges you to contact your elected officials in protest now, and watch out for the proposal’s revision coming out in the fall, along with an Environmental Impact Statement. Then the Bureau of Ocean Management will accept public comments for 90 days. When the first draft was made public back in January, more than 1.6 million people made their response known. Let’s double that.
Precious spots where the land meets the sea are going to need our vigilance for the remainder of the current administration. Start by having some fun with your activism: enter the contest. Post an original photo on Instagram or Twitter of a place you want to protect. Tag @Surfrider and #ProtectAndEnjoy, then write a blurb on why it’s important to you. Check out the contest rules, along with tips for taking your shot. First place earns a GoPro 6 Black, while all winners receive Surfrider memberships. For a little more incentive, imagine the soles of your feet covered in tar every time you go barefoot on the beach.
If you need more than a little tar-based inspiration to become a contestant or oppose this drilling, consider this: Not only did BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster provide catastrophic evidence for never drilling again, but, according to Surfrider’s environmental director Pete Stauffer, “Even under the best-case scenario, America’s offshore oil reserves in the Atlantic and Pacific would provide only 758 days, or about two years of oil at our current rate of consumption, according to federal agency estimates of Undiscovered Technically Recoverable Offshore Oil Resources.” Two years vs. more Deepwater Horizons? No contest.
“Even when there is not a disastrous spill and everything goes ‘right,'” says Stauffer, “the process of oil drilling releases thousands of gallons of polluted water into the ocean.” This drilling mud releases toxins such as “benzene, zinc, arsenic, radioactive materials and other contaminants.” So go out and take a shot of your favorite spot, and oppose this idiotic plan before we are all swimming in benzene among carcasses of sea creatures.
On a less gruesome note, check out some of the sea anemones and waves already entered via Twitter and Instagram. Download a postcard to send to your representatives (while they are still in office). And consider joining March for the Ocean on June 9 in Washington, D.C., sponsored by Surfrider and many of its coalition partners hell-bent on stopping this regressive proposal to drill drill drill.
Lisa Black proofreads the dead-tree edition of the Weekly, and writes culture stories for her column Paint It Black.