To the Editor:
I had the opportunity to stop by the Smart Studios on Boca Grande last week to view their “Nature Protests” art exhibit in an effort to increase environmental awareness of what is impacting our beaches in Southwest Florida.
Several local artists used a mixture of watercolor, oils, multi-media collages and photographs to demonstrate visually how much damage is being done to our beaches and wildlife as a result of the cumulative effects of both red tide and plastic pollution.
Of course, the million dollar question in Southwest Florida at this time is what can be done to reduce the devastating effects of red tide on our beaches? Scientists and biologists are scrambling to answer those questions, but all we can do at this point is to pray that the beaches on our barrier islands for 2019 look nothing like the way they did last summer.
It was difficult to look at some of the pictures, but yet it is difficult to look away. While there may be little at this point that we can do individually to mitigate the effects of red tide, there is something we can do to stop plastic pollution on our beaches and in our oceans. Improperly discarded fishing lines and other plastics are strangling our wildlife after they have already suffered a massive wave of death and destruction from the effects of red tide. I just recently took a picture of a pelican outside of a restaurant in Venice with its wing partially amputated because it was snared in discarded fishing lines. If you have to ask yourself what difference does one plastic straw make, reference the YouTube video of a plastic straw being extricated from the nose of a sea turtle, or a plastic bag that looks exactly like a jellyfish and is choking a loggerhead sea turtle.
Our oceans and beaches have been used as garbage dumps for way too long. Plastic pollution is one of the greatest threats to our oceans’ health worldwide. Scientists have identified five floating garbage patches in our world’s oceans. One of these is called the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” and is estimated to contain up to five trillion pieces of plastic, and is floating between Hawaii and California.
Education and awareness are the necessary first steps. Before the TV show “Flipper,” not many people cared if they ate dolphin in a can or not. The public fell in love with dolphins, and massive conservation efforts were carried out to protect them. If we instill in our a children a love and appreciation for nature and wildlife, it is certain they will do everything within their power to protect what they love.
This art exhibit was put together by local artist and owner of Smart Studios Gail Cleveland, and it visually demonstrates how fragile our environment really is. It is time to take steps to eliminate plastic and trash on our beaches, and it is for this reason that I support the initiative in Boca Grande to sponsor a “Ban Plastics in our Oceans Awareness Week in Boca,” encouraging businesses to switch from plastic to using more paper products whenever possible. Plastic pollution is a problem that cannot be solved with the same consciousness that created it. Once again, I believe that education and awareness will be essential components of the equation in solving these complicated environmental issues.
Many thanks to Gail Cleveland and all of the local artists for their contributions in putting together the art show. If a picture can say a thousand words, this exhibit spoke volumes.