Monday, May 20, 2013

Rozalia Project Intern Blog: Every Piece Counts

This blog comes from Mike Capper, heading to U. of Minnesota to study History and earn a teaching certificate. He is a sailor from Lake Minnetonka and wrote this blog from onboard American Promise on the first day of his internship with Rozalia Project.

I first became aware of the Rozalia Project in the summer of 2011 when Rachael Miller visited the Wayzata Community Sailing Center where I coach, and she stayed at my parent’s house. Rachael worked with the children and the staff spreading awareness about marine debris through hands-on activities, lecture, and video: her work left tremendous impacts upon me, and more importantly, the young sailors. She impressed upon us the dire situation that our oceans are now facing because of human neglect and abuse.

Due to Rachael, my own actions and attitude have changed drastically: I used to just pass marine debris and street garbage by without a second thought, but today I will go out of my way to pick up trash wherever I find it. In fact, I am sure to carry a bag to the lakes to pick up trash: the amount I can get from just a casual stroll along the shore is staggering. People will stop and thank me, yet do nothing themselves, so I have decided to take along an extra bag or two and say, “you can make a difference too, every piece counts.” Sadly, although sometimes rather conveniently, there are bags already littering the shore to put trash in: I end up using trash to get rid of other trash. She made me realize how intimately life is tied to the health of the ocean, and not just marine animals or the creatures that eat them, but for all life on Earth. All life is tied to the cycles and health of the world’s watery surface through the cycles of the rain, the weather, the tides, and the currents. Our garbage and pollution is steadily chocking and poisoning our precious water, the one thing that allows life to flourish on this blue gem of a planet. This is all the more nerve racking because Earth is the only planet that we have, and we are suffocating it. I have joined the Rozalia Project because I truly believe in their mission through education and awareness.

I have seen the fruits of this important work right in my community with our sailors. One of the last sixteen year olds (at the time) who I thought would ever care much about anything beyond himself, pleasantly surprised my dad (Wayzata Community Sailing Center Executive Director Cappy Capper) and me by picking up trash during race practices and handing it to us at the finish line multiple times since Rachael’s visit, which also translated into other sailors doing the same. He would even enthusiastically shout “marine debris!” and go out of his way to retrieve it. More significantly, he continues to take responsibility for the lakes and waterways that he sails on as a senior at Wayzata High School, even taking time to educate other sailors and competitors. Young men and women like that young sailor are what give me hope for a better future for out planet: they show us that to facilitate change and to shape a brighter future, all you need is creative education.

The work that the Rozalia Project is undertaking is vital to our planet’s, and our species’, health, and I am proud to be a part of it. I know that we are making a difference, even though it is only a small amount at the moment: it is the small trickle that will split the rock and turn into a flood.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Rozalia Project Intern Blog:

Today's intern blog comes from Vermonter Gigi Veve. Gigi studies Zoology at the University of Vermont and has had some unique experiences with orcas in Argentina! We hope she is a lucky charm when she joins us on American Promise and we all get to see some amazing orcas.

When I was a young girl I watched Moby Dick with my dad, who was a former dive master and adventurer of the sea. I will never forget the disgust and hopelessness that I felt towards the sperm whales that were getting slaughtered for their bodily possessions. Around the age of 10 my parents brought me to Sea World in Florida, there, once again I witnessed unbelievably incredible species being exploited, purely for human entertainment; all of it seemed so inhumane. I knew even at that time that these huge and beautiful creatures were not meant to be treated like this, they were meant to be in the wild. I knew then that no matter what it took I was going to spend the rest of my life doing whatever I possibly could to save these creatures from harm.

Killer whales have always impressed me in ways that no other species have. I was lucky enough to have parents with a passion for wildlife photography and I was given the opportunity to visit the Punta Norte Orca Research facility in Peninsula Valdes, Argentina. For two weeks I was completely detached from the world, living on a ranch that ran on power from an onsite generator running from sunrise to sunset. In the two weeks we dreamed about being able to witness an attack. This is the only place in the world where these majestic creatures beach themselves in order to attack sea lion colonies along the shores, and sure enough we got to see one. That moment, 7am Juan and I (Juan was one of the scientists and the owner of the ranch) sprinting with our cameras in hand as quietly as we could (so we would not disturb the sea lion colonies) got on our hands and knees and once we were close enough, inched our ways to the shoreline. Mel, one of the male killer whales, was circling the area eying the colony, especially the oblivious pups that were playing along the shore. Before I knew it the whole crew had caught up and we were all in a line waiting for it… then it happened. Mel’s complete body came out of the water and snatched one of the pups from the shore. All I could hear was the constant clicking of everybody’s cameras going off, and that’s when I put mine down. I figured this was the one chance to be able to see this for my own eyes, and I was not letting a camera get in the way of such a breath taking experience.

Having this experience at the age of 16 was monumental in my decision to spend the rest of my life working with, and doing my best to save the whales of the world. When I learned about the Rozalia Project I was instantly attracted to its overall goal of cleaning up the ocean debris. In order to save the species of the ocean we must keep it clean. Learning in classes and witnessing first hand the affects of inadequate debris disposal of humans, has pushed me to want to make the world a far cleaner place for this generation and well into the future. Having the opportunity to be an intern for Rozalia Project will allow me to continue my life goal and share it with others who share the same passion as I do

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Rozalia Project Intern Blog: picking up marine debris by rowboat

This intern blog comes from Heather Harrison who is pursuing her Masters of Science in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Advocacy for Social Justice and Sustainability at Antioch University of New England after completing her undergraduate work at Eckerd College in Florida. Heather has spent some time alone on an the waters by rowboat!

When I began my freshman year at college my roommate lent me a keychain from Ripley's Aquarium in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. A heavy, metal keepsake, it contained the aquarium logo on one side, and the following profound quote stamped into the reverse:

“Those who have never seen themselves surrounded on all sides by the sea can never possess an idea of the world, and of their relation to it.” – Goethe

Having grown up and spent most of my life along the coast of Maine, I felt the impact of these words immediately but did not realize how closely this quote would continue to align with the path I would later follow. Upon completing college I found myself literally surrounded on all sides by the sea when I took a summer job as a steward on Damariscove Island Nature Preserve, five miles off the coast of Maine. Everyday, a ceaseless and tireless task included marine debris cleanup along the rocky shoreline. It is truly amazing how much trash can wash ashore with every cycle of the tide. A favorite method of obtaining garbage from the island's cove was by dinghy, which offered three different strategies for cleanup: "drive-by" catching in the water by hand; use of the oars to extend my reach; and parking the dinghy as I searched for footing amidst the slippery, seaweed-covered rocks. The sense of urgency for cleaning up this trash was never-ending. If I didn't pick it up when I saw it, it was sure to be washed out with the next tide and become an unsuspecting hazard for creatures of land and sea. This was always my primary reason for picking up trash. Not because I didn't like the look of it (which I don't), but because I was concerned about what animal might be harmed by ingesting the garbage or getting caught in it. 
I was exposed to this firsthand when I interned at the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary in Florida and with the Tampa Bay National Wildlife Refuges. The amount of birds I witnessed harmed by fishing line and hooks was staggering. Unfortunately, many of these birds would be found too late, tangled up and suspended in mangrove trees on otherwise pristine islands. It left me with a heavy heart when I witnessed these tragedies, while on the other hand it was immensely rewarding to save those that could be untangled and watch them fly away with renewed freedom. It is because of these experiences that I consider marine debris cleanup to be extremely important and imperative to maintain on a daily basis.

While volunteering much of my time with the Ocean Conservancy to clean up shoreline trash, and with OceansWide (of Maine) to use remotely operated vehicles to educate children about the importance of protecting our oceans, I continually find myself on the path of marine conservation. When not working with an organization, I can be located wading through the shallow waters of nearby beaches, gathering bag-fulls of trash on my own. Those who witness this often thank me for my actions but never partake in the cleanup themselves. This makes me wonder what more can be done to inspire people to care for the environment. Even if everyone just picked up two handfuls of trash whenever they walk along a beach, it could have an incredible impact. In an effort to urge beach-goers to do just this, I once made a sign for a school project and placed it along the shoreline of a public park. It stayed up for a few months but eventually disappeared. Perhaps swept out to sea by harsh weather, rolling tides, thoughtless folks, the eventual way of all manmade objects along the shore. If people could be influenced to care, to see themselves surrounded on all sides by an ocean of trash, to see the birds and marine mammals losing their lives by our carelessness, we could achieve momentous environmental strides. I still have that keychain with the Goethe quote and keep those words close to my consciousness. To share this vision, to see our relation with the sea, will be my effort with Rozalia.        

Monday, May 6, 2013

Rozalia Project Intern Blog: "Throw it in the street and stay inside."

This intern blog is from Glynnis Eldridge, from New York City, whose time teaching in India taught her about people, human rights, the environment and that change is not easy, but can happen.

In a room on a rooftop in land locked Nana, Rajasthan, I spent the spare time of my 19th summer. I taught when I wasn’t there; I tutored English to the women I lived with, and taught Social Science, Environmental Science, and English classes to children enrolled in the elementary school that met downstairs. In my spare time, I tried to teach myself: I wrote and read a little, but more than anything, I spent my time peering from the rooftop, and researching human rights. I learned through observations about Nana’s waste management, sewage systems, and the caste system; how people depended on each other there (some more than others. Some had unbelievable responsibilities instilled in them by way of the unfair social hierarchy that is the caste system). I learned through PDFs made available through spotty internet connections that, like freedom (from slavery and torture), access to clean drinking water and sanitation, and access to education, are international human rights, and are equally important. These were not all available to everyone I was living with. From one person to their neighbor, there were imbalances. 

Right: The view from my room on the roof. Open sewers are visible on the far side of the street. 

There was the boy who worked without breaks. He lived in a stable lined with rice bags and grasses, and was paid in food scraps. He would peer through openings in the walls of my classrooms. I encouraged him to participate in after school activities when he had time. There seemed to be some breakdown of the caste system between him and the school kids. Sometimes I would see him being punished; caught ‘spying’ on my classes, pulled by his ear, kicked in the back, pushed forward. Once he showed me a long cut on the back of his head, which he had gotten, he told me through a kind of gesturing that crossed our language barrier, by trying to cut his own hair. I had brought a box of antibiotic infused bandaids with me from the US, but they were all bright colors. I put a purple one on the back of his head. When I later walked over to the other side of the house, I found the bandaid discarded on the floor. I was scolded through a language barrier crossing gesturing that everyone seemed to understand; a lot of head shaking, finger wagging, harsh tones in voices, like a dog given commands. When I knew him, he was 14. My coworkers told me he had been working for the family who lived in the school building for at least seven years. 
Right: My family in Nana, helping each other up the side of a hill surrounding a small, spilling reservoir, after a storm. 

There were the women I lived with who pulled their headscarves over their faces when they saw their in-laws, or when they left the house. Where I lived, women were not given the liberty to make decisions for themselves about when or where to run errands, to visit with friends or family, to travel, to leave their [husband’s family’s] homes. While I was living there, I was more or less given that same lack of liberty; the headmaster of the school instructed me in our first meeting to, “stay home… for your own safety.” 
It was monsoon season while I was there. The summers in India are known to be “rough”; while experiencing the effects of long standing drought, I see storm clouds passing not so far away. I wonder how they miss us, if storm clouds might be long and narrow in shape. There will be power outages for three hours every day because of the drought. The fans that keep malaria baring mosquitos out of my room will turn off with the electricity, and I will be covered in bites when the power turns on, after the sun sets, in the middle of the night. When the storms do come through, the power shuts off again. Bats fly into my room. There is lightening and our neighbors light candles and nearly burn their house down when they jump, startled by thunder claps.
In Nana, when the storms hit, the rain comes down in sheets and lasts for what feels like hours. There are floods. The open sewers lining every street overflow and wash into the rivers with the rain. Upon visiting the reservoir for much of the state of Rajasthan, it is easy to see the runoff from all of the floods I’ve thus far experienced. At it’s mouth, the water is thick and brown: it’s surface is speckled with garbage and pieces of clothing. 

Right (both photos): The mouth of the reservoir for much of Rajasthan. 

One of my coworkers tells me that her family is sick from the water. I offer her some of the purifying tablets I brought with me from the states, but know this would only be a short term solution. 
The headmaster of the school tells me not to drink the tap water. The doctor I met with before leaving the States told me the same thing, and not to eat unpeelable fruits or vegetables, smoothies made with ice, or anything from a vendor. Already, I feel a moral discrepancy. The headmaster of the school cannot pay me for my volunteer work, and instead offers me a place to stay, and enough shipments of bottled water to last me through my stay at the school. She tells me not to share these 1liter bottles of Dasani. I am a stranger here, and I don’t know what to do. I want to live not as an outsider. Everyone else is getting sick by drinking water from the tap, from wading through their own pollution and the bacteria that grew in their open sewers. I drink the bottled water. I share. I am not careful about keeping the tap water out of my nose or mouth or ears when I shower or wash my face. The family I stay with tells me to use the bottled water when I brush my teeth. I don’t, sometimes. How can I know what it feels like for water to hurt me from the inside out, when I’m abiding by rules of ignorance? 

I stepped out of the frame of the curriculum I had been given for my courses, and decided to incorporate what I could into my lessons about ways to combat the real life problems that I saw; things bigger than language. It started out as a small field trip. I took the fifth graders out to the street one day. I brought with us our classroom’s garbage can and enough pairs of gloves for every student. My assignment to them was simple: let’s look around us, and figure out what doesn’t belong. Let’s pick up the garbage, together. 

Right: A polluted stream that ran through the heart of Nana. 

Within five minutes, the garbage can was filled. It was then that we were met with our next problem: what now? There was no waste disposal system in place there, then. We compiled the waste in garbage bags I had brought with me. I asked my students to decide what to do next; where to take the garbage? Should we get rid of it? If so, how? I told the students that the garbage could not be thrown back into the road, or anywhere where it would could get washed into the river. It cannot end up in the reservoir. 

Right: A sculptural map of the region served by the reservoir. 

When I first arrived in Nana, I had some things with me I had meant to throw away when I was on the train up. I asked the elderly man who lived in the house where I stayed, where I should put my garbage, and he laughed at me, and then said, “throw it in the street.”  

Right: One way New Yorkers take out their trash, by comparison.

The students I worked with did not come up with a final decision during my time with them, about what to do with the garbage they collected. They asked to do this activity when we met every day, and told me that they did it on their own time outside of class. They told me that they talked about the project with their friends and families outside of the school, and that everyone they had spoken with was receptive to the project. By the time I left the school, I felt that the students truly believed that they were personally responsible for the beautification, upkeep, and health of their neighborhoods. 
It is my hope that by participating as a summer Intern with the Rozalia Project, I can learn and reflect on the ways young people view their responsibilities for the health of this planet. I am curious about the solutions that so many of these people might already have. I am hopeful that the students the Rozalia Project meets this summer will (come to) view oceans, rivers, shore lines, neighborhoods, and general cleans up as an interesting, feasible, and exciting undertakings. 

In cities that are nestled against oceans, like New York, Boston, Seattle, San Francisco, it seems to be easier to realize just how close we are to affecting the seas and the rest of the world. In landlocked places like Nana, perhaps it is less easy to make such a connection. Location should be irrelevant. What should be at the forefront of our minds, no matter where we live, is the health of our home. There is water everywhere, and it always leads back to the oceans. What we put in is shared, dispersed. We can also put in effort, and explicit concern for our global, individual, and interpersonal health now and moving forward. We can share that with our neighbors, and they can share, and they can share. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Rozalia Intern Blog: From hide and seek with crabs to Pick-Uppalooza

Today's intern blog comes from Marina Duchesneau, soon to be graduating from Plymouth State University! Marina is joining us for our pick cleanup session in Frenchboro toward the end of the summer and from her blog, looks like she will be a great addition to the cleanup team

I grew up in central Massachusetts, and was at least an hour away from the ocean. Whenever I would get the chance I would drive to the nearest beach just to unwind and enjoy the salty air and fried food on the boardwalk. I have always wanted to be closer to the ocean, so I’m extremely excited that I’ll be spending part of my summer interning for the Rozalia Project, and Mamomet Conservation Sciences. I cant wait to participate in both opportunities.

I’ve always been curious of the ocean, and always loved being near it; especially when there was a visible sea critter I could study. One of my first memories of the beach were crabs trying to hide from all the other children, including myself. Everyone was so curious of how they dug into the sand and defended themselves, and all I wanted to do was protect them. I’ve always had this passion for protecting species and the environment. I learned about the North Pacific Gyre freshman year of college and never forgot about it. It always stuck out in my mind and I would think to myself why and how did it all end up there. I’ve been fascinated with it ever since and have gotten more involved with clean up programs in my area. I participated in Plymouth Pick-Uppalooza this past year and collected a total of ten bags of trash with the help of my friends. I still collect pieces everyday to and from my walk to campus. Every little bit matters and makes a difference.

I’ll be graduating Plymouth State University this May and couldn’t be more excited to go out and make the world a better place. I have enjoyed several classes such as: Biology, Conservation, Managing the Earths Resources, and many more. I’ve only taken one class that related to the ocean, and traveled to Acadia National Park for it. As a class we successfully constructed an inter-tidal study on all the organisms we found. I fell in love automatically and wanted to learn more. I believe knowledge is key in anything you do, therefore I’m eager to work with the Rozalia Project.

A year after Acadia I studied abroad in Torino, Italy. I helped create a sustainable plan for a 16th century castle. Throughout the 4 months I was there I helped St. John International University come up with ideas for another school that focused on sustainability. This wasn’t marine related nor was I near the ocean but whenever I got the chance I traveled towards the coast. I spent time traveling to Ireland, England, Germany, Spain, and more of Italy. Overall I would like to leave this earth a better place than I first found it. Given the opportunity to intern with the Rozalia Project I will be able to physically make a difference and educate others about our ocean’s dirty secret.