The Jewel at Our Feet


By Catherine Cooper

 By Catharine Cooper.
By Catharine Cooper.

Who in Laguna does not love the ocean?

Every week thousands of us – residents and tourists alike – stroll the beaches, bathe in the sun, swim or surf, or simply congregate on sea walls and decks to watch an evening’s sunset. The Pacific is like our homing beacon. She rings our city’s western border and draws us close with her majesty.

She is as integral to our town as the land upon which we sit – emotionally as well as financially.  It falls squarely onto our shoulders to protect her as best we can.

I look at the sea – and she’s – well beautiful.  The surf, the tide pools, the garibaldi, kelp, stingrays, halibut and other fishes make my heart dance.  Our participation in the Marine Reserve System has fattened up visible sea life and the undersea world has become verdant and bountiful.

Yet events, like the star fish wasting disease and last years sea lion dehydration and strandings, remind me of how connected all the oceans actually are.  Water currents carry temperature fluctuations, and as likely, bacteria and virus, just like the air we breathe.

Every surfer in town knows to avoid the water after it rains (nearly impossible in winter because that’s when the surf gains some size) because of the increased bacteria count from inland sources.  While we know it dissipates after 72 hours, but does it vanish?  Or merely become degraded by the volume of water washing it.

As a child, we used to regularly dump trash off our boat, thinking, “the sea will take are of it.”  For decades, untreated sewage was disposed of in a similar fashion. The ocean was so vast; we thought she would clean herself forever.

We know better now. We’ve lived through oil spills, oil drilling platform explosions, and the Pacific trash vortex, and seen the affects of human activities.  The ocean supports life on this planet, and we must do better to support her.

Slowly, and locally, we have learned to dispose of motor oil in places other than the city drain and to limit our carwash soaps to biodegradable, but we probably haven’t gone far enough to explore the pesticide run-off from our gardens. The city continues to futz with the storm drains and sewage system and progress comes in small steps.

As part of the Environmental Sustainability Committee, tasked with the ocean element, I’m seeking suggestions on ways to create sustainable ocean policies for the city of Laguna Beach. I’m looking for ideas that make our contribution to ocean health far-reaching and enduring. Please send me your thoughts: [email protected]

Together, we’re learning and planning.  I look forward to your input.

Catharine Cooper is a lifelong resident with a particular penchant toward the sea.

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