Who doesn’t enjoy a relaxing day by the beach, swimming and sunbathing? But have we taken for granted that we will always have the pleasure of a walk on the beach and the briny smell of the sea? Our planet’s climate is changing precipitously, and we all need to stand up and do our part to protect the “commons”–our natural resources that must be accessible to all members of a society-the air, water, and a habitable earth. We need to become the Guardians of the Commons.
The “tragedy of the commons” is the theory that describes the way individualism and self interest go against society’s best interests by depleting or degrading a common resource. Our “commons” are the beach and the water and the air and all of the other natural resources we depend on. But our way of life has over emphasized individual rewards and convenience at the expense of conserving our common resources.
It is sometime discouraging to think about global international problems, such as climate change or ocean pollution, because we feel so small next to such a large problem. And we ask ourselves; can our individual self-interest affect the health of the ocean or the air?
The answer is a resounding yes. Our combined individual actions are affecting the planet so much that we are facing a tipping point because of human induced climate change. But, when we look at the cumulative effect of all our smaller actions over the course of a year, we can feel very powerful about our choices.
For instance, bringing your mug to the coffee shop or water fountain every day for a year could spare the air from 87.6 lbs of greenhouse gas emissions and will use 76 fewer gallons of water, not to mention stop 12 pounds of trash from going to the landfill or worse yet, into our ocean. Imagine if we all used reusable cups every day: our cumulative effect in the USA would be equivalent to taking 2.5 million cars from the road in one year, would save enough water to fill 33,000 Olympic size swimming pools, and would keep 3.5 billion pounds of trash from entering the waste stream.
On Sept 20th, the People’s Climate March taking place in NYC will be the biggest demonstration of individuals clamoring for political action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions around the planet. The United Nations will be meeting to discuss the issue of climate change and we, the Guardians of the Commons, will be cheering them on as we collectively work to protect our atmosphere and all our shared resources.
The Watershed Project has joined 350.org and will host a solidarity event during Coastal Cleanup Day at Shimada Friendship Park in Richmond CA. On Saturday, we’ll all be fighting climate change—in our case, hands-on, by removing thousands of pounds of plastic junk (including thousands of cups) from the San Francisco Bay shoreline and from the Bay. Join us in our efforts to save the ocean and the air. Take a break, stroll by the shore and breathe in the fresh air while you help protect our commons. Register to help.