But reading about and watching this environmental disaster in the Gulf Coast has made “simple” difficult. Since April 20, the oil spill has been growing like a cancer, killing living organisms in its path. Its current and potential magnitude makes us feel very small. If we lived closer to the Gulf Coast would we be volunteering for training to help in clean-up? I’d like to think so. But we don’t, so we can’t. And we watch. And it’s distressing to see the damage that will not likely heal in our lifetime.
And, after two days of “what difference are we really making?” kind of disparaging thoughts, I take a deep breath, gird my loins and move forward. We started 52 Weeks knowing we wouldn’t save the world in one fell swoop, but that we’d be taking small steps and making an impact one week at a time.
To help wildlife impacted by the LA oil spill
To help wildlife impacted by the Louisiana oil spill and to try to ensure this doesn’t happen again, we’re taking what action we can from afar. If you’d like to do something yourself:
NOTE ADDED: May 27th – as of today, there are reports that “BP and the U.S. Coast Guard say they are not using hair to sop up the oil, and don’t plan to.”
- the National Wildlife Federation is a well-known 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that we donate to periodically. We’ve added a small donation specifically toward the clean-up. NWF is just one of many groups doing good work in this area.
- Matter of Trust is calling for CLEAN hair and nylon (pantyhose) donations. The hair is made into oil spill clean-up mats and the hair and nylon are made into oil spill containment booms. You can send in your individual hair, but even better, get your hairdresser and your dog groomer to donate their clippings. NOTE: the hair and fur must be clean in order to soak up oil. Click here, to view a YouTube video on how they do it. Unfortunately, as we live overseas, it doesn’t make sense for us to participate in this program — it’s doubtful the hair and fur would get through customs.
- I’ve sent a letter to my senator asking for comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation. The National Wildlife Federation Fund template is simple to use.
resent dingletters to President Obama asking him to reinstate the ban on dangerous offshore drilling. (you can do this whether you’re an American citizen or a citizen of the world).
- If you’re in a position to volunteer for clean-up efforts, see CrisisWiki for some of the most up-to-date information (NOTE: CrisisWiki is a community-generated directory of resources. Please verify information before donating or volunteering).
- The National Audubon Society, amongst others, is taking applications for volunteers.
To help in our own area
While we can’t personally help the wildlife in the Gulf Coast, we can help clean-up for our local animal friends (yes, this is actually what we originally planned to do). Assuming the weather cooperates this weekend, we’ll head to one of the more beautiful parks in our area.
Where we’re headed
Lainzer Tiergarten is a 6k acre wildlife preserve in the southwest area of Vienna. In our opinion, it is the most beautiful park in the Vienna area. 80% of it is woodland. Again, depending on the weather, we’ll be there either Saturday or Sunday morning. If you’re in the area and would like to join, send us a note at contact us. Around 1 PM, we’ll likely end up at the Rohrhaus for a bite to eat.
Today the Lainzer Tiergarten is home to between 800 and 1,000 wild boar, 200 to 250 fallow deer, approximately 700 mouflons (wild sheep), and 80 to 100 red deer (elk), along with an unknown number of other more common wildlife.
Why do a clean-up?
We’d like to help keep the wildlife population where it should be naturally.
Did you know that animals can be injured and die from something as innocuous as a tiny bit of plastic wrap? Imagine some small creature finds a square of plastic that was wrapped around your sandwich. Ohhh, that mayonnaise and bit of cheese smell yummy! And it chomps away. It not only smelled good, but it tasted good too. But that little bit of plastic can lead to choking or digestive blockage and death. A good friend of ours lost her ram last year because some careless human left a plastic bag behind. It somehow ended up on her property and was ingested by the sheep. It clogged up his stomach. And the bag doesn’t have to be eaten to do harm. A small animal might climb into a plastic bag, get caught up in it and suffocate. Yoghurt containers are a perfect size for hedgehogs to stick their heads into. But because of their spiny needles they may not be able to extract themselves and can suffocate or eventually starve.
Plastics are particularly “evil” as they take a long time to break down. A single plastic bag can kill multiple times in its lifetime. Real statistics on the number of land and marine animals that die because of plastics are intensely disputed. But, we know that it happens.
And that’s not all! Surely you’ve heard about animals that get their heads stuck in plastic six-pack rings. By now, I think everyone knows to clip them. But, even something as tiny as a soda can ring can do its share of damage. Small baby animals have been known to get their heads caught in the ring and strangulate when trying to extract themselves or as they grow. And, based on what I’ve (unfortunately) seen online, it’s not unusual for cats to get their heads stuck in jars or cans we’ve left behind. It isn’t clear if the kittens I saw suffocated or starved to death, but it is clear that they suffered. It’s senseless and can be prevented.
We’ll make a small start this weekend!
If you decide to do your own community clean-up, we offer up our list of materials as a guide:
- Garbage bags: not the enormous garden bags, they’re too unruly. Rather, we’ll take several smaller ones (that we already have in the house) that can be easily carried. The hope is that we’ll be able to do some separation of plastic, glass and paper garbage for recycling.
- Work gloves: both for hygiene reasons and safety, we don’t want to be picking up garbage with our bare hands.
- Chinese chopsticks: for grabbing those things that we may not want to pick up even with work gloves. Chinese-style chopsticks are longer and thicker than Japanese. Long-Handled tongs are even better.
- Twist ties: once bags are full, we can twist tie the bags closed and attach them easily to hooks or straps on our backpack.
- Misc: wet wipes, an antiseptic, and band-aids or plasters.
- Bottled water and healthy snacks: basically what we always take on any long hike or walk.
- Sunscreen: despite the current clouds, we hope for sun at the weekend.