Sunday, February 26, 2012

Help the EPA document the TRUE state of the environment

A few weekends ago, I was lucky enough to help my friend, Christopher Chin (executive director and founder of the Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research and Education) represent his nonprofit at the Shark Days event at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  One of my favorite things about volunteering at these types of events (whether it be for COARE or for Save Our Shores, as I volunteer with both of them pretty regularly) is getting to interact with such a huge variety of people; seasoned ocean advocates, young children, or tourists who may not have much experience in conservation issues but are eager to learn more.  I have always come away from these experiences feeling optimistic about the myriad of challenges the conservation movement faces, and every time I’ve made contacts that I know will be meaningful to my future involvement in future efforts.

Shark Days at the Monterey Bay Aquarium was no different; among the many people I talked to, I spent some time speaking with an employee from the Environmental Protection Agency about a project they’re working on to document the true state of the environment all around the world.  The project, called the State of the Environment Photo Project, is based on a similar one they conducted 40 years ago called Documerica, which had the goal of documenting environmental problems and every day life across America by asking the public to submit photos.  To me, it seems like an exciting way to involve the public in bringing attention to the diverse environmental concerns facing different locations around the world. 

One concern that the employee had mentioned was that people were sending in nothing but GOOD pictures.  Of course, the world is a beautiful place, and the EPA certainly wants to recognize all the wonders there are to behold through this project.  However, if the submitted photographs are only showing the beautiful things and ignoring the bad, it’s a pretty inaccurate view of the state of the environment.  I happen to know for a fact that a number of COARE and SOS supporters have taken stirring photographs that could be invaluable contributions to the project (I know because I’ve seen some of them myself).  The EPA is going to pick a number of photos from the submissions to exhibit across the country once the project is over. I hope that this project may be a way to reach an entirely new audience; if enough people send in pictures showing plastic pollution, threats to marine life, or other depictions of the environmental challenges we fight against, it’s possible that we can motivate them to get involved.

A photo I submitted of animals eating trash left on the beach.
Taken July 5 morning in Santa Cruz, CA

So, are you interested in helping the EPA document the true state of our environment, as things really are, and hopefully motivating more people to get involved in conservation efforts?  The EPA will pick a number of photographs out of the submissions to be featured on their webpage, their Facebook page, and to be exhibited all across the country after the project ends. The information you need to participate, including ideas for what to post, can be found on the project’s website here and their Flickr page here.