We try to keep a positive viewpoint in our lives in general and on the blog in particular, so we post a lot about seeing whales, not to mention teeming throngs of sea turtles, sea lions, eagles, and boobies. While this is evidence of a healthy world, there are other, less promising signs that we generally don’t write about.
I could be trite and talk about the filthy harbours with oil on the water and garbage floating by. But with overfishing and global pollution having caused fish populations to collapse world wide, I won’t name these places lest I add another blow to their already fragile economies. Unfortunately fleets of derelict fishing vessels and poor fishermen are everywhere, from third world countries to the USA. I see them everywhere.
The other thing that I see everywhere are homes built just above the high tide line. I’m writing this from a nice, new building in Golfito. It, like this whole town and almost every other port town that I have visited, has no chance whatsoever of surviving a 1.3 metre increase in sea level by 2100, which is the current best estimate. So we really ought to be putting serious effort and money into preparations for millions of refugees.
On a more personal and practical note, the act of sailing the world’s oceans relies a lot on past climate data. Ships have maintained logs of their travels for centuries; in the 1840s the United States Naval Observatory undertook a herculean study of the logs in their collection. This led to an understanding of the seasons, winds, and currents of all the world’s waterways. Since then every prudent vessel has consulted past meteorological data before going to sea. While anyone can tell that sailing off Alaska in January is a bad idea, it may not be as apparent that sailing off Mexico in September is a worse one.
Unfortunately we continue to pollute the world, and this pollution is changing our world. I have before me a fourth edition (1998) of Jimmy Cornell’s World Cruising Routes (which incidentally should be carried by every yacht planning to cross oceans). The entire entry under the bold heading “Tropical Storms” on page 220 is that “Tropical revolving storms do not occur in the South Atlantic Ocean.” However, in our increasingly polluted world there have now been five such storms in the past decade.
And while the category 4 storm that struck Vancouver, Canada on December 3, 2007 isn’t technically supposed to be called Typhoon Mitag because of some minutia, we should all be concerned that Asian typhoons are causing billions of dollars of damage and loss of life in the Americas, well outside their historical range. A single hurricane straying outside of its usual range could sink the average Central American coastal town far worse that Katrina hurt New Orleans. Everything here is so much flimsier and closer to the water’s edge.
We all know how to pollute less and we all know why to pollute less. So please stop finding excuses to do what is right.