Sea Mammal Therapy

By Jeanethe Falvey

Traveling down the coast of California this week, I’ve been thinking about the state of the environment the entire way. It’s hard not to. There seems to be a greater connection to nature here. Perhaps it comes with the territory of dealing with forest fires and mud slides on a regular basis. Yet you don’t see anyone walking around constantly worrying about those things. Instead, they’re on the beach watching the sunset, surfing, and taking photographs.

Recycling bins are everywhere. Compost bins are everywhere (I’ve leapt for joy over that a few times). In Monterey, every single garbage bin had a recycling section on top. You couldn’t possibly throw something away without first seeing the option to recycle it. Brilliant. Why this isn’t universal befuddles me.

Maybe if the rest of the United States coastline was covered in sea lions barking, elephant seals oompfing their way down the beach and sea otters rolling about in kelp forests, things would be different. You would want to prevent pollution and litter from ever harming that seal right there that’s making eye contact with you.

In San Francisco, I watched the sea lions push each other around the piers, sadly seeing one with a cut around his neck from fishing line. In Big Sur, I saw seals and sea otters looking content along the dramatic coastline. In Cambria, I went numb taking pictures of elephant seals enjoying the ‘warm beach’ in 30 mph winds.

Since federal protections began in 1977, the small family of sea otters that were left after the species was brought to near extinction have grown to a few thousand. Plump seal pups can rest at ease by their mothers and sea lions can bark away at each other without living in fear of us.

When nature can take a deep breath, it’s a mind-blowing thing.

It’s worth it to experience the results of the federal laws designed to protect these animals, California’s additional conservation and protection efforts, and the individuals who had the drive and passion to start it all.

If you haven’t picked the 5 actions you can do for our environment where you live, get on it! Join the the 8,000 others around the world who have made the official pledge. Share your story and inspire others to do the same!

About the author: Jeanethe Falvey writes from EPA’s Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education, as the project-lead for Pick 5 and the State of the Environment, two projects geared towards learning, sharing and gaining a greater collective connection to our environment.

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