A valuable life lesson is learning to put the world first

CHERRIL DOTY

"So, it comes first: the world. Then, literature. And then, what one

pencil moving over a thousand miles of paper can (perhaps, sometimes)

do."

-- MARY OLIVER, Blue Pastures

"What can I do to help?"

Many of us want to do what we can to make the world a better place

to live. We just don't know what to do, or we become overwhelmed by

the size of the task. Knowledge is definitely the key. My hope in

writing this is that I can prod each of you down the path of that

knowledge, that we may all put the world first. With better

understanding, it is hoped that we can all see how life is all

interrelated and how we can better protect our vulnerable planet.

In North America, no other region comparable in size to California

has as great a diversity of natural beauty, flora and fauna. Because

of California's many unique habitats, 40% of its animals are found

nowhere else in the world. Some of this plethora of natural life can

be found right here along our own Laguna Beach shoreline.

Life in the sea is an extravagant abundance of variety, antiquity,

oddity and beauty, and it is rapidly diminishing. The sea is filled

with wonderful examples of leftover life -- living fossils still

flourishing long after the evolutionary process has passed them by.

Our tide pools are home to a wide variety of invertebrates. These

creatures without backbones make up the majority of animal life-forms

in water as well as in air and on land. In our tide pools, some

cling, some dig, some swim and some scuttle as they struggle to

survive the impact of nature and man.

Marine mammals like the sea lion, brown pelicans, shorebirds,

gulls, kelp, sea urchins, anemones, starfish and myriad other

invertebrates call our beaches home. This is their habitat as well as

ours. They and the plant community that sustains the smallest of them

are dependent upon one another -- directly or indirectly -- for

survival. And they are all dependent on us for protection of their

environment. If deficiencies in any of the forms of life become too

great, the entire ecosystem can collapse.

What can each of us do to help?

Learn all you can about keeping our water clean. Start in your own

backyard, and then tell others. I am always amazed at how many

inlanders don't realize their water runoff drains to the sea. You can

educate others through small reminders like these.

Learn the posted tide-pooler rules:

* Never remove animals, shells or rocks from tide pools.

* Never pick up animals; observe them where they are. (Take a

picture. The colors will last longer and the pictures can be passed

around and shared.)

* Don't pull animals off the rocks or poke them with sticks.

* Walk gently, taking care not to step on plants or animals.

* Never turn over rocks.

Pass these rules on to others. If you see someone taking creatures

or shells, simply let them know there is a very stiff fine in Laguna.

Become a Tidewater Docent, and give a few hours of your time to

educating along the beach.

Learn the names of the many plants and animals -- the starfish,

barnacles, crab varieties, rough limpets, snails, anemones, the sea

urchin, sea lettuce, algae, sanderlings, gulls and more. It's funny

how knowing their names brings us closer to them.

There is no other watery planet like ours in the solar system. We

are blessed to live here at the edge of the sea that shapes the

world's surface, moderates its climate and is home to a vast array of

plant and animal life. The health of the ocean is essential to the

survival of all life on this planet. You and I are in unique

positions to make a difference.

And if you are looking for a fun way to get started on your

education -- or someone else's -- come on out to the Sawdust Festival

and visit Jan Sattler's booth while enjoying the art and music. She

and her husband, Fred, are strong advocates for our tide pools and

wonderful sources of information.

Or, this Saturday is beach cleanup day locally. Join the Clean

Water Now! Coalition and the Surfrider Foundation to pick up trash

(and there's plenty of it!). Meet at Main Beach between 8:30 and 9

a.m. for cleanup of our beaches from 9 a.m. to noon.

* CHERRIL DOTY is a creative living coach, writer, artist and

walker who lives and works in Laguna Beach and believes in amazing

and remarkable things and continuous learning. To schedule a coaching

session or to comment, contact her by e-mail at emmagine@cox.net or

by phone at (949) 251-3993.

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