In Rhode Island, Mission to Improve Ocean Health Is Starting on Land


“If we’re going to solve for beach and ocean cleanliness, as well as climate change and ocean acidification — and we certainly have to do it all — then we have to acknowledge that the health of our soil is crucial.” — Dave McLaughlin, Healthy Soils Healthy Seas Rhode Island

If you are reading this article, you most likely realize that humanity needs to find and implement decarbonization solutions, in massive numbers, at a global scale, starting yesterday, if we are going to avoid the most calamitous effects of climate change. The 2018 UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report estimates that the world has only 12 years to cut greenhouse gas emissions by half. Accelerating the pace of deployment of high-tech solutions, from renewable energy to large-capacity storage batteries, gets most of the attention.

But not all difference-making carbon-reduction solutions come from the high-tech arena. Something as low-tech as the composting of food waste will, if done at scale, improve the health of our soils and seas — in truth, our entire environment — along with delivering those crucial, significant climate change benefits.

One potentially groundbreaking solution in this arena is being piloted on Aquidneck IslandRhode Island, home to Newport — iconic capital of sailing in the US.

Here, Dave McLaughlin — a lifelong bodyboarder, weather-o-phile and former IT professional at Hasbro — helped launch the nonprofit Clean Ocean Access in the mid-2000s. His goal then was to increase public access to local beaches, many of which were restricted. He believed that people had to be able to visit the beaches to be inspired to take action to combat the sewage spills and shoreline waste that plagued and continue to bedevil Aquidneck Island.

“People have to be connected to the ocean, but if you can’t get there, you’re not going to care,” McLaughlin related. “And once you’re able to visit the shore and become involved in cleaning up debris, engaging in conversations about waste, you’re more likely to care about climate change.”

Clean Ocean Access soon realized that an integrated approach to shoreline and ocean health was necessary. (…)


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