By Mimi Wood, Island Eye News Staff Reporter
There’s a special place in the South Carolina Aquarium’s heart for the Isle of Palms, with good reason. IOP was the first city in the state to institute beachside recycling cans. IOP was the first city in the state to write a Proclamation against Offshore Drilling. Not a tree-hugger? Read on.
Even the most dubious would probably agree with IOP resident Kathy Kent that “protecting our ocean and beaches” is the “right decision.” Kent was one of four local women who initiated the 2015 ordinance banning singleuse plastic bags on the island, making IOP the … you guessed it … first city in the state to do so.
Kent, along with Rini Kosmos, Jackie Kilroe, and Christy Humphries, heard their praises sung on March 30 at the Gaillard Center, as the South Carolina Aquarium hosted a Breaking Down Plastics Summit. Kent & Co. were lauded for their effective grassroots campaign, as “moms with no history of activism,” who approached the IOP City Council, and emerged victorious just three months later, with a unanimously-passed vote prohibiting single-use plastic bags on the island.
It is not the mission, or even the intent of the Aquarium to convert anyone into a tofu-eating, Birkenstock-wearing, regulation loving environmentalist. Rather, “we are about education, and community outreach,” states Kevin Mills, President and Chief Executive Officer of the South Carolina Aquarium. “We deliver the science,” Mills continues, “it’s incumbent upon each community to figure it out.”
Short of attending the daylong summit, a lot of that science was presented by Kelly Thorvalson, Conservation Program Manager for the SC Aquarium, on March 16 at The Rec. The crowd of approximately 75 included Mayor Dick Cronin, and Council Members Barb Bergwerf and Jimmy Carroll.
Thorvalson opened her 50-minute mini-summit by introducing her audience to The Good Catch Program, which encourages restaurants to serve, and consumers to request locally caught, sustainable seafood.
The Resilience Initiative for Coastal Education, aka RICE, “arms coastal communities with information” to help them “develop strategies to become more resilient.”
Thorvalson elaborated, citing thirty-eight events of nuisance flooding, defined as “flooding when there is no rain,” in 2016, as compared to “two days of nuisance flooding recorded per year in the 1970’s.”
She explained that “there has been a one-foot documented rise in the Charleston Harbor sea level over the past 80 years,” emphatic that “another onefoot rise will happen in a much shorter time period if we don’t change anything.” RICE seeks to help communities address these issues preemptively.
Offering kudos to the island’s Turtle Team, Thorvalson treated her audience to a sneak peek at the Zucker Family Sea Turtle Recovery. Slated to open Memorial Day Weekend 2017, this state-ofthe- art facility is truly amazing, with a revolutionary living exhibit, interactive triage station, and observation windows, where the turtle rescue staff can be seen in action. Don’t let the tourists beat you to it.
Adding “refuse” to the old adage “Reduce/Reuse/Recycle,” Thorvalson foreshadowed a major theme at the Breaking Down Plastics Summit held two weeks later. “Becoming aware that convenience plastics are everywhere, and trying to figure out changes” is the starting point.
IOP Councilman Jimmy Carroll’s takeaway, after the “eye-opening and exhilarating” daylong summit, was two-fold.
“I am so incredibly proud of our island. We are on the cutting edge.” Additionally, “All change is local. It begins with us, moves up to our families, then neighbors, community, county, state and beyond.” Start on a personal level, refusing a plastic straw, or a plastic bag when you have one or two small items that might otherwise fit into your pocket or purse.
“We can all make a difference,” Carroll continued, sipping water from a reusable bottle. “Recognition is the first step,” Thorvalson concluded.