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A valuable life lesson is learning to put the world first

July 09, 2004

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

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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

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