Sound and Vision

   Yesterday afternoon, my husband and I went to the Capitol Theater for a screening of Eric Becker's "Sound and Vision"--a documentary film about Puget Sound.
   If you have a pulse, you cannot get too far into a film or conversation about Puget Sound without including "health of," "clean-up of," "toxic waste in," "death of." This film was no exception, though the filmmaker did a skillful job and not making this a "downer" movie, though there were plenty of scenes of polluted run-off, oil tankers plying the Sound, and beaches strewn with trash.
   The film most effectively addresses run-off--all the contaminants that flow through storm drains into Puget Sound and its tributaries. What gets into the storm drains? Everything that the rain washes off our streets, highways, parking lots, sidewalks, rooftops, and yards. This means everything from gasoline, motor oil, fertilizers, pesticides, pet waste, to chewing gum and tobacco spit.
    An estimated 75% of the pollution in Puget Sound is from run-off. The film made it clear that we need to move way past the finger-pointing era; Big Farms and Big Industry are not the culprits here. We are. We being the 4.1 million people living in the counties surrounding the Sound. And, I am very reluctant to realize that the really big problem is the car.
  In the oil, gas, and coolants that leak out of our cars are heavy metals--nickel, copper, cadmium, lead, and zinc--and other chemicals that affect reproductive cycles of bottom-dwelling species in the Sound and create lesions and tumors on fish (including salmon). Possibly more injurious that these fluids is our tires. When we talk about "wear and tear" on our tires--are we thinking about where the worn-off rubber goes? Until yesterday's film, I hadn't given it much thought. Tiny particles of our tires are left behind on the roads we drive and end up as run-off. Which means, bit by bit, our tires end up in Puget Sound. Let's see, 4.1 million people multiplied by a conservative 4 tires (more likely 8) results in bits of 16.4 million tires bound for the Sound.
   What does this look like? Yesterday's film showed us in a four-minute segment featuring scuba diver Laura James. Click here to watch the video and Laura's articulate description of her discovery.
    The central image of her discovery has been playing over and over in my head. Playing this morning as I drink my coffee and look at a map. Playing as I debate whether or not to take advantage of a gorgeous day to drive to the coast to watch the clouds, to make notes on the Pacific Ocean for my book on clouds. Playing as I wonder when I am going to hide my car keys from myself, plaster an Olympia Transit bus schedule to my fridge, put some wear and tear on my walking shoes and bike tires.
   Today, I am not going to Westport to watch clouds roll in from the Pacific Ocean. I am not going to explore how clouds behave in the Willapa Hills physiographic province as I had planned. I am not going to pull off the highways to photograph the clouds. I am not even going to drive to the gym for a swim. I am going to pout.
    For most of the day, I will be pouting about denying myself the pleasures of the automobile (oh, just one little trip to the beach--and then I'll stop), about the constraints of sidewalks and bus routes, about missing whatever I think is happening in the places I think are accessible only by car.
   Eventually, I will get quite tired of myself. Tired of feeling spoiled and entitled. And then I will start laughing. And then, if all goes well, I will forget where I put the car keys.