Planet Hugging

by Roger Roth

In September of 2008 Hurricane IKE blew up from the Gulf of Mexico and tore through landlocked Cincinnati, Ohio at a whopping 85 mph!  In a matter of two hours, trees were uprooted as if we were on the coast during IKE.  Power lines were downed for hundreds of miles, putting 90% of the region out of power for many days and even weeks for some.

Surveying the damage seemed almost like seeing the results of the tornadoes we usually get in this area.  But IKE’s damage was tremendously more widespread throughout our tri-state area and surely more devastating.  Projected costs of putting things back together in our region are purportedly greater than the costs of Katrina.

When hurricanes track up through the U.S. from the Gulf, they normally lose their strength, and by the time they reach the Midwest, they usually carry lots of moisture with winds around 30-40 mph at best.  This storm carried little moisture, but held sustained straight-line winds far above any norm.  Is this a result of global warming?

We’ve all seemed to witness changes in our weather patterns in the last decade.  In actuality, it has been documented that the number of unusually cold days and nights have decreased, and the number of unusually warm days and nights have increased.  Growing seasons have lengthened and the number of frost days has decreased.

Snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere has consistently remained below average since 1987 and has actually decreased by about 10% since 1966 and ocean levels have steadily increased during the same time frame.  Is this a result of snowcap melting as has been described in many media articles?  Is any of this a direct result of the increasing amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere?

Whatever the reason, there does seem to be a need for more awareness on our parts, and many are in fact jumping on the bandwagon to be more ecologically friendly.  In order to reduce the residuals of coal-burning, we’ve taught ourselves to conscientiously turn off lights and other electrical components when not in use, including computers, printers, cell phone chargers, etc.  Because of the recent high gas prices, many of us have learned to turn off our automobiles when waiting for long trains, which not only reduces our gasoline usage, but also the emissions from the engines’ combustion.

Other efforts to reduce our impact on the environment have included turning down our thermostats in the winter and turning them up a few degrees in the summer.  Some of us are even using rain barrels for watering our gardens and flowers.  Again, this not only has an affect on the world as a whole, but it also reduces our energy bill.

We are also seeing an increase in sustainable energy use such as wind and solar units as well as geothermal energy for heating and cooling.  All of these units are becoming more and more commonly available for consumer usage.  Ten years from now it may be commonplace to see these units in most homes.

Some of us open our windows during cooler mornings of the spring, summer and fall and then close them as the day heats up.  On hot days we keep our blinds and drapes closed to keep out any solar heat, but capture that passive solar heat by opening blinds and drapes on cooler days.  We’ve even planted deciduous trees in specific places to give us shade over our homes in the summer and allow the sun to do its solar thing in the winter.

Recycling programs have flourished in the last decade.  As this awareness grows, more people participate and do their part for the environment.  Now there are even pilot programs emerging that pay citizens to recycle, allowing them to earn coupons for goods from many participating sponsors ranging from local restaurants, florist shops, and bird feed stores to international sponsors like Kraft, Coca-Cola, and even Travelocity.

I’m sure we’ve all seen the stickers on storm drains reminding us that water entering these drains goes directly to our rivers, lakes, streams, and oceans so that we’ll remember to do our part to keep these bodies of water as clean as possible.  We’ve all read about the illegal dumping of trash in our oceans and about the floating “islands” of plastic garbage that pollute these oceans.  And because we are divers that appreciate these oceans more than most people, most of us are keenly aware of our responsibilities to preserve our environment as well as possible.

Another simple thing we can do at home is to choose the five most used lights in our homes and change them to the Energy Star CFL bulbs.  If every household in the U.S. took this one simple action we would prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to the emissions from nearly 10 million cars!  That seems like a no-brainer.

Obviously, changing furnace filters for better efficiency is important.  Using a mulching mower on lawns and composting yard and food wastes reduces the amount of garbage that is sent to landfills.  Using low volume toilet tanks or putting a brick in your current tank helps reduce your purified water usage.

As far as driving your car is concerned, to improve fuel economy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, go easy on the brakes and gas pedal, avoid hard accelerations, reduce time spent idling and unload unnecessary items in your trunk to reduce weight. If you have a removable roof rack and you are not using it, take it off to improve your fuel economy by as much as 5 percent. Use overdrive and cruise control on your car if you have those features.

As divers, we continue to share our concerns with others in small and large ways.  We set examples and thus teach others why it’s so important for everyone to do their part.  We cherish our waterways and pass this on to our neighbors and friends so that we’ll continue to have clean waters to dive in that will support the marine life we enjoy experiencing.  Sea Ya!

Critter corner: The oceans themselves are the ultimate recyclers if not overloaded.   They take sewage and recycle it into nutrients, and scrub toxins out of the water.   Oceans also produce food and turn carbon dioxide into food and oxygen.  But in order to provide these services, the oceans need all of their working parts, meaning the millions of plant and animal species that inhabit the sea.  It’s our job to see that the oceans can continue to sustain themselves by teaching others about the importance of being ecologically responsible.

copyright © Roger Roth, 2002 - 2011

Photo Competition

Roger Roth is a roofer by trade and lives in Cincinnati, Ohio. But his passion is underwater vidiography and after several decades of learning how to shoot and edit he has evolved into a teacher and a photographic philanthropist. Roger is the founder of the annual international Underwater Images Photo and Video Competition. You may contact Roger at