Toxic Sting

So many of the environmental warnings we receive seem abstract. Aside from the strange weather most of us are experiencing or if you happen to be breathing the air in China, the continual degradation of the environment often passes insidiously unnoticed. You don’t die immediately from pesticide infused vegetables or Bisphenol-A in your plastic water bottles. Sea levels rise in centimeters per decade and the loose ice sheets are thousands of miles away.

Clearly, we have a less than in-your-face relationship with the toxicity in our environment… until it literally, as happened to me, stings us in the face.

Other than food and wine, my great passion is sailing. I do it as often as I can. For twenty years, a great friend and I have headed off on a weeklong sailing trip to the lands and islands north and east. One of the greatest pleasures of these trips is swimming in the bays and harbors where we anchor. Not this year. The waters are filled with toxic stinging jellyfish (Cyanea capillata) that have multiplied beyond anyone’s imagination. Yes, in years past there were jellyfish here and there, or a bloom for a week or so, but now there are billions of them stretched out for over a hundred miles of our sailing grounds.

The causes are multi-faceted: the collapse of predators like sea turtles wiped out by beachfront development; over-fishing, causing a vacuum for the jellyfish to fill; pollution runoff from farms and cities increasing the nitrogen in the water; not to mention global warming which gives the jellies a hyper-reproductive green light and a warm feeling all over.

The New York Times just did a front page story on the ecological and economic havoc that the jellyfish bloom is having all over the world. Swimmers are actually dying from new and rare jellyfish attacks.

So the eco-crisis has hit me where it hurts, it has made my world smaller and less fun. On a global level it’s a small thing versus the expanding Sahara, California wildfires, or the Australian drought, but it’s real to me.

The lesson I learned, the musings I had while drinking Mas de Gourgonnier, Mouries Provence, a long-time favorite organic rosé (the wine’s hue is an art form in itself), at dinner in each new harbor was this: It is the sum of all tiny acts that create either health or death. When one person drinks non-pesticide, herbicide and fungicide laden wine, it will not help or heal the earth. But, if every wine drinker acknowledges their personal responsibility to stop harming the planet and follows suit, it will make a difference.

A primitive life form, the jellyfish, has now shown us that if we don’t respect the earth’s soils and waters and stop polluting them, we can and will be stung globally in toxic profusion. There will be nowhere to swim. Drink only organic and biodynamic wines please. Save the planet and yourself.


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