You can actually take matters into your own hands and help fix some of the world's environmental problems by becoming educated and making some simple lifestyle changes.
That's according to local scientists and other experts putting on "Sound Living: Exploring the Connections Between Water, Land and People," a daylong community event Nov. 5 at Everett Community College.
Penny Dalton, director of the Washington Sea Grant, will present a morning keynote speech: "The Power of One: How Individuals Working Together Can Protect Puget Sound."
Billed as a "communiversity," the educational event will feature more than 40 local experts who will speak on topics such as salmon, sea birds, harbor seals, endangered whales, fisheries restoration, algae blooms and contaminants in Snohomish County waters.
Other speakers will address the ins and outs of backyard chickens, rain gardens, beneficial insects, noxious weeds and septic systems.
Fourteen lecture choices will be offered during each of the three breakout sessions for more than 40 choices in all.
Franchesca Perez, an outreach biologist with the Stillaguamish Tribe, will talk about "The Pharmacy in Your Backyard: Weeds and Native Plants for Your Health."
Attendees at the event also can learn more about local history at various talks.
Tom Murphy, founder of the Learn and Serve Environmental Anthropology Field School at Edmonds Community College, will present "Jetty: A Natural History of a Man-Made Island," while Tina Dinzl-Pederson with Washington State Parks will share "Historic Skills for Modern Day Living: Ideas from Cama Beach."
The Washington State University Snohomish County Extension Beach Watchers, a group of trained volunteers, and local marine-focused organizations are hosting the inaugural event, modeled after the Island County Beach Watchers' one-day university known as "Sound Waters," which has been held for more than 15 years.
"It has been so incredibly well-received in Island County, we decided to copy their work here," said Snohomish County Beach Watchers coordinator Chrys Bertolotto. "We know there are many people craving information about the natural environment all around us, but they might not have the time to become Beach Watchers.
"This one-day communiversity is designed for those people."
Dalton, who came to Seattle six years ago, said the people of Puget Sound can easily take local waters for granted because they don't look like they could ever become polluted.
"Everything looks very pristine," she said.
They also might not realize what they do on their property inland -- not disposing of pet waste properly and overusing gardening pesticides, for example -- can harm local waters.
When you're standing on the ground, land and sea may not seem all that connected, Dalton said.
But from up high, flying into Sea-Tac on a clear day, for example, they appear completely intertwined.
"It's like a mosaic of water and land," Dalton, 60, said. "And that's really the way the system works: They're all interconnected with each other."
Dalton, as director of the Washington Sea Grant, a partnership between the University of Washington and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, knows the powerful results motivated individuals can have on the environment.
She likes to use the old adage: "If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito."
Dalton isn't advocating going entirely solo if you're ready to create big change in Puget Sound, also known as the Salish Sea.
"A lot of times, it takes one person to have the idea and start the thing, but there are usually a number of people involved in making it happen," she said.
Just educating friends and family can be a start, she said.
"People feel very connected to Puget Sound," she said. "If they know what to do, they're willing to try to do the right thing."
Sarah Jackson: 425-339-3037; firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
What: "Sound Living: Exploring the Connections Between Water, Land and People" is a community-focused day of learning, a "communiversity," presented by the Washington State University Snohomish County Extension Beach Watchers, the Snohomish County Marine Resources Committee, the Puget Sound Partnership and Everett Community College.
Where: Everett Community College, 2000 Tower Ave. Everett.
When: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 5. Doors open at 8 a.m. Events begin at 9 a.m., followed by a keynote speech at 9:15 a.m. and breakout sessions at 10:45 a.m., 1:15 and 2:45 p.m.
Who: Lectures are geared toward adults and are recommended for ages 13 and older or youth who are especially interested in the topics.
Cost: Registration is $35 or $20 for students. Both rates go up $5 after Nov. 2, when online registration closes. Registration at the door requires cash or a check. Sandwich lunches will be available for purchase at registration or attendees can bring their own.
Information: To register, go to http://tinyurl.com/soundliving, where you'll also find a full event program and schedule, including presentation descriptions, presenter biographies and a mail-in registration form. Call 425-357-6028 with questions.
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