Natural grass is best option

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To the Editor:

I am a member of the M.V. Environmental Educators Alliance, Straw Free MV, and Plastic Free MV. I have been working to educate children about the dangers of plastic pollution in our environment for roughly 20 years on M.V. and in California. I have been trying to stay out of the discussion about synthetic turf vs. natural grass fields at MVRHS, but I feel as though I can’t sit idly by without voicing my concern.

I first learned about plastic pollution in our environment from my friend Dr. Marcus Eriksen (5gyres.org). He came into my classroom in Los Angeles with the stomachs of albatross chicks that had died of starvation. He brought them from Midway Atoll, a chain of remote islands in the North Pacific Ocean. My students dissected the stomachs to find bits of plastic … the reason the chicks had starved. Midway is in the middle of the Pacific Gyre, one of many huge masses of plastic that we have discarded. My students immediately started brainstorming ways they could help, and they formed Straw Free Sunset. They walked up and down Sunset Boulevard, asking restaurants to please stop using plastic straws. This was something that they, as kids, could do in their neighborhood. They didn’t need adults to help. This was something they could do to make a change with nothing more than a passion to help their environment.

Four years ago here on M.V., I had a group of students for a community service project, and they were tasked with coming up with a way to help their community. They came up with the idea of plastic pollution (and eliminating straws) on their own. They have been to almost every restaurant on M.V. by now, asking if owners could please stop or limit the amount of plastic in their environment. This year I have a new group of students, one of whom accompanied me to a meeting with State Rep. Dylan Fernandes to discuss the creation of a plastic water bottle ban. While at the meeting, after talking about this plastic bottle ban and what a great idea it is, an adult in the room said, “Well, we can always do this next year.” My student asked me later, “Why wait?” And she was absolutely correct. Four months after this meeting, Plastic Free MV has a bylaw on the town warrant for three island towns.

I understand the synthetic turf is not a straw, nor is it a plastic bottle. It is not “single use” plastic. It probably won’t end up in the stomach of an albatross. But plastic is plastic. The creation of plastic uses fossil fuels, which release greenhouse gases such as methane and ethylene into the atmosphere. This contributes to global warming. A two-acre synthetic field contains the equivalent of 3 million plastic bags. This will eventually break down and get into the soil, waterways, food chains, and our children.

We are already bombarded with plastic. I went to Bali a few years ago, and was devastated by the amount of plastic floating IN from the Indian Ocean. There is a wealth of information about the excessive amount of plastics in our environment, it’s even in our bloodstream. I worry about what will happen to this plastic field when its work is done. Where will it really go? As we all well know, there is no “away.”

The natural option of a grass field would sequester carbon from the atmosphere and filter pollutants, not add pollutants to the environment. I would hate to see the healthy alternative of grass taken away. The pendulum is swinging back, and so many cities and even countries are beginning to ban plastic … straws, bags, bottles, etc. The more we educate ourselves, and our children, the less we seem to want so much plastic in our lives. What does that say? I have a hard time understanding why anyone would want more plastic, when so many of our children are fighting for less.

Annemarie Ralph
West Tisbury

1 COMMENT

  1. Ok, your letter did a few a things for me.
    I now support the turf field, and will definitely vote against your straw and bottle initiative.
    Stop using kids as a criticism shield.

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