When it rains, it pours. First, W lifts the ban on offshore oil drilling and now Hugger HQ has learned that the so-called dead zone within the Gulf of Mexico may grow to a record setting 8,800 square miles, an area approx. the size of New Jersey! Seems the recent flooding in the Midwest has resulted in a larger than normal amount of agri-chemical run-off into the Gulf of Mexico which helps account for this years "dead-zone" expansion. However, the real issues here are that there is a normal level of agri-chemical run-off and frankly, that there is a "dead-zone" at all.
You may be asking yourself: What is the "dead zone" and what can I do to help reduce it?
For an answer, Seahuggers has enlisted the help of the book "50 Ways to Save the Ocean". Below is a direct excerpt from way number 12:
Farmers in the Midwest use up to 140 pounds of synthetic fertilizer per acre for corn and other chemically-dependent crops. Each spring, surplus fertilizer and agri-chemicals are washed down the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico where they encourage the growth of a massive algae bloom. When the algae decay they are fed on by bacteria, which suck the dissolved oxygen out of the water (eutrophication). This lack of oxygen creates a "dead zone" larger than New Jersey that kills every form of life that cannot flee its reaches.
Similar harmful algal bloom, dead zones, and diseases along our coasts are also linked to "nutrient pollution" from agricultural chemicals and factory farms. Concentrated animal feed operations for cattle, poultry, and hogs displace thousands of family farmers, crowd animals, and intensify pollution from animal wastes. At the same time factory farming offers little or no benefit in terms of the health and flavor of the meat and dairy products we consume. Much of the animal waste from these operations takes the form of nitrogen which finds its way into our coastal waters, spreading diseases and smothering productive habitats such as sea grass meadows and coral reefs. Our food choices as consumers can significantly affect these trends.
Simple things you can do include these:
1. Look for the organic label, and purchase organically grown foods whenever possible. This could significantly reduce the amount of chemical fertilizers flowing to the sea.
2. Choose a vegetarian diet or reduce the amount of the meat you consume; you'll reduce the amount of water and waste required in the production of your food.
3. Try organic barley or grass-fed beef as an alternative to corn-fed feedlot meat. Most American corn is grown with heavy applications of petrochemical fertilizers. What's more, cow's stomachs aren't adept at digesting corn, so it's use as a primary feed has led to more sick animals, which generates more waste.
4. Try to purchase fresh, locally grown foods. Doing so reduces the amount of oil used to transport foods from fields to stores and also supports local farmers.
5. Learn to savor the flavor: make fresh organic meals a center of your social and family life. Don't feel guilty about putting time into a fine meal. Treat your food as more than fast fuel.