By Alia Wilson

Garbage patches twice the size of Texas accumulating along the coasts of Hawaii and the continental United States have students at UC Santa Cruz rising to action.

California Student Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) organized in front of the Baytree Bookstore last Thursday in hopes of pulling together student volunteers for beach cleanups.

The group also plans to send a petition to Congressman Sam Farr (D-Santa Cruz) to support legislation in favor of reducing the amount of plastics dumped into the ocean.

“We are looking to turn Congressman Sam Farr into a champion of environmental reform,” said Dan Rosenblum, oordinator of CALPIRG UC Santa Cruz.

With an initial goal to get 50 signatures in three hours, CALPIRG was pleased to surpass that number by acquiring over 200 student signatures.

CALPIRG State Board Chair Tommaso Boggia felt that participation of students in campaigns such as CALPIRG’s is vital to legislative reform.

“[CALPIRG] strives to protect the public interest in the face of corporate greed and political corruption,” Boggia said with a confident smile.

An average of 100,000 marine animals die every year as a result of choking or entangling themselves in plastic material floating on the ocean’s surface. Plastics floating along the currents of the North Pacific are not the only issue that concerns CALPIRG.

The student-led activist group is also trying to bring awareness to harmful algal blooms that result from excess of phosphorus and nitrogen in ocean water.

If ingested by marine life, chemicals from these algal blooms, called demoic toxins, can cause seizures and inhibit the animal’s natural navigation ability.

Marina Olson, coordinator of the CALPIRG Oceans Campaign, explained that the toxins can even cause memory problems in parent marine animals, such as seals, causing them to eat their own young.

“The effects of the toxins are treatable, but [remnants of the chemical] can be stranded afterwards,” Olson said.

“The average American goes through 223 pounds of plastic each year,” Olson said. “The city of Los Angeles has around 12 million people. You figure it out.”

Two cardboard cutouts in the shape of Texas with plastics and other garbage attached acted as effective tools in bringing students to the CALPIRG table, where they could sign postcards addressed to a non-specific legislator, explaining the importance of implementing further regulation on dumping in the ocean.

Roxanna Hope, a recently-recruited CALPIRG intern, expressed her conviction for being involved in such important and timely issues.

“It is something that people are aware of but don’t really think about it,” Hope said. “We’re here to let people know.”