First and foremost, congratulations on Relay For Life’s fundraising accomplishments for the Canadian Cancer Society. It is truly inspiring to see a community come together to support such a worthy cause.
I am writing, however, to raise concern about the picture on the front page of the Salmon Arm Observer showing the release of balloons for the start of the event. While I understand that this can be a very symbolic gesture, I would like to raise awareness of the environmental impacts of such action.
The mass release of latex balloons poses risk to the surrounding environment. Mass releases litter the water and earth on which the balloons land, and pose a risk to wildlife due to ingestion and strangulation. Despite the fact that latex balloons are biodegradable, this process takes approximately six months. As a result, many U.S. states have made mass balloon releases illegal. Environmental awareness groups from around the world have also created campaigns to raise awareness of this issue. For examples, check out the websites of the Marine Conservation Society or the UK River Network.
I strongly encourage an organization as important as the Canadian Cancer Society to consider a voluntary ban on the release of mass balloons and to think of alternative means to mark events like the Relay For Life. Alternatives, among endless possibilities, include planting a tree or floating petals down a stream. There are other ways to send messages of hope.
Questioning the far-reaching impacts of our actions (and the alternatives) is vital for the health of humans as well as the planet. Small actions can lead to big change in the future.