Friday, July 29, 2011

Steinbeck Ponders the Beautiful Abyss

Ocean fascination and appreciation Steinbeck-style:

"For the ocean, deep and black in the depths, is like the low dark levels of our minds in which the dream symbols incubate and sometimes rise up to sight...And even if the symbol vision be horrible, it is there, and it is ours. An ocean without its unnamed monsters would be like a completely dreamless sleep.

-- John Steinbeck from Log from the Sea of Cortez

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Fighting on the Front Line Continues

Sea Shepard's flagship may be impounded or sold after a lawsuit was brought against them by a Malta-based fishing company, Fish and Fish Limited. The boat was on its way to the Faeroes where it was planning to disrupt an annual whale hunt that sees around 1000 of the animals killed, according to STV news.

The action is in relation to damage they allege was done to bluefin tuna fishing gear by Sea Shepherd in the Mediterranean last year.

Whether we like their methods or not, Sea Shepard is on the front lines of a battle for the health of the oceans that is both real and symbolic.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Save the Big Guys

Scientists from six countries reaffirmed that all the animals in a habitat -- ocean, mountain, forest, etc -- are closely connected, and the largest, top predators are especially important for the health of the entire habitat.

This goes for whales, sharks, tuna, salmon, and many others in the marine world.

Lead author of the study, James Estes, a marine ecologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, states “The top-down effects of apex consumers have diverse and powerful effects on the ways ecosystems work, and the loss of these large animals has widespread implications," according to Mother Earth News.

The examples cited by the scientists show how health of a habitat is closely connected in surprising ways to the health of the larger animals.

    * Industrial whaling has led to declining populations of plankton-eating great whales. There is carbon contained in the whales’ feces and whales deposit this carbon in the deep sea. The decline of the whale population has led to an increase of 105 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere.

    * The baboon population was amplified due to the destruction of lions in Africa. Baboons carried over intestinal parasites to human settlements nearby.

    * The reintroduction of wolves in Yellowstone National Park reduced deer and elk populations, allowing aspen and willow trees to recover.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The New One Percent Rule

One percent of global GDP invested in renewable energy would provide 80% of the world’s power in four decades but “only if governments pursue the policies needed to promote green power,” according to a new report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

If the full range of renewable technologies were deployed, the world could keep greenhouse gas concentrations to less than 450 parts per million, the level scientists have predicted will be the limit of safety beyond which climate change becomes catastrophic and irreversible, according to the Guardian.

here feels subjective – the oceans are already becoming more acidic and this is catastrophic in the here and now, not only in the future. Also, 80% of the world's power from renewables is fantastic but four decades -- do we have that kind of time? Seems like the oceans do not.

Nevertheless, these results, these tangibles, are the kind of positive thinking we need to get us there.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Air Travel and Nature's Connection

Maybe the way to understand the connection between people and the natural world is to think of an airline flight.

There you are in your assigned seat after takeoff, seat belt fastened as per the rules, eating the paltry pack of nuts and sipping some beverage wondering about all the important things you have to wonder about.

Suddenly the seat in front of you comes back abruptly into your space.  You feel you could almost chip a tooth. Or your tray table begins to shake wildly at some point and your drink almost spills.

The person in the seat in front of you has forgotten that the back of their seat is the front of the space for you. Everything they do, from fully reclining their chair to tapping their head against their headrest, has an impact on your experience.

This is the way people are connected to nature.

The idea is not to fight it but to find a mutually-acceptable balance between your comfort and theirs.

Image courtesy:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Good News Trickles In

Two pieces of good ocean news courtesy of Ocean Champions this week -- an important bill to reduce the Gulf of Mexico dead zone has passed a US House subcommittee, and funding for key marine conservation programs was restored. 

The latter was due in large part to the good work of Representative Sam Farr of California. Thanks Sam, and thanks everyone who continues to work for healthy and sustainable seas.

Monday, July 18, 2011

What's Next

So they send a rover deep into the ocean off Canada to see if the sponges and corals that are destroyed by trawling (raking heavy nets and iron chains across the bottom of the seafloor) are important to the fishery. Looks like the answer is yes.

What's the next move? A reconsideration of fishing gear? A look toward a healthy and sustainable fishery even twenty years from now? Right.

People who want more money now hire a good PR firm or a scientist to poke holes in the research, or a lawyer to defend the right to trash the ocean that feeds them.

Sorry, just been reading lots of ocean conservation news lately, makes me edgy.

Read more about the research here.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Nice Jump in Clean Energy Investments

Global clean energy investments increased 23% to the tune of $211 billion, according to USA Today.

Keep it coming! Let's get a momentum going that even the climate deniers and the fossils in the fossil fuel industries cannot stop.

This is the clean energy future. Get on board.

Telling Stats: 

China led all nations with about $49.8 billion in investments, ahead of German spending of $41 billion and U.S. spending of $29.6 billion.

Big gains came in small-scale projects such as rooftop solar panels, up 91% to $60 billion, tied to stimulus spending by nations in 2010, and government research, up 121% to $5.3 billion.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Melancholy Mangroves

According to Treehugger and Brian Skerry, who took this great shot, this is a lemon shark pup only a few months old (about 12 inches in length), and it swims in the shallow water (about 12 inches deep) of a mangrove on the Bahamian island of Bimini.

Mangroves serve as natural nurseries for sharks and many other species of marine wildlife, offering protection until they are large enough to live in the open ocean.

After this photograph was made, much of the mangrove habitat in Bimini was destroyed by developers building a resort and golf course.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Another Red Flag Flutters So Briefly

Australian scientists recently described the deadly effects of rising ocean temperatures, due to the combustion of fossil fuels, on economically important seaweeds.

"Without these seaweeds, grazing species of fish and invertebrates would lose a vital food source. These same creatures — along with encrusting animals that must anchor themselves onto a surface for survival, such as barnacles, sea sponges and corals — would also lose their habitat," according to Reuters.

"These...organisms are probably much more ecologically and socioeconomically important for the marine environment on a global scale," said Thomas Wernberg, a marine biologist at the University of Western Australia's Oceans Institute.

"We are now starting to see the effects of historic fossil-fuel combustion and cannot prevent the outcome," said Sandra Brooke, a marine biologist. 

It's more grim news about how human activity slowly, steadily undermines the natural world while many fossil fuel burning companies throw millions of dollars at keeping the status quo, and their wallets stuffed.

This is how it happens. We hear a little bit about it, maybe we skim the story, another red flag for the health of the oceans flutters ever so briefly. Few people can really be bothered. It's really, really far away, you know? How can I be responsible for that? It is almost too much to ask, isn't it? 

This is usually where I try to inject some optimism but I'm all out today.

Read the full story by Katherine Bagley here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Good But Go After the Source

Great news for sharks from Chile and the Bahamas but the real challenge is on the other end of the economics of killing sharks.

To really save sharks is to go after demand. That's the people who eat shark fin soup.

A huge shark sanctuary has been declared in the Bahamas and Chile has banned finning. As noted in Treehugger, "Illegal shark catches are unfortunately all too common, and with demand for shark fins still high in the world market, countries instituting bans on commercial fishing will have to put in the effort to ensure the bans are followed." 

As uncomfortable as it may be to tell people what they should or should not do, shark fin soup is the poster child for abuse of the natural world. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Ancient Oceans

Lots of sand, no ocean. Sitting here in Northern New Mexico, enjoying the beautiful land with no beach. Although hundreds of millions of years ago this area was an ocean and we're still finding the bones that remind us that this place was once teeming with marine life.

Guest Blogger: Jennifer Klopp

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Think Before You Spray

Or don’t spray at all.

This is the time of year for fun in the sun and for spraying chemicals all over the place, apparently.

The big news is this summer you can not only get some weed and bug killer but also you can buy it in jumbo size, so you can be ready for the giant insect that ate suburbia I guess.

TV commercials show someone splashing the man-made chemical onto the house and yard and driveway with a continuous jet spray. The music is upbeat and the sprayer is an attractive woman who makes it look as effortless as a stroll in the park. Maybe she’s humming a song “we’re killin' the bugs, we’re killin' the bugs, do da do da”.

 How about a pause and, perish the thought, a thought.

What are these bugs that we all trying to kill?  What is this horrendous threat?  And finally, is killing the bugs worth it? Not the cost in dollars and cents but in health and psyche plus the impact on the natural world.

All roads lead to the rivers and streams and oceans. Those chemicals eventually find their way into that stream there and that bay over there. Runoff pollution is no minor problem. Just ask the out of work lobster fishermen in Connecticut who are certain their million dollar fishery collapsed due to pesticide spraying for bugs in nearby towns, some of them miles from the coast.

Surely all of these chemicals are heavily regulated and the government wouldn’t allow anything unsafe to get into our hands. Riiiiiiiight.

How many times have we heard the news report that shows such and such product (surprise! surprise!) previously deemed fine by the US Government, and the industry that created it, has been determined to sterilize humming birds or cause cancer in people?

I’m pretty sure the guy who fishes locally or likes to turnover rocks looking for salamanders at the nearby creek would think before spraying and probably not spray at all. That’s because in some small way, he is connected to nature.

But it’s sad because when we kill the natural world, we kill ourselves. We are a part of it and it is a part of us. Ask: Why is it invariably refreshing to get out and see some nature versus not? Why do patients in hospitals heal faster if they have a view of some greenery than patients who do not?

Nature is good for people in ways we don’t even fully understand. So let’s treat it better.

Start by not dousing our yards and homes in chemicals you wouldn’t want near your baby or your cat or your glass of water.

How about introducing natural predators to eat those bugs you don’t like? How about realizing that the bugs are just bugs, who cares -- why are you killing those bugs?

Who knows, you may even decide that the threat of the bugs is minor compared to the potential heavy costs of spraying, and you might not spray at all.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Energy Independence Day

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the capitalistic bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the renewable energy powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness and clean energy from domestic sources.

— That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed not the fossil fuel industry and their lobbyists.

— That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new Government unbeholden to partisan bickering, posturing, and a general waste of voters’ time and money.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Success with Whale Sharks

In the Philippines, US AID's conservation via tourism model has found success with Whale Sharks.

This quote from a local fishermen sums it up and provides a bit of hope in the bad news world of the big blue.

“In the next ten years, if we continue to protect whale sharks and its habitat, I see more people like me benefiting from it,” said Abe (Abelardo Llave).

It took a lot of work to get here though, so great job all involved including those at AID and the World Wildlife Fund and the fishermen. Thanks! 

Read the whole story from US AID  here.
Image courtesy of