Monday, October 31, 2011

Fright Delight

Have you ever been out swimming alone in the big blue?

I was swimming off Kauai once, alone in some big morning waves. I had fins and a mask but was feeling tossed around. As usual the ocean did what it wanted with me.

I looked down and saw shafts of light knifing downward through the green water into the abyss, into the darkness below me. I could see no bottom, no coral, or anything but the deep.

I imagined the beasts that would come up and devour me. I imagined sinking into that darkness, the water getting colder, the light dimming, lungs burning. My heart raced.

I raised my head out of the water to get my bearings and to be reassured by the land. It was there but felt far away. The jungle behind the small beach was more shadow than deep green.

Another swell forced me to focus on the water again. I bobbed and swam, and made progress. I would be back ashore soon enough. I knew that.

Then I looked below me once more, into the abyss -- I couldn't resist -- and my heart raced again.

Happy Halloween.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sunny Outlook

According to the Boston Globe, "the high costs that for years made solar impractical as a mainstream source of energy are plummeting. Real estate companies are racing to install solar panels on office buildings. Utilities are erecting large solar panel “farms’’ near big cities and in desolate deserts. And creative financing plans are making solar more realistic than ever for homes.

Solar power installations doubled in the United States last year and are expected to double again this year. More solar energy is being planned than any other power source, including nuclear, coal, natural gas and wind." 

There are issues, yes, from concerns about renewal of much needed financial support and incentives from the federal government, to favorable return on investment, to impact on the desert tortoise.

But on this Friday, I will bask in this sunny outlook for at least a few minutes.

Full article.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What is This?

Appropriately dark and fuzzy, an image from six miles below the ocean's surface comes into view and a clutch of scientists hold their breath.

It's called a xenophyophore. A what? Yup, even the name is intriguing.

These are the largest one celled organisms around and they have the ability to thrive in the dark and cold at the bottom of the ocean, according to Fox News.

How did they get this image? Scientists dropped a camera encased in a thick glass bubble into the depths, glass thick enough to withstand eight tons per square inch of pressure. Great stuff.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Money Says Yes

Investors representing $20 trillion in total assets are all in when it comes to a clean energy economy.

They said as much and more in a four page Global Investor Statement that outlines what is needed to get there including an end to fossil fuel subsidies, a reduction in greenhouse gases, and policies that support renewable energy development.

This statement adds a heft to those who advocate for a renewable energy future. These money guys do not mess around.

It is not a pipe dream. It is not a fringe "cause". It's a business. It's an industry. Time to leave the deniers and the doubters behind. Some people just don't get it.

Here is an excerpt, in wonderfully dry and serious language, from the investors' statement:

An integrated climate change and clean energy policy framework should include:

Financial incentives that shift the risk reward balance in favour of low-carbon assets. This includes strong and sustained price signals on carbon, well-designed carbon markets and other appropriate incentives to enable private investment in clean energy. An integral part of this should be the removal of fossil fuel subsidies.

Clear short-, medium- and long-term greenhouse gas emission reduction objectives and targets, and comprehensive, enforceable legal mechanisms and timelines for delivering on these objectives and targets.

Comprehensive energy and climate change policies that accelerate the deployment of energy efficiency, cleaner energy, renewable energy, green buildings, clean vehicles and fuels, and low-carbon transportation infrastructure.

Comprehensive policies directed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from sources other than energy, for example waste, industrial emissions, fugitives, land-use change, deforestation and agriculture.

Policies supporting investment in renewable energy generation, including measures that support the access for electricity generated from renewable energy sources to electricity transmission and distribution infrastructure.

The investors' statement was also covered in Triple Pundit.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Legal Seafood Ads Get the Job Done

Legal Sea Foods' latest ad spot says save the fish "so we can grill that baby up real nice."  They are attention-getters, and the reasoning behind them is sound -- people respond to things that impact their lives.

This seems basic but doubt it has been said in quite this way before, and that makes it original and inspired. 

People need to understand that that their favorite fish to eat might disappear altogether if we don't fish sustainably. Save the tuna so we can eat tuna sushi long into the future. Save the cod so we can have more fish and chips.

The ad stumbles when it mockingly says save this sea life because "every creature is sacred" or something touchy feely along those lines. That's a bit of a cheap shot.

I have not run into anyone in the marine conservation world who has advocated saving a fish because of their holy stature or anything like that. So the joke can be a put-off but a mild one -- the bottom line message is "save".

The ad is likely much more effective at reaching more people than poetry, certainly more than doom and gloom.

I cannot afford to care too deeply how we get there (as long as it's smart and does not create more problems). 

The focus is on the end game. If these ads end up saving sea life and achieving healthy oceans, they are getting the job done. Good work.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Ocean Blues

I went down to the Atlantic Ocean near Montauk and snapped this photo. I was feeling a little blue on a chilly, mostly overcast October day.

Now, you might think a walk on the brisk beach cured me, but no, it did not. It helped me feel much better, though.

It helped me see how small I was, and you might think that deflating, but no, it was actually inspiring. It is good to know that I am a minuscule part of a powerfully beautiful and intricately connected world.

The ocean does not care that I know that, which is something special in itself, but if I stand and listen and see, I might be lucky enough to absorb its message of life.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

More Work to be Done

New research shows half the world's sea turtles are threatened.

Almost half of the world's most threatened sea turtle species can be found in the northern waters of the Indian Ocean and on nesting beaches lying within Exclusive Economic Zones in countries such as India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, according to the report.

So there's more work to be done. But we knew that. Let's do it.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Clean and Snappy Ocean Video

One World One Ocean put together this snappy video with cut and dry facts and a catchy, kind-of-funky soundtrack. Check it out. It's short and sweet (well not for the oceans, but that's the point).

Why the Ocean?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Know the Tenor of the Opposition

"Those who write the rules are those who profit from the status quo. If we want to change that status quo, we might have to work outside of those rules because the legal pathways available to us have been structured precisely to make sure we don't make any substantial change."

-- Tim DeChristopher, who was sentenced to two years in federal prison and a $10,000 fine for 'disrupting' a Bureau of Land Management auction in 2008.

Strong words. What did Tim do?

DeChristopher decided to participate in the oil and gas lease auction, signing a Bidder Registration Form and placing fake bids to obtain 14 parcels of land.

DeChristopher was removed from the auction by federal agents, taken into custody, and questioned. He did not steal anything or hurt anyone. For that, on July 26, 2011, Judge Dee Benson sentenced DeChristopher to two years in prison and the $10K fine, according to Wikipedia

That seems like overkill, a particularly harsh reaction for something that in another context or another time could be called a stupid prank. It makes one wonder about the opposition to a clean energy economy.

Perhaps it is naive for anyone to imagine that the opposition -- seemingly the fossil fuel industry -- is anything but fierce and obstinate. It appears they are very likely unreasonable; beyond negotiation and persuasion. When people advocating for clean energy say 'climate change is the fight of our lives' it can feel a shade dramatic, but no, I guess it's spot on.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

No Finners Allowed

 Dear Sharks, 

Pack your bags, head over to the Marshall Islands. It's a very safe neighborhood.

Pew Environment Group

Finally some good ocean news -- sanctuaries for sharks are gaining momentum, this new one in the Marshall Islands is the biggest in the world, according to the Saipan Tribune.

Hopefully, sharks can find the well-needed respite from the unfortunately long reach of the Finners, which includes the people with the knives slicing off shark fins and the people creating a market for those fins by eating shark fin soup. Steer clear of Finners, they're bad news.

“We salute the Republic of the Marshall Islands for enacting the strongest legislation to protect sharks that we have seen,” said Matt Rand, director of global shark conservation for the Pew Environment Group, which is spearheading efforts to establish shark sanctuaries, where targeted fishing for these species is prohibited.

“As leaders recognize the importance of healthy shark populations to our oceans, the momentum for protecting these animals continues to spread across the globe.”

Thanks to the Pew Environment Group and everyone who made this happen. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Act Now to Save a Crucial Little Fish

They may be small but menhaden are crucial to the seafood web and they're being overfished.

Here is an opportunity to act. Sign the petition. Courtesy of The Herring Alliance. Pew also has a campaign to save Menhaden. Sign them all.

"These fish play a critical role in the marine food web as prey for striped bass, bluefish, tuna, whales, porpoises, seabirds, and other wildlife. But the essential role menhaden play in the marine ecosystem is now at risk."

Just do it. With climate change breathing down our necks, we cannot afford to lose the building blocks of ocean health and productivity. Besides, they're kinda cute.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Carl Safina Proposes a Merger

Continuing where he left off with his excellent book A View From Lazy Point, Carl Safina, founder of Blue Ocean Institute at Stony Brook University, asked a rapt audience at the Institute’s annual gala to merge knowledge and commitment to stabilize a rapidly overheating planet and a changing ocean.

“In our private and civic lives, our religious places, and our business dealings we must all merge a scientific love of knowledge with a devotion as consistent and values-based as any religion.”

Speaking frankly about current challenges--from ocean acidification to overfishing-- Safina succeeded in conveying hope and inspiration.

Part-poet, part-philosopher, and part scientist, Safina once again added his own refreshing twist. He followed his description of watching a Peregrine Falcon hunting high over the ocean with a quote from Yeats. He spoke of compassion, consumerism and values.

Safina referenced Jacques Cousteau’s famous statement, “We protect only what we love” and went on to say that, “to protect effectively, we must fuse head and heart. Then, we can’t just watch, and we can’t just wait; we must also do. The falcon must search the waves, but it also must focus on a target and execute the plunge.”

He noted that we protect what we love "but not if the love burns us out. So in addition to working, we need to touch the beauty, and we need to have fun a goodly some of the time".

Touch the beauty -- sound and lovely advice.

Safina concluded by asking listeners to merge and embody three things: “Passion in how we care. Cool-headedness in how we evaluate. Devotion in how we act.” To celebrate the proposed merger (and have some fun) Safina lead the crowd in a cheer of “The Ocean Is…Too Big to Fail!”  He then encouraged all present to be part of the ocean’s “bailout.

With over 200 ocean supporters in the room, Institute fund and friend-raising exceeded expectations at The Lighthouse at Pier 61 in Chelsea.

Another highlight of the evening was a talk by Sven-Olof Lindblad, founder of Lindblad Expeditions, who was honored for his role in introducing thousands of travelers to the beauty and awe of nature.

Safina told of a prolific year for Blue Ocean Institute, which included two new books, his Saving the Ocean series airing on PBS, ongoing advances in ocean research, and successful educational programs such as Green Chefs/Blue Ocean. He previewed new initiatives such as an international youth ed program and companion tours of his books on Google Ocean.

During the program a special honor was presented to Marshall Gilchrist in memory of his late brother, Eric Gilchrist, a former board member of Blue Ocean whose bequest now serves as the beginning of an endowment for the Institute.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

California Bans Shark Fins

 California bans shark fins. Bye bye shark fin soup. Great stuff.

Let's move the model over to Hong Kong and China and get it done there.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Celebrate These Ocean Champions in Congress

After typically railing against our politicians in Washington, happy today to celebrate a handful.

There are some who are true ocean champions and they deserve to be acknowledged and celebrated. 

Thanks to the who have worked tirelessly to put this together. From them comes hope.

So celebrate these ocean champions:

Senators Mark Begich (AK), Ben Cardin (MD), Bill Nelson (FL), Olympia Snowe (ME), Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), and Representatives Shelley Berkley (NV), Lois Capps (CA-23), Kathy Castor (FL-11), Sam Farr (CA-17), John Garamendi (CA-10), Martin Heinrich (NM-1), Rush Holt (NJ-12), Ed Markey (MA-7), Nick J.Rahall, II (WV-3), and candidates Val Demings (FL-8) and Jared Huffman (CA-2).

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Steve Wright Misses the Big Wind Power Picture

Steve Wright would be better served to focus on the bigger picture of climate change rather than one wind farm in one part of the world.

In his op-ed, The Not-So-Green Mountains, published in the  New York Times, he rails against a wind energy project in Vermont for its negative impact on the Lowell Mountains. This view is narrowed by the blinders of local environmentalism.  

Certainly, his blanket indictment of wind energy “in Maine and off Cape Cod” is a disservice.

The bigger and broader view is every beautiful mountain in Vermont denuded and massive biodiversity loss throughout the region because of mutated weather due to climate change. 

These very real scenarios are many, and the interconnectedness of nature ensures there are still many more we cannot even predict or imagine yet. 

I agree with Steve about the value of nature. I suggest we are on the same team in the fight of our lives. But some compromise is necessary. We cannot accept flagrant assaults on ecosystems, but we also cannot lose on climate change.

People who will determine the victor end up listening to the most strident voices, usually with facts trampled underfoot. It's the harmful bluster of climate deniers and the fossil fuel industry. It damages all of us when Wright adds his voice to theirs.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Bad Acid Trip

This one gets the warning: Love of the natural world can often lead to chronic grumpiness and foul language.

Doom and gloom is not recommended but sometimes we have to hear it.

Grist published a good story detailing the personal, and commercial, impact of ocean acidification. Look at how it effects a family oyster business in Oregon as well as the consumer.

Serious: "I'm afraid the ocean will be dead long before we have to worry about the other implications of global warming," Barton (scientist in the story) says quietly. "I didn't believe any of this stuff three years ago. I was always skeptical about our global models ... But ocean acidification is pretty cut and dried for me now. You see it every day. You can't escape it."