Friday, March 30, 2012

Government for Sale


I usually try for optimism, positive stories, and even beauty, especially on Fridays, but some things are too maddening.  Like when our taxes support a dirty business for no other reason than the influence of money in our government.

Subsidies for Big Oil are tax breaks that we pay for.  We say we don't like them (74% of Americans say end subsidies, according to one poll), and past government officials on both sides of the aisle, including former President George W, say the subsidies are unnecessary.  Yet they persist.  Why?  Because the people that "run the country" are for sale.

Yesterday, legislation to end billion dollar subsidies for Big Oil was once again defeated.  The elected officials who voted to end the subsidies received $5 million in campaign contributions from Big Oil and the unscrupulous officials who voted to keep the subsidies as "incentives to explore" received $23 million from Big Oil, according to Think Progress

Above is a clip from MSNBC where the details are carefully laid out (the first 6 minutes).  The unfortunate conclusion is clear:  our government has been bought by the same companies that rake it in ($37 billion in profits at last count) selling us gasoline and telling us the lie that we cannot have jobs and prosperity without their pollution.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Turn Out the Lights in Two Days

Earth Hour is 2 days away but it's not too late to join the fun. 

First, there's Earth Hour itself -- switching off the lights for one hour all over the world at 830 pm (2030) on Saturday March 31st.  Sounds like a good excuse for a bring your own candle party.

Join the "hundreds of millions of people, businesses and governments around the world" who are doing just that on Saturday, according to the Earth Hour site. 

Second, there's the "I Will If You Will" challenge via You Tube and Earth Hour.  Cool stuff.

This is where you can accept challenges like "I'll do the polar bear swim IF 2000 people agree to pick up trash by the beach" or "Committed will perform a free concert IF 5,000 people will give up plastic bottles".

I've already accepted the polar bear swim and to run a marathon.  I am looking to create my own, maybe walk everywhere for two weeks if 10,000 people make sustainable seafood choices, or something like that.

All of it is fun and inspiring, let alone a lovely nod to planet earth. 

Earth Hour is a World Wildlife Fund program.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Spank the Captain

Past civilizations fished sustainably.  Why can't we? 

Maybe it's because they used corporal punishment to enforce the rules.  Naturally, Eco Ocean is not advocating such measures except maybe for those people, no, just kidding.

But stricter rules and active enforcement in fisheries go a long way.

Scientists Loren McClenachan from Colby College and Jack Kittinger from Stanford who studied sustainable fishing from long ago caution that effective enforcement needs to go hand in hand with the development of local governance, according to Red Orbit.

“The ancient Hawaiians punished transgressors with corporal punishment. Clearly, we don’t recommend this, but it’s easy to see there’s room to tighten up today’s enforcement efforts,” said Kittinger.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Can't Afford Not To

Nathanael Greene, director of renewable-energy policy at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said that the government should not end wind and solar subsidies in a recent story in the Tennessean

His comments came in response to Republicans who are trying to end the subsidies, mainly Senators Lamar Alexander (TN), Jim DeMint (SC), and Mike Lee (UT).

Alexander said that wind turbines were inefficient.  Greene said that while individual wind turbines don’t operate all the time, they function well as part of a larger electrical grid.  And they generate electricity that’s comparable in price to coal.

Mainly, Greene noted the reality that the fossil fuel industry does not want to acknowledge: we need the subsidies, just like the fossil fuel industry did (and still claims they do) 50 years ago.

“We just can’t afford not to be a leader on clean energy,” he said. “We need those jobs and we need the clean air that comes from it.”

Wind-power advocates say the country could get up to 20 percent of its power from wind without facing any reliability problems.  In 2010, 2.3 percent of the country’s electricity came from wind, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Hello Leviathan

Great shot by Brian Skerry, his assistant with a southern right whale on the ocean floor near New Zealand.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Navy Plows through GOP SLOP

Even the Navy is not safe from GOP polluters.

The US Navy Chief was recently flogged by GOP members at a House budget meeting who will fight bow to stern for dirty air, according to Clint Wilder on Huntington Post.  There was yelling and fist pounding. 

These GOP tools want us to believe that we cannot have jobs and prosperity without pollution.

Fortunately, the Navy is smart and sees the writing on the wall.  They are going ahead with renewable energy programs.  They know that we cannot afford this fossil fuel addiction. 

But I am less generous than Clint, who attributed the GOP vitriol to politics. 

I suspect this bombastic reaction comes from politicians who are getting a taste of the hundreds of millions of dollars the fossil fuel industry, including the Koch Brothers, spends to keep the dirty status quo, damn the torpedoes.  Drama, fist pounding -- it's what their supporters want to see, keeps them happy, keeps the cash flowing.

Call it what it is -- GOP SLOP -- dirty fossil fuel money going to the GOP.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Ocean Jerks

Thanks to Ocean Champions, it is clear who is part of the problem.  US Congressmen Steve Southerland from Florida and Jon Runyan from New Jersey for starters.  As their districts include coastal areas, they are particularly poised to make a mess.

But you can do something about it.  Take the survey of who hates the ocean most (for fun), and then donate to Ocean Champions.  Any amount helps.  Many organizations are doing great things but few are taking the fight to these ocean jerks like Ocean Champions.    

Also, send these ocean-haters a note telling them why the oceans deserve some respect, and how healthy oceans mean healthy people.  If you're a constituent, be sure to make your voice heard, and vote against them, early and often. 

Congressman Southerland ranks as the rankest in my opinion.  According to Ocean Champions

"Congressman Southerland narrowly defeated former ocean champion Alan Boyd in 2010, and has since shown up on the wrong side of almost every important ocean health issue:

He loves offshore oil drilling! He voted to exempt Big Oil from using pollution control systems on their offshore drilling platforms, and weaken offshore drilling safety standards to levels lower than those in place before Deepwater Horizon!

He loves big polluters.  He just introduced a bill to neuter the EPA’s ability to regulate water quality in Florida where toxic algal blooms already wreak havoc on coastal habitats, fish, tourism and human health.

He’s not too fond of clean water, generally.  Congressman Southerland voted to rush President Obama’s decision on the dirty Keystone XL pipeline.

The thought of federal agencies managing natural resources responsibly makes him angry (and confused). The Congressman rails against the sensible National Ocean Policy, suggesting it would rob him of all his rights as a citizen.

He's anti-fish.  Congressman Southerland has repeatedly attacked good sustainable fishing policies."

What a tool.  Learn more about ocean jerks.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Take Action Tuesday: Herring Meetings

Take Action Tuesday.  Go to one of these events in New England and New Jersey if you can.  Herring and healthy seas need your help.  "Alewife and blueback herring (known together as river herring) nurture the marine and freshwater ecosystem as food for many mammals, birds and other fish," according to the Herring Alliance.

These are fisheries meetings open to the public.  Showing up and supporting herring, just saying something in support of sustainable herring fishing helps.  Plus, it's energizing to be involved even a little; a fresh breeze in the too-common ill winds of marine conservation.  Also, the meetings themselves are interesting.  It's a chance to see into the process.  No, not like sausage-making of legislation.

Here's some suggestions on what to talk about from the Herring Alliance

Please make your views known at one of the public hearings being held across New England throughout this month. Voice your support for common sense solutions like having federal observers on all trips by these industrial vessels, requiring them to provide their entire catch to these observers for inspection instead of dumping huge amounts of it unseen, and enacting an overall limit on the amount of river herring they can catch and kill each year. Our fishery managers need to hear from you!

Wednesday, March 14, 7-9 p.m., Gloucester, MA
MA Division of Marine Fisheries, Annisquam River Station, 30 Emerson Ave.

Thursday, March 15, 7-9 p.m., Portsmouth, NH
Sheraton Harborside Hotel, 250 Market St.

Monday, March 19, 7-9 p.m., Fairhaven, MA
Seaport Inn, 110 Middle St.

Wednesday, March 21, 7-9 p.m., Portland, ME
Holiday Inn by the Bay, 88 Spring St.

Tuesday, March 27, 7-9 p.m., Plymouth, MA
Radisson Hotel Plymouth Harbor, 180 Water St.

Wednesday, March 28, 7-9 p.m., Warwick, RI
Hilton Garden Inn, One Thurber St.

Thursday, March 29, 7-9 p.m., Cape May, NJ
Congress Hall Hotel, 251 Beach Ave.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Share the Seas to Save Them

Share the seas and save the seas, that's what a report from the University of California Santa Barbara  concluded.

The message hits the common sense buttons on the sustainability board.  And hey, how elegant would it be use the oceans' resources (wind) to combat climate change, a major threat to those very seas? 

Result: Multi (and sustainable) use of the ocean is key to the survival of healthy oceans.

"Using a model of Massachusetts Bay, the authors found that by designing offshore wind farms with multiple ocean users in mind, managers could prevent over $1 million in losses to the incumbent fishery and whale watching sectors, limit impacts on biodiversity conservation, and generate more than $10 billion in extra value to the wind energy sector," according to Futurity.

We are all connected to the sea.  Healthy oceans mean healthy people.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

National Geographic Peddles Tuna

"What we did to the Buffalo on land is what we are doing to the tuna in the oceans," said Carl Safina. 

Calm, clear, and concise is how Safina, marine conservation guru, gives us the reality of bluefin tuna in a short video clip. 

The video clip appears on the National Geographic web site where they say they are: inspiring people to care about the planet.  I've always enjoyed much of their work but their new show about bluefin tuna questions where their inspiration lies.  To the cynical, placing the pro-conservation bluefin tuna clip on their site is to defray criticism of their new show.   

The new show is about hunting bluefin tuna off Massachusetts.  It will likely inspire people to forget about nature and go for the adrenalin rush, and the cash to be paid for such a rare -- as in endangered -- fish.

Just like Shark Week on Discovery channel, these shows do more harm than good, feeding into the bloodlust for the animal.  As the bluefin tuna staggers on the edge of extinction, it is the kind of sensationalism that can strike the coup de grace

The excellent online news magazine, Deep Sea News, covers what National Geographic is doing in a great post.  National Geographic says they will be talking up conservation including fishing quotas on the show but as one commenter on Deep Sea News noted, most people will see the pictures and the exciting action but will not hear what's being said. 

It's only a matter of time before everyone and their brother is out gunning for the endangered fish.  It will invariably increase the demand for tuna and that is the last thing that healthy oceans need. 

I would like to believe that the show will raise awareness and spur action to help save the tuna but I just do not see it.  Hopefully, it will never get off the ground, no offense to the conservation-minded fishermen of Gloucester. 

The whole thing is another sad example of humanity, starting with how we got to this point in the first place.

Check out Carl Safina's crisp, short video.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

How Your State Ranks for Clean Energy

The clean energy potential in the US is there and it is real.  California and New Mexico top the list of states where clean energy investment is most attractive, according to Ernst & Young via Clean Technica.  Still, wind and solar need support as jobs may be lost.

Top 5 States for clean energy investment based on long term attractiveness are:

New Mexico
Massachusetts & Texas (tie)

Meanwhile, the wind energy industry is booming but losing jobs because of threats to the production tax credit. 

"The wind energy industry, which saw 6.8 GW installed in 2011 (3.4 GW in Q4 alone) is nearing 50 GW of power capacity in the U.S., but its key incentive, the Production Tax Credit (PTC), may expire at the end of 2012 and failure to renew it is already costing the U.S. many jobs and many megawatts of clean energy. According to a report on the matter, the U.S. could lose 33,000 jobs by not extending the incentive this year."

Friday, March 9, 2012

Your God Might Appreciate It

Some Christians have given up carbon for Lent.  Of course.  The best ideas seem so obvious.

Lent lasts 40 days so to those committed, that's 40 days of no or little emissions.  That means reduced use of heat, water, and travel and food miles (how far you go using carbon and how far your food goes to get to you).

That's just the beginning.  It appears these are Christians with green motivations.  But treating Earth, the Creation, with respect and care is inherent in most major religions; it just often gets buried.

It might be the Spring weather outside my door, but the potential makes me swoon.  If not to fast for the sake of Lent, then treat the world right because your God would appreciate it. 

Imagine that: The immense passion of religion empowering humanity to connect with nature rather than destroy or dominate her.  Now that would be enlightening.  One can only hope and... 

Check out the video for the Carbon Fast, created by TearFund.

Photo: debs photos

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Money Suckers Invade

Invasive species are somewhat of a "soft" ocean issue, which really means that the urgency and immensity of climate change and overfishing generally overshadows it. 

But just look at what's at stake with invasive species, and Atlantic Ocean lampreys in particular.  These suckers are moving into the Great Lakes threatening a $7 billion fishing industry and requiring millions of dollars in preventive measures.  And that's only lampreys.  There are hundreds of invasive species.

Sea Lamprey sucking on a Lake Trout

I'm exhausted just reading these "control techniques" for lampreys.  According to the Ashland Current:

"There are four main techniques used to control sea lampreys: lampricides, barriers, sterile male release, and trapping.

Lampricides, most notably TFM (3-trifluoromethyl-4-nitrophenol), kills sea lamprey larvae in streams and is typically the most effective method used to control sea lamprey in the Great Lakes. Testing since the early 1950s suggests TFM has negligible effects or is completely nontoxic to fish, wildlife, invertebrates, and aquatic plants. In addition, TFM is harmless to humans and other mammals at the applied concentration.

Barriers are created to block sea lampreys from migrating upstream to spawn, while still allowing other fish to pass; velocity barriers prevent passage by taking advantage of the lampreys’ poor swimming ability, electrical barriers use current to repel the sea lampreys during spawning migration, and adjustable-crest barriers are inflated during the spawning season and deflated to allow fish passage throughout the rest of the year.

Sterile male release is the practice of capturing and sterilizing male sea lampreys, then releasing them back into streams to compete with non-sterilized males for spawning females. Females that attempt to breed with sterilized sea lampreys will not become fertilized, and therefore will not produce offspring. Streams that implement sterile male release technique have been known to have significant decreases in sea lamprey population, and are becoming increasingly popular in large waterbodies where lampricide treatment is too expensive.

Traps for sea lampreys are often installed near barriers. Males that are caught are typically sterilized and released following the sterile male release technique, while females are used for research."

And yes, the chemicals used to control lampreys make me uneasy -- how do they impact other marine species?

There is a long list of marine invasive species including lionfish, red algae, and the Asian shore crab. 

Invasive species come from far away places.  They leave their predators behind so in their new environment they enjoy free reign.  They usually experience a population explosion thereby edging out native species.  Often these invaders get a free ride to their new home in the ballast water of big ships.

Learn more about invasive species including where they come from and what to do about them.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Respect for Japan's Debris

Tsunami debris from Japan is and will be washing ashore on the US West Coast.  Scientists can even track the plume across the vast Pacific even. 

Of course let's not forget the tragedy of it all.  A shoe, a toothbrush, a favorite doll -- these are the flotsam of lives shattered by the tsunami.  And much of it sank into the cold, dark blue.

Everyone can fathom how an emotion, a memory, is attached to an object, even or especially the mundane.  We are connected that way.  Let's respect that with Japan's sad debris.

There is good that we can get out of it, too.  An important teaching moment.  The debris from Japan washing ashore from thousands of miles away shows another kind of connection.

The ocean is finite despite it's raw power and enduring beauty.  An impact or an insult on one part of the ocean can easily reverberate elsewhere, even places out of sight and out of mind.

We are connected to the oceans.  Healthy oceans mean healthy people.  Let's show a little respect in this regard, too.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Don't Be Blue Over Big Blue

When looking at ocean issues, sometimes it is easy to get all glum, and that leads to thinking no one really cares about any of this. Boo hoo.

Well, these people do care and they didn't let the blues get 'em down.  Their stories are inspiring no matter how you slice it. 

They certainly inspired Blue Frontier Campaign to award them the 2012 Benchley Awards. 

From fighting dead zones to cleaning up harbors to fantastic photography to protecting whole swaths of coastline, these people rock.  They found solutions and took action.  Great stuff.  Thank you!

Celebrate what they did here.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Way Better than Bullying Wetlands

Clean energy peeps fear not, the Army Corps of Engineers is on the case.

Now that may sound like comfort to few and scary to most, especially those who know of the corps' long history of trying to control nature.  Shove a river aside here, apply their Goliath-sized straight edge to wetlands there, often to the detriment of neighbors, people and beast alike.  

These are renewable energy projects, though, $7 billion worth, according to TPM Media.

What's actually nice is the Department of Defense is driving it. Overpriced hammers and killer drones aside, when the military-industrial complex throws its back into something good for a change, there is reason to smile, at least a thin, toothless one.  It may be ham handed, it may be inefficient, but it will get done.

Great quote too, about the simple reality that must change of a military run on fossil fuels: As the President noted, “we just can’t drill our way to lower gas prices,” and the price of fuel is one important factor in DoD’s focus on renewable energy.  That and national security.  Finally.