Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Nice Beach Afternoon

Spent a nice afternoon at a beach.  Here's what I saw:

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Fossil Fueled Thinking Holds Us Back

Trilobites in Washington

This is  a prime example of fossil fueled thinking that is the opposite of innovation and progress, not to mention clean air and water. 

The US Navy solves a vulnerability by using alternatives to petroleum to run its jets, yet high-ranking politicians like Senator Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma immediately shoot it down. 

Inhofe tried to use the excuse of costs for denying the Navy at a recent committee hearing but still could not help his completely unscientific, climate denial-paranoia from bubbling to the surface.

The Pentagon "should not be wasting time perpetrating President Obama's global warming fantasies or his ongoing war on affordable energy,"  he said, according to Seacoastonline.

Wasting time?  I suppose he has not noticed we are pretty much running out of time.

Global warming fantasies?  Seems the only fantasy here is Inhofe wishing it would all go away.  He and his fossil fuel cronies could get back to making piles of cash at the expense of the health and well being of Americans everywhere, including the US soldiers who are put in harm's way to protect our dependence on fossil fuels and the thousands of American children suffering from pollution-induced asthma. 

Affordable energy?  The US recently paid $100 million per month to ship fuel to troops in Afghanistan.  That's $400 per gallon, people. 

By the way, Inhofe is the guy who built an igloo on the Capitol lawn a few years ago and stuck a sign on it that read: "Honk if you love global warming!" 

So maybe he's just not a serious person and is willing to make jokes about drought and ocean acidification. 

But you would hope that by now someone, maybe his staff, would help him open his eyes and see stacks and stacks of peer reviewed scientific data that show that human-caused climate change is already here, and its symptoms, including extreme weather, are all around us.  Then again, fossilized thinking is pretty much by definition set in stone.

What to do?

1. Support clean energy
2. Tell Inhofe what you think about fossil fuels
3. Tell your own representatives in Washington

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

98 Percent of DOE Loan Projects Successful

This should be the last word on Solyndra and the DOE loan program, but I'm sure the rhetoric from fossil fuel inspired politicos will keep going ad nauseam. 

So best just to keep good news like this in mind when you run into a denier, that special someone just unwilling to accept that the future of energy is one of our biggest challenges.  We can do something about it but need to act.  I digress.  Here's the good news:

"These critics keep citing Solyndra, a solar panel manufacturer that went bankrupt because of intense foreign competition. But the projects representing about 98 percent of the program's funding have been successful, especially solar power plants that aren't vulnerable to the volatile global economy. Overall, the program has spurred $40 billion of investments in energy projects over the last five years, while supporting more than 60,000 American jobs.

An independent program review headed by Herbert Allison, a former Wall Street financier, reported that the loan portfolio is performing well, with the great majority of the companies on track to repay their loans on schedule along with $8 billion in interest," according to the Miami Herald.

image: kissmyfacetypepad

Monday, July 23, 2012

Reason to Smile at the Wal Mart Greeter

I've got serious reservations about mega stores including the ultimate: Wal Mart. 

The impact on the local economy, on small businesses, labor practices, and the aesthetics play into these notions.  Maybe it's simply the sense of emptiness, walking around lost in the massive fluorescent box carrying misgivings about the elderly greeter being paid to say hello to me. 

But megas can also move markets and single-handedly make a positive impact.  When they decide to buy sustainable fish for instance, their draw alone moves fisheries to fish with the future in mind.

Plus, they have piles of cash and Wal Mart recently donated some of that -- $71 million -- to conservation efforts including nearly half to marine conservation.

That's pretty sweet and surely enough to garner a smile for the greeter and wish them a nice day right backatcha.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Southerland's God Given Freedom to Fish

Ocean activists are campaigning against the re-election of Representative Steve Southerland (FL) becasue he is directly endangering the health of the oceans. 

But don't listen to me, listen to a fisherman, John Schmidt, in a recent editorial.  This is someone who relies on healthy oceans for his livelihood.  Here he is telling us why Southerland is so dangerous:

"As someone who has been fishing in the Gulf of Mexico for more than 25 years, I’m exasperated by the actions of some in Congress like Rep. Steve Southerland who are working to destroy the livelihoods of myself and hundreds of other hardworking Gulf fishermen.

Earlier this month, Southerland, a Republican who represents Florida’s eastern Panhandle, wrote in The Hill newspaper about his God-given freedom to fish.

God-given freedoms in civilized societies come with responsibilities.  Sport fishermen want more fish, and so do the 97.3 percent of Americans who are simply consumers.  Healthy fisheries are the only way that this can happen. Our country should be celebrating the innovative management in recent years that finally has reversed depletion and began rebuilding our fisheries. But Rep. Southerland wants to stop that and its economic benefits in its tracks.

As someone who relies on the God-given resources in our oceans to make a living, I have seen first-hand that healthy fisheries are essential.

In his essay, Rep. Southerland expressed his support for defunding catch share programs. This innovative management system has proven vital to rebuilding our fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico. Equally important is that we now have systems in place to assure our fisheries stay healthy.  These are among the best fishery management success stories in our nation’s history. Twenty years ago we would never had dreamed that we could provide fresh domestic seafood year-round while rebuilding our fisheries and our jobs at the same time

The catch share system was the fairest solution that didn’t force fishermen out. We worked with federal managers and the regional Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council to establish our own program.  At the local level — not through federal mandate or expanded regulations — we established individual fishing quotas (IFQs) that would enable us to spread out our fishing season and rebuild our fishery at the same time. In 2009, 81 percent of qualified fishermen voted in favor of an active fishery management program that was focused on rebuilding our grouper stocks. In 2010 the Grouper catch share program took effect as a companion to the red snapper catch share program.

Now, for the first time in history we have year-round sustainable fishing jobs and no closed season. The fishery is more valuable because we provide fresh grouper throughout the year.  The product is the best it has ever been.  Fresh fish has become a reality again in our region.  Competition from foreign imports is down, and restaurants are putting fresh Gulf Grouper back on the menu.

The solution that fishermen forged locally is working better than anyone visualized. In spite of this success, Rep. Southerland is determined to prevent fishermen and regional councils from considering this solution for foundering fisheries. He wants to micromanage fishermen from his office in Washington.

Rep. Southerland should leave fisheries management in the hands of fishermen and regional councils."

John Schmidt is a commercial fisherman from Palm Harbor and a member of the Gulf Fishermen’s Association.

Here's 3 things you can do to prevent people like Southerland from doing more damage:

1. Be aware of the issues
2. Be aware of where your representatives stand
3. Vote for healthy oceans and clean energy

As Ocean Champions say: Elections Matter.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Being Better at Spreading the Word

Anyone who loves the oceans can help save them, and it starts with words.

In that spirit, the professionals who successfully created California Marine Protected Areas (MPA) recently offered several insights into being better at spreading the word and getting positive results. 

These can be applied on the individual level as well as to larger audiences.

It is familiar stuff but always a welcome reminder: seek to avoid doom and gloom without belittling the problem. Figure out what resonates with people (do a poll), and fashion your message per audience.

One key concept according to Resource Media is communicating the importance of starting on common ground - connecting with the audience by introducing them to something that they know and love and then add a new concept.

Resource Media also tested how well certain words resonate with people. Based on their results, "people favor words associated with 'solutions' (ex. underwater parks, safe havens, healthy, thrive) rather than negative words (ex. declined, depleted, threatened, vanished, at risk). The term 'underwater parks' resonated well with people because they have a good idea of what a park is (ex. Yosemite), thus creating this 'common ground' discussed above.

They found out too that talking about future generations and outdoor recreation in MPAs as a way of life for Californians resonated well with the audience."

Finally, keeping it simple and consistent are the bread and butter of these things.  So speak up, follow your passion, and take action.

More: 9 Tips on Communicating the Climate Challenge

Friday, July 13, 2012

To the Gulf Stream Waters

Even though this song was written seventy two years ago, it still sounds good.

It resonates with the sense that nature is for all of us to enjoy, celebrate, and protect.  The rambling spirit bathed in inspiring beauty is hard to miss, too, out there under the stars and in his words.  Turn it up.  Happy Birthday, Woody.

This Land is Your Land 
by Woody Guthrie

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California, to the New York Island
From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me

As I was walking a ribbon of highway
I saw above me an endless skyway
I saw below me a golden valley
This land was made for you and me

I've roamed and rambled and I've followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts
And all around me a voice was sounding
This land was made for you and me

The sun comes shining as I was strolling
The wheat fields waving and the dust clouds rolling
The fog was lifting a voice come chanting
This land was made for you and me

As I was walkin'  -  I saw a sign there
And that sign said - no tress passin'
But on the other side  .... it didn't say nothin!
Now that side was made for you and me!

In the squares of the city - In the shadow of the steeple
Near the relief office - I see my people
And some are grumblin' and some are wonderin'
If this land's still made for you and me.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Ocean Mining Licks Its Chops

Gimme Gimme Gimme

Last year, deep ocean mining sounded an alarm by a woman who knows more about ocean life than most.  This week the New York Times gave us an unsettling update. 

Although the story appears balanced, the overall feel is like being blasted by some feverish gold rush bullhorn, hair blown back, ears ringing.

The undersea fire is stoked with talk of "trillions of dollars" and "bonanzas" and the gauntlet is thrown with comments like "It's first come, first get". 

The rush here is so palpable I can almost see the oceans already trampled.

When has surface mining ever favored nature?  How are mining companies going to treat the thousands of unknown species in a technologically-challenging undersea environment?

This isn't trace amounts either -- this is digging up thousands of tons of earth from the seabed, which serves as home to many creatures we hardly understand.  History shows that even the smallest creatures are important to the overall ecosystem and the health of the oceans.  It seems there are many questions.

What kind of mining wastes will be dumped back into the sea?  Will we even know what's really going on out there with underwater mining operations in international waters in the middle of the vast ocean?

Less Rush More Thought 

The Deep Sea Mining Campaign, a group putting the ocean before the gold, advocates for caution and full assessments before mining -- less rush more thought.  But their voice seems drowned out by the bullhorn.

Everyone is watching Nautilus mining company as they are the most aggressive, unfortunately aided by the people who found the Titanic, Odyssey Marine Exploration, and backed by the biggest economy in the world -- China.  They're going after places all over the planet starting with a site near Papua New Guinea; such sites are full of sea life.

Cindy Lee Van Dover,  a marine biologist at Duke University, asks us to hang on and apply the precautionary principle -- to defer "wholesale commercial mining" of the seabed until conservation plans are in place, according to the Vancouver Sun.

In the cross hairs
Seems like the big players cannot hear her voice over the rapacious sounds of collective chop licking.

The International Seabed Authority, which has jurisdiction over mineral resources in international waters, has also received applications for mining exploration of other sea-floor deposits.  The China Ocean Mineral Resources Research and Development Association has its sights on the Southwest Indian Ridge, and Russia has applied to work on the mid-Atlantic Ridge, according to the story.

This is a good fight. As Van Dover said, "There are creatures of extraordinary beauty down there, exquisitely adapted to their environment." 

Read the full Vancouver Sun story here.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Ocean Victories to Leap Over

Two ocean victories to celebrate.  Keep these in mind when it feels particularly bleak out there for big blue.

In China, shark fin soup has been banned from official functions such as banquets.

With hundreds of millions of sharks killed for their fins (for soup, people, for soup) and most of the demand for those fins coming from China, this is really good news.  If the fishermen do not have a market for their fins, they will hopefully stop the practice.

In New England, forage fish get a break as mid-water trawlers get new, long overdue rules. 

With these trawlers taking much more than their share and forage fish a vital ocean resource, this is really good news.  A recent study showed that forage fish are worth far more in the water than out as food for other marine life including seabirds and bigger fish that we all like to eat.

The New York Times story about the win came with one disappointing quote:

"Eoin Rochford, who used to operate trawlers and now runs a factory that freezes herring, said that the assault on this corner of the industry amounts to a “witch hunt” and that the midwater trawler fleet is actually good for the ocean.

'These fish are the most abundant fish in the ocean. To keep the ecosystem in balance, somebody has to harvest them,' he said."

Talk about miscommunicating, or rather, misrepresenting science.  Surprising to see such a clueless comment from a person who is supposed to know the resource.  That is just not how it works.

Carl Safina, marine ecologist and author, replied to that quote on Twitter: Herring mega-trawlers think they "balance" the ocean by fishing. Baloney say whale-watchers and tuna fishers.

Here's to some solid victories to leap over. 

Image: treehugger.com

Friday, July 6, 2012

Walking Across the Atlantic

Walking Across The Atlantic
By Billy Collins

I wait for the holiday crowd to clear the beach
before stepping onto the first wave.

Soon I am walking across the Atlantic
thinking about Spain,
checking for whales, waterspouts.
I feel the water holding up my shifting weight.
Tonight I will sleep on its rocking surface.

But for now I try to imagine what
this must look like to the fish below,
the bottoms of my feet appearing, disappearing.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Another Kind of Independence

"From the redwood forest, to the gulf stream waters,
This land was made for you and me." 
-- Woody Guthrie

Happy 4th.  Today is a day to ponder independence in the US of A. 

There's the famous revolt by a young upstart republic against the biggest guys on the block, those wearing those red coats, over two hundred years ago.  That's the reason for the day in the first place; an inspiring kind of independence. 

We hear a lot about energy independence.  That's where the US creates all its own energy; doesn't have to import any from faraway places, and doesn't have to send young Americans with guns to make sure it keeps coming.  That's definitely a good kind of independence. 

How about one glorious step further -- independence from fossil fuels?  That would be inspired. There are pockets of freedom, where people in the US can choose an alternative when they turn on a light switch or fill up their car's tank.  And these pockets are growing, but slowly, maybe too slowly.

Many people in most places in the country still don't get much choice.  The fossil fuel industry is fine with that.  An uneducated consumer is their favorite kind.  Meanwhile, even the educated consumers cannot escape their oppressive tactics.

The hundreds of millions spent on spin and lobbying and buying elected officials berate all of us relentlessly.  The fossil fuel industry repeats their favorite lie -- that Americans cannot have prosperity and live our lives without their pollution. 

They monger fear and shout down real innovation so vehemently it is hard to think clearly.  They strive to keep us in the past telling us fossils are the future.

They turn things upside down to such a point that some Americans believe (or almost believe) that clean alternatives are a way for the government to take our choices away when actually, clean energy represents the freedom to choose.  Sounds like a foundation of that young country scratched onto parchment over two hundred yeas ago.

Clean energy represents a chance to get out from under the slow crush of an industry so cynical and so lost that it is willing to jeopardize the health of everyone, including themselves and their children, to make more money and maintain their hegemony. 

Breaking free from this clenched fist of energy would truly be a great kind of independence.  That's the next revolution we can be proud to pass onto the world. 

So let's do it.  Make some noise.  Support clean energy.  Be free.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Wide Eyed Oceans by the Numbers

As we begin to see the monetary value of the oceans, the numbers are eye opening.

Thanks to a very easy-to-read Infographic from the Global Partnership for the Oceans, we have some more ocean numbers. 

Lots of good stuff here but what caught my eye was:
  • Eco tourism related to reefs is worth $9 billion 
  • $2.2 trillion lost to fisheries mismanagement 
  • 350 million jobs linked to oceans globally
Aren't the oceans priceless you might say?  Sure, yes, of course, to me and many others that's a given but ocean lovers sometimes have to speak the language of business and government to help save what we hold so dearly.  

Check out the totally cool graphic here.

Image: photodune.net