Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Bell Tolls for NE Cod Fishing

The tragedy of the commons embodied.  New England's landmark Georges Bank cod fishery has been drastically cut because it's on the verge of extinction.

The fishing industry is going to get crushed.  Livelihoods ruined.  Boats sold.  Families have to relocate.  This is not hyperbole.  This is sad reality.  What a mess.

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Gowanus Dolphin Has a Message for Us

There's a dolphin stuck in New York City's Gowanus Canal as I write.  It's making quite a buzz, as it should.  Such a wild and beautiful creature brightening up the urban malaise. 

The symbolism is a brick to the head.  The Gowanus is one of the most polluted sites on EPA's long list of Superfund sites; a testament to how thoroughly people can poison nature.  And now it's got ahold of a dolphin. 

I'm rooting for the dolphin but wish I didn't have to.  Imagine those wilder days, hundreds of years ago, when the sea all around New York City flourished with marine life including whales, dolphins, oysters, and sea turtles. 

Back to reality, the situation does not bode well for the Gowanus Dolphin.  There is not much that can be done, according to experts from Riverhead who specialize in rescuing marine mammals.

Perhaps the best outcome -- aside from the dolphin swimming freely out of the harbor and into the ocean -- is motivation.  Dolphins and marine mammals die all the time from the actions of people.  It just doesn't happen in hipster central in a city obsessed with happenings. 

If you care about this dolphin, how about all dolphins?  How about their home -- the ocean?

It's easy to feel helpless seeing that dolphin in the cold muck with firemen, police officers, and marine experts standing around.  But we are not helpless. 

There are countless ways to save dolphins and the oceans.  Here's 50, courtesy of Blue Frontier.

50 Ways to Save the Ocean

1. Go to the Beach
2. Visit an Aquarium
3. Eat organic and vegetarian foods whenever possible
4. If you chose to eat seafood make sure it’s sustainable
5. Grow a natural yard and garden
6. Maintain an earth (and ocean) friendly Driveway. If that works try a Green Roof.
7. Reduce Toxic Household Pollutants
8. Drive a fuel-efficient car, car pool, or use public transit
9. Don’t use your Storm Drain as a toilet
10. Support Marine Education in our schools
11. Support your local swamp
12. Restore a stream, river or watershed
13. Get Married on a Wild Beach
14. Build or Buy well back from the Beach
15. Upgrade your house above hurricane code
16. When diving – take only pictures, leave only bubbles
17. Count the fish, then do some light housekeeping for them
18. Join in a Beach Cleanup
19. Don’t waste water
20. Save Energy for yourself and the Sea
21. Protect the dunes so they?ll protect you
22. Be a Blue Boater
23. Go slow around Manatees, birds and other boats
24. Go to a Zoning Board Meeting
25. Join a marine mammal rescue center
26. Be a Marine Sanctuary Volunteer
27. Create your own Wilderness Parks under the sea
28. Keep an ocean-friendly Aquarium
29. Don’t dump “exotic” plants and animals
30. Don’t shell out for Sea Turtle products
31. Don’t feed the sharks (or let them feed on you)
32. Go on a whale-watching trip
33. Take your kids to a Tide Pool
34. Take your kids surfing (or have them take you)
35. Use less plastic
36. Fish for fun, food and the future
37. Find out if your cruise ship is ocean friendly
38. Walk on whatever beach you want
39. Learn your local maritime history
40. Get to know a Coastie
41. Don’t buy coral jewelry or (sea) snake oil remedies
42. Be a careful consumer and traveler
43. Talk to your cousin in Kansas about the weather
44. Learn the tides and the navigation charts
45. Join an ocean expedition from your home computer or in person.
46. Keep oil off your shore
47. Buy an ocean-friendly license plate or bake a cookie
48. Find joy and solace in the sea and talk about it in your place of worship
49. Vote the Coast
50. Be a Seaweed Rebel

image: brandon rosenblum

Thursday, January 24, 2013


Almost a billion people go to bed hungry every night. Clean energy and ocean conservation are important, extremely important for sure, but every now and again one sad statistic puts things in perspective.

As of 2008 (2005 statistics), the World Bank has estimated that there were 1,345 million poor people in developing countries who live on $1.25 a day or less.

How can we hope to make major positive change when so many people do not even know if their next meal is coming or not?  We have to try, anyway, on all fronts. 

As The Grateful Dead sang, "Reach out your hand if your cup be empty, if your cup is full may it be again."

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Ask for More Before GMO Salmon Approval

Looking for a petition to sign?  Here's a good one from the Organic Consumer's Association. 

Add your name to the long list of people who oppose approval of genetically modified (GMO) salmon because there are too many unanswered questions.

People have concerns about allergies, growth hormones, and nutrition. People also have concerns about escaped fish competing with wild salmon and other wild fish for limited food.  The sense that the FDA approval process is not transparent enough also fails to reassure people.

Senator Murkowski from Alaska raised these same concerns and has also asked that the government agency that manages the nation's fisheries, the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration, be involved in the process.

All of these concerns seem pretty important to resolve before we unleash this modified, so-called Frankenfish on the world.

Friday, January 18, 2013


Check out this gallery of unlikely creatures of the deep dark sea. 

The one above is called Lepidonotus Squamatus and has the ability to generate its own light or bioluminescence.  Thanks to photographer Alexander Semenov for bringing these to light.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Five Ways to a Clean Energy Future

We've been talking about clean energy must-haves for awhile. 

Nicely, Riverview Consulting has placed them in a list of (paraphrasing here) five ways to a clean energy future in the US. 

I've condensed and simplified them below but the original report, US Falling Behind in Renewable Energy, is worth a read.  

Five Ways to a Clean Energy Future:

1.  Phase out the creation of dirty electricity from fossil fuels.  Don't believe the hype: The US can be a prosperous and robust nation without such pollution.

2.  Support ongoing clean energy innovation at the Department of Energy. 

3.  Continue to push for a clean energy military.  No organization can accelerate innovation and adoption like the US military.  Not disregarding the molten flaws of the military-industrial complex, just saying it would be something positive to come from that machine.

4.  Renew the federal Wind Production Tax Credit.  Wait, that happened.  Excellent! 

5.  Build the necessary infrastructure to support new sources of electricity.

Remember, clean energy is a business not a cause. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Victory Filled Up

I ran across this venerable poem after a Google mistype.  So happy for my clumsy fingers as Elizabeth Bishop dazzles with expert imagery and thrilling victory.  Hope you enjoy it. 

The Fish
By Elizabeth Bishop

I caught a tremendous fish
and held him beside the boat
half out of water, with my hook
fast in a corner of his mouth.
He didn't fight.
He hadn't fought at all.
He hung a grunting weight,
battered and venerable
and homely. Here and there
his brown skin hung in strips
like ancient wallpaper,
and its pattern of darker brown
was like wallpaper:
shapes like full-blown roses
stained and lost through age.
He was speckled and barnacles,
fine rosettes of lime,
and infested
with tiny white sea-lice,
and underneath two or three
rags of green weed hung down.
While his gills were breathing in
the terrible oxygen
--the frightening gills,
fresh and crisp with blood,
that can cut so badly--
I thought of the coarse white flesh
packed in like feathers,
the big bones and the little bones,
the dramatic reds and blacks
of his shiny entrails,
and the pink swim-bladder
like a big peony.
I looked into his eyes
which were far larger than mine
but shallower, and yellowed,
the irises backed and packed
with tarnished tinfoil
seen through the lenses
of old scratched isinglass.
They shifted a little, but not
to return my stare.
--It was more like the tipping
of an object toward the light.
I admired his sullen face,
the mechanism of his jaw,
and then I saw
that from his lower lip
--if you could call it a lip
grim, wet, and weaponlike,
hung five old pieces of fish-line,
or four and a wire leader
with the swivel still attached,
with all their five big hooks
grown firmly in his mouth.
A green line, frayed at the end
where he broke it, two heavier lines,
and a fine black thread
still crimped from the strain and snap
when it broke and he got away.
Like medals with their ribbons
frayed and wavering,
a five-haired beard of wisdom
trailing from his aching jaw.
I stared and stared
and victory filled up
the little rented boat,
from the pool of bilge
where oil had spread a rainbow
around the rusted engine
to the bailer rusted orange,
the sun-cracked thwarts,
the oarlocks on their strings,
the gunnels--until everything
was rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!
And I let the fish go.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Little Less Respect Please

At Bill McKibbon's Do the Math event in New York, I was happy to hear the torch bearer say it's time to go on the offense.  I haven't seen too much of that lately, but hopefully it's coming soon. 

In the world of nonprofits and real scientists there is perhaps a little too much courtesy, a little too much apology, and too little basic anger.

During Do the Math, a minor remark about the head of Exxon-Mobil came with an "with all due respect" to that same CEO.

Maybe we should show a little less respect.  This is the man who has made it his life's work to pollute the world.  As Naomi Klein said at the same event, these are industries whose "business plan is to declare war on life on Earth."

We are up against the wall here.  The third number McKibbon uses in his math is the scariest.  The 2,795 gigatons in reserves.  That's what the oil and gas industry plans to burn.  Only the Earth and its inhabitants cannot afford that, not nearly.  The goal is to leave it in the ground.

The opposition certainly will not stop.  In a recent fine article, Eliot Negin from the Union of Concerned Scientists soundly refutes the Koch brothers' latest disingenuous disinformation.  The "report" from their faux think tank, the  Heartland Institute, concluded that we cannot afford to move to renewable energy because electricity rates will go through the roof.

"The facts on the ground tell a different story. Despite the Koch juggernaut's scare tactics, some evidence is already in, and so far the impact of renewable electricity standards on rates has been, for the most part, negligible," according to Negin.

But still, his story is defense.  It's another back-of-heels response to something tossed by the Koch Brothers & Company to see if it would stick, to obscure.  It's time for those who are trying to save the planet versus burn it to throw their own stuff.

Time is a factor, as Negin noted.  "Besides the fact that we can afford to transition away from fossil fuels, keep in mind that we can't afford not warming, hands down, is the biggest long-term threat to the economy we face," he said.

image: rodneydangerfield

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Students Seek Clean Energy

Spread the good news and the new technology.  One university sees a huge jump in students seeking a clean energy future for themselves and the world.  The trend is real as students see the writing on the wall.  The reasons are a healthy mix of economic, environmental, and simple opportunity.

“Students are worried about their energy future and they see this as a way to make it more secure. They feel very passionate about the environment. They’re seeing a new technology out there, a new burgeoning field that they want to get in on,” according to Jim Menart, director of Wright State University’s renewable and clean energy master’s degree program, in the Dayton Daily News.

By one estimate, as many as 40 million Americans could be working in renewable energy and energy efficiency by 2030, according to a report, Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency: Economic Drivers for the 21st Century.

Clean energy is the future -- we just need to pick up the pace. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Pollution as Sin

Religious leaders are taking a longer look at the connection between spirituality and nature, according to the New York Times.  It's been stirring for awhile in various faiths and manifestations but the more the merrier.

I call nature my church because it's where I find replenishment, and feel connected to something much bigger than myself.  The ocean blue or the mountains and the forest.  There's no denying it's power, and I'd go as far to call it transcending.

If religious people begin to think about nature in that way, or as something precious created by God, the motivation to protect and respect grows.

It even appears that one spiritual leader of the millions of Orthodox Christians in the world is considering deeming pollution a sin.  Sure, and why not? 

It is possible to sin against people via pollution, especially if that pollution kills.  Maybe you can also sin by harming the wilds with pollution, or as some religious people refer to it -- the Creation.  The discussion alone is exciting and thrilling, and perhaps nearly a new frontier in environmental stewardship. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


"But the two think tanks at issue have a long trail — one that has tried to discredit green energy sources so that the fossil fuels can maintain their substantive lead supplying electric generators. To that end, the Heartland Institute and ALEC, as it is known, get much of their financial backing from oil and coal interests.

Those same groups are also bankrolling studies that are challenging climate science while downplaying any success that so-called Renewable Portfolio Standards are having, making their findings and subsequent attempts to roll back those laws disingenuous," notes Ken Silverstein in an insightful Forbes article titled Lobbyists Try to Halt Green Energy Standards.

It's beautiful when one word sums up the people and organizations supporting dirty energy.  Be skeptical.

 According to Webster's:
Definition of disingenuous:
: lacking in candor; also : giving a false appearance of simple frankness : calculating

According to Google: 
Not candid or sincere, typically by pretending that one knows less about something than one really does.
insincere - false - devious - hollow-hearted