Thursday, February 28, 2013

Swim with a Sea Turtle

Take a break and swim with a sea turtle for a few minutes.  That's the power of the ocean.

What's nice about this clip is it feels very real.  It's not a pristine and robust reef or an extremely unique and faraway place of crystal clear waters that most of us will never see. 

This is nature trying to live with us, good and bad, as happens in most of the world.  Plus, this turtle was rescued, and is being returned to big blue.  Hope swims.   

Video by Filippo Armonio.  Link to video on You Tube.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Big Energy to Industrialize the Atlantic Ocean

Like the Dracula Monster, Liberty Gas is Back

By Guest Blogger Rav Freidel, Director, Concerned Citizens of Montauk

Big energy isn’t fiddling around while New York and New Jersey rebuild the coastline after SandyThey’re, once again, trying to fast track both oil exploration and the industrialization of the Atlantic Ocean.

First they tried to place Broadwater, a 1200’ long Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal, in Long Island Sound. 

LNG facilities proposed for the Bight are for exporting natural gas extracted by fracking — the process of sending pressurized fluids into the shale, and blasting the trapped gas out of the rock.  Fracking contaminates drinking water and pollutes the air we breathe.

What’s more, LNG has a carbon footprint that’s almost as dirty as coal.  It’s another greenhouse gas that’s helping to cook the life out of the planet, and by the way, helped cause super storms like Sandy, last summer’s drought, and the recent blizzard in the northeast.

But impossible to ignore resistance from both sides of the estuary thwarted the Broadwater LNG facility.  (To his credit, New York’s replacement Governor David Patterson vetoed it after his predecessor Eliot Spitzer had failed too.)

Undaunted, big energy tried to get a foothold in the ocean and build “Safe Harbor” an artificial island off Long Beach, New York. Plus two more Broadwater-type LNG terminals off the New Jersey shore — “Blue Ocean” and “Liberty Gas.”  Karl Rove himself couldn’t have come up with three better names to try and cloak the raping of the ocean.

The battle to protect the New York /New Jersey Bight from big energy continued.

Why it’s called “the Bight” I don’t know.  What I do know is that the Bight is one of the most bio diverse marine environments along the Atlantic Coast.  It’s home to more than 300 species of fish, 350 species of birds, 25 species of whales, dolphins and seals, and 5 species of endangered sea turtles.  It runs 256 miles from Cape May, NJ to Montauk Point, NY and miles out to the continental shelf in the ocean.

Due to soaring energy costs brought on by greed, big energy and proposed LNG projects in the NY/NJ Bight got an enormous amount of support from Washington.  Congress wanted to drill everywhere without environmental review.  Barack Obama, facing a difficult reelection, championed opening up more of the Arctic, the Gulf of Mexico, and even the Atlantic Ocean to oil and natural gas exploration.

Fate stepped in when BP’s Deep Water Horizon exploded and defiled the gulf.  Safe Harbor folded its tent.  So did Exxon’s Blue Ocean.  And NJ Governor Chris Christie kept his campaign promise and vetoed the last hold out -- Liberty Gas.  LNG in the Bight was finally dead.

Cindy Zipf, executive director of Clean Ocean Action based in Sandy Hook, New Jersey sensed an opportunity.  She dusted off legislation she had been working on for years and rekindled the campaign to create a Clean Ocean Zone (COZ) to protect the Bight.

The COZ had vision: Enough with all these endless meetings, late night hearings, and countless conference calls, once and for all we were going to get a federal law that made sure that the only energy development in the Bight would be renewables.  There would be no oil drilling, no LNG terminals, no BP type oil spills, no medical waste, no toxic dredge spoils or sludge and sewage disposal.  And both New York and New Jersey would have a greater say in what neighboring states wanted to do to the ocean.

Cindy got tremendous support from municipalities, commercial and recreational fishermen, surfers, boaters, businessmen, environmentalists, restaurants and resorts up and down the coast.  170 different business and environmental groups signed on to the COZ.

Cindy also launched the “Tour for the Shore” educational campaign in 2012.  It featured Margo Pellegrino, a world-class ocean kayaker paddling from Cape May to Montauk, Clean Ocean Action attorney Sean Dixon peddling his 10-speed all the way, and philanthropist Andrew Sabin, who calls himself a Teddy Roosevelt republican, wearing a GOP cycling suit, as he covered the last 100-mile leg of the journey.

The politicians on both sides of the isle started paying attention.  But it was an election year.  No new legislation would be possible until 2013.

Then fate stepped in again.  Super-storm Sandy devastated the coast and all bets were off on the COZ.  People were focused on getting the ocean out of their homes.  Not trying to protect an unfriendly sea.

As expected, Liberty Gas has resurfaced again with a new proposal to place another Broadwater type terminal off Atlantic Beach — the New York side of the Bight.  And once more we are playing whack-a-mole with LNG.

It’s time to take action.  Come together and support a clean and healthy NY/NJ Bight.  Fight Big Energy’s plans in the Bight.

For more information and how you can help drive a stake through the heart of big energy and protect the NY/NJ Bight, please contact Cindy Zipf, Executive Director of Clean Ocean Action, at, or myself, Rav Freidel, director, Concerned Citizens of Montauk at

Friday, February 22, 2013

Clean Energy Not a Lock

The clean energy industry is making gains all across the United States but there is also resistance all across the country. 

Certainly there is no time for complacency.  In Washington state, voters passed legislation that required utilities to use renewable sources of power but now GOP lawmakers and utilities want to dilute that legislation.  Read the whole story.

Stay vigilant and support clean energy whenever possible, our future depends on it.

P.S. Let's Americans not leave trillions of dollars on the table for some other nation to grab.  Clean Energy is a global business and the US should be killing it. 

Check out Pew's snazzy infographic on The Global Missed Opportunity

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Petition to Keep Birds & Horse Shoe Crabs

More horseshoe crabs mean more shorebirds, and scientists have already said that both populations are in danger because people are taking too many horseshoe crabs.

The crabs are chopped up and sold as bait for whelks.  An appetite for whelks is wrecking a thousand year old natural balance.  Come on, we can do better.

Every Spring, horseshoe crabs lay hundreds of thousands of eggs on the water's edge.  Red knots, skinny little birds who make an epic journey every year from top of the world to bottom, stop by on the same beaches.  They eat lots of horse shoe crab eggs.  So do many other marine birds. 

Until people started taking crabs for bait. there were always enough horse shoe crab eggs to ensure plenty of baby crabs and enough eggs to sustain gaunt red knots to their Arctic destination.  What a nicely balanced equation.

Help keep the balance.  Take Action.  Sign this petition to protect horse shoe crabs and shorebirds today, thanks to Care2.

You can also help by keeping in touch with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which sets horse shoe crab fishing limits.  Let them know you value horse crabs as something more than bait.  Also, avoid eating whelk and tell people why.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Rally to Find Climate Hope

Before yesterday's climate action rally in Washington, I said that I’m going to DC to make noise about climate change, to urge action, and to show solidarity. 

This was all true in my mind.  But fighting climate change sometimes feels like fighting the seasons.  It all seems so inevitable and out of reach and far bigger than one person, a thousand people, even a million people.  

I went to DC for several reasons but I also went to find hope.  I can't say that I found it.  Certainly not in some obvious, hit-over-the-head manner.  The event was staid, even, and frankly, lacked an edge, perhaps an edge of anger or urgency. 

Maybe there's hope in the number of people who came on a frigid  February Sunday.  It's also possible that hope did not show, scared away by other numbers.  The numbers around climate change tell a grim story of forces that humanity has already put in motion. 

There's a monstrous momentum behind burning fossil fuels to create electricity and run vehicles.  It's as if we started a machine that we cannot stop.  It churns on emotionless, fueled by powerful ideas like money, capitalism, and progress.  How can we even pause it?  How can we even slightly change its course? 
My hope is we can make real change if we play the machine’s game.  That is, create a new industry: the clean energy industry.

The industry can be just as determined to win as the current machine. 
Dive right in, draft a business plan, invest, create wealth, build an international conglomerate, focus on profits, but the product, the product, is clean.  Win by playing their game using their rules.


I'm OK seeing solar become so big it replaces coal in utility scale power generation.  I'm OK for the fossil fuel industry to look at their children and realize that the costs of their pollution far outweigh those of clean energy.  I'm OK with a fat cat CEO making hundreds of millions of dollars on top of a wind energy empire.

There is hope there but it takes a little mind trick to not look at the clock on the wall and as Bill McKibbon says, do the math.  I wonder if that mind trick is denial.  There I go again, dashing hope.

Sure we are running out of time, maybe we have run out of time in terms of stopping climate change from starting, but we can still stop it from killing the planet.  Take action.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Rally for Climate Change Action

I'm heading to Washington DC this Sunday (Feb 17th) to make some noise about climate change.  Getting on a bus at o dark hundred and heading south.  I'm not complaining because I know people are coming from places much farther away.  Lots of people.

Thanks to many organizations including Do the Math and the Sierra Club, thousands will rally in DC to urge Obama to give us more than those eight inauguration sentences on climate change.  Timing with President's Day harkens back to the kind of leadership Americans looked for, and can hopefully still find, in their Chief Executive.

Rallies like these can be inspiring, and certainly fun.  Here are some posters that may make it to the rally:

The World's on Fire, Where's the Bucket? 
No More Acid Coral or Hot Fish
Hot Flashes, Ok. Hot Fishes, Not so Much  (from a friend)
Give Us More than Eight Sentences
Burning the Future with Fossils

It's pretty simple: the time is now to urge Obama and all our representatives to take action on climate change.  The time is now to show that we do not need dirty energy to run our industries and prosperous lives.  Clean energy is a business not a cause, and the US should be killing it.

Take Action.  Here are 10 Ways to Fight Climate Change:

1. Come to the Rally!  Get inspired.  If you can't make it, support the rally on all your social media.  
2. Ask your Senators and Representatives to support climate action and clean energy initiatives.
3. Stop by your reps' local offices.  In-person constituents are a powerful voice.
4. Call the White House.  Yes, it's possible, and your privilege.  Tell them you support climate leadership.
5. Write local press and tell them why you support clean energy.
6. Rock your social media -- tell ppl what you're doing, what's going on, and why you care. 
7. Kill the tar sands pipeline (getting oil from tar sands is an extremely dirty process).
8. Phase out Coal, the dirtiest of the dirty.
9. Ask your school or Alma Mater to divest from the fossil fuel industry.
10. Support clean energy businesses.   

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Cautious Optimism as Obama Talks Climate Again

In his State of the Union, President Obama once again spoke to climate change.  This is good news, with a dose of caution.

The President implied that he wants to use market-based methods to fight climate change but Congress needs to step up and play ball.  If not, the President said he will use the power of his office, which presumably includes the untapped regulatory power of the Environmental Protection Agency.  

But many are not yet convinced; they need to see more than rhetoric.

"Obama’s inattention to the issue is obviously not the only reason America still lacks an ambitious climate plan. But a disengaged president was one of the many obstacles. On Tuesday night, he showed that he can talk a better game. Now he needs to play," according to the Washington Post.

Meanwhile, it remains to be seen what Congress will do.  This flippant response, classic misdirection hidden in a statement that rings true by itself, from Republican Senator Marco Rubio is not helpful or hopeful: "The government can't change the weather."

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Build the Memorable Conversation

Communications connect science and public action, sometimes.

“Building the conversation with international collaborators, the public and local communities, is becoming increasingly important in ecology. That means that developing effective conservation strategies is highly dependent upon not only my science, but my ability to engage and effectively communicate with local communities,” said Leah Gerber of Arizona State University.

If over 50% of Americans doubt climate change, the scientists AND the communicators are not doing their jobs. 

It's tough. Scientists know a lot.  They are used to talking to other scientists who speak their rarefied language.  But it is absolutely essential to make what they know accessible to regular people, especially people who will do something about it.

Accessible is the good start, next is to make it compelling and memorable, which often falls to the communicators, those professionals who fancy themselves quick of wit and sharp of quill.

Here's a bunch of great advice on how to help the non-scientist appreciate the problem, feel the urgency, and do something about it: 

Randy Olson, a PhD marine biologist, wrote a recommended book called Don't Be Such a Scientist.  Chapters include Don't be So Literal Minded and Don't be Such a Poor Storyteller.

An excellent communications consultancy, Futerra, said saving the world begins with sharing the love.  Check out their tips. 

Communications consultants and others have these very helpful  9 Tips to Communicating the Climate Challenge.

Build the memorable conversation and help save the future. 


Saturday, February 9, 2013

Top Green Power Users in the US

What do Whole Foods and the nation's capitol have in common?  They both rank among the top 50 organizations in the US that consume the most green power as measured in kilowatt hours.  It is status they share with the US Air Force, Staples, and Suffolk County, NY, according to the EPA.

If you're curious about on site generation of green power like a solar array on rooftops or small scale wind, San Diego and Coca-Cola are high on that list, officially dubbed Top 20 On Site Generation.  Meanwhile, it's interesting that three Texas cities rank highly on the Top 20 Local Governments list of green energy users.

Every quarter, the EPA publishes these somewhat inspiring and hopeful lists.  Check them all out.  Click on a few, scroll, enjoy.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Chu Resigns But Hopefully His Vision Stays

Energy Secretary Chu is resigning but hopefully his great vision and support of a clean energy future does not go with him.  Chu has done some very positive things, so it's a bit of a bummer that he is leaving.

He is a stalwart and smart scientist (A Nobel Laurette, hello!) who knows the urgency of a clean energy future.  He avoids rhetoric and makes decisions based on science.  How refreshing.

Chu simply had to deal with so many shameful deniers and short-sighted Republicans, who put everything into making his job, and his boss's job, difficult.  According to the Huffington Post, only 1% of clean energy programs under Chu went bankrupt, like the infamous Solyndra, yet the 99% get so little attention.

Instead, we get things like this: "'Good riddance,' declared the Climate Depot blog in response to Chu's announced departure.  The site is run by the right-wing Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow, which aggressively challenges basic climate science," according to Huff Post

Chu saw where the world was going and tried to put the US on a path to a clean energy future.  He knew what was at stake with all his heart.

"Those who will suffer the most are the people who are the most innocent: the world’s poorest citizens and those yet to be born," Chu said. 

Hopefully, Chu has helped kick start a self-perpetuating machine, that is a US clean energy industry that eventually will win out on indefensible grounds -- it's just better business (think far fewer dangerous and climate changing costs than dirty energy), and it is simply better for the health and security of Americans everywhere, especially children. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Cool Fish

Check out the barrel headed fish and its transparent head.  Yes, you can see through it's head.

It gives new meaning to "I can see what you're thinking."  Filmed in the deep dark, thousands of feet of Pacific Ocean water between it and sunlight.  Thanks National Geographic.