Friday, June 28, 2013

Lest We Forget

US coastal waters are still in dire need of protections, according to the 2013 State of the Seas report by the Marine Conservation Institute.  Marine Protected Areas (MPA) have been shown to boost fish populations, and support healthy and vibrant ecosystems.

Just like parks and wildlife sanctuaries on land, MPAs serve as refuges for important and valuable marine life and their habitats.

"The United States has done a lackluster job of protecting coasts through no-take protection laws, the strictest way to create a marine protected area (MPA). No-take protections mean that oil and gas drilling are prohibited, as well as fishing and other types of ecological disturbances.

Of 23 coastal states surveyed, 15 have zero (0.00%) no-take areas. Six have little more than one percent of coastal waters under no-take protections, and only two states (California and Hawaii) have more than five percent of their coasts designated as no-take areas," according to a Huffington Post article about the report.

The equation is straight forward and real:  MPAs mean healthy seas and healthy seas mean healthy people.  They also mean cash money.  The services provided by healthy oceans are worth trillions of dollars.

“Whether you love our oceans for their beauty, for their fishes and marine mammals or for generating half of the oxygen we breathe, you should want them to be strongly protected,” says Dr. Sylvia Earle, otherwise known as Her Deepness.

If you cannot hear her, who can you hear?   

Read the whole State of the Seas report here.

Contact your representatives and tell that marine protected areas are important to you.

Check out Ocean Champions and find out which politicians deserve your support.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Nebraskans Live the Power in All of Us

As President Obama seems finally ready to address climate change, there is much uncertainty around the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

Yet hope and inspiration can be found in a New York Times op-ed about how Nebraskans came together to fight the pipeline, which TransCanada wants to run through their state. 

It's about Nebraska, sure, but it's also about the power in all of us:

"Today, we still don’t know what will happen with this pipeline.  But we do know what has happened to us.  Our coalition allowed us to transform our feelings of sorrow, fear, anger and helplessness into something stronger and more durable.  We became agents of our fates and joined together in what the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called a 'beloved community.'  We became a state of ordinary heroes who decided that money couldn’t buy everything and that some things were sacred.

The great global skirmishes of this century will be fought over food, energy, water, and dirt.  Our remote, conservative, flyover state seems like an odd place to make a stand for clean water and fertile land, but we will be at the heart of those battles.  We are fighting not only for ourselves but for people all over the world.  And we know that everywhere, in their particular places, people are fighting for us.  The campaign to stop the Keystone XL is not over. It won’t be over until we give up, and we aren’t giving up," said Mary Pipher, a psychologist from Nebraska.

Read the whole op-ed here.   

The Brief:  The Keystone XL pipeline will carry heavy crude across many US states on its way from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. 

The Controversy:  People are concerned about safety, environmental damage, and sacred places.  People are also upset because the crude is derived from Canadian tar sands, which is  probably the most resource and carbon intensive way to produce oil.  Other people favor the pipeline because there is much money to be made.  Read all about the pipeline here.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Think Before You Spray

Or don’t spray at all.  This is the time of year for fun in the sun, and for spraying killer chemicals all over ourselves, apparently.

The big news is this summer you can get weed and bug killer in jumbo size, so you can be ready for the giant insect that ate suburbia, I guess.

TV commercials show someone dousing their house in a copious jet spray of chemicals.  The music is upbeat and shows a woman who makes it look as effortless as pouring a glass of water.  I wonder what she's thinking.  I doubt she's thinking about what happens next.

The chemicals do not evaporate harmlessly, that's for sure.  Most often, it rains and the chemicals wash into the nearest body of water, but they don't dissolve harmlessly.

Keep in mind that the chemicals -- pesticides and herbicides -- are meant to kill weeds and insects.  Ever notice the warning label on these things?  Reads like poison, cause it is.

Once the chemicals eventually find their way into that stream there and that bay over there, bad things happen.  Water quality drops.  Plants and animals die.  Whole ecosystems wither.  People get sick.

Surely the government would not allow anything harmful to people to get into our hands.  Riiiiiiiight.

Think about it this way:  Healthy rivers and oceans mean healthy people.  They provide clean water, clean air, and lots of food.  So let’s treat them better.

Start by not dousing our yards and homes in chemicals you wouldn’t want near your kid or your dog or your glass of water.  So please, think before you spray, or better yet, don't spray at all. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Superiority of the Dead Animal

The news splashed across media like a bucket of blood tossed against the wall.  Giant Shark Caught Off CaliforniaMonster Shark Caught.  As I clicked on a link to learn more, I said to myself:  I hope it was released.

No such luck.  The one header that got it right:  Record Breaking Shark Nothing to Cheer About.

Killing this great fish speaks to our disconnect with nature.  We cannot expect to appreciate the value of nature to our health and well being if we turn to primitive fears and bloodlust at the first sight of natural magnificence.

This shark grew to its enormous size for over fifteen years.  Every day for fifteen years she helped keep the seas healthy by eating her way to the top of the food web.

She swam thousands of miles through the vast deep blue and survived hundreds of dangers -- nets, boats, hooks,pollution.  She has birthed young sharks.  Not anymore, the end of the line for this stunning apex predator is on some yahoo's fishing line.  This is nothing to be proud of.

So why kill the great beast?  Pride?  Fear?  Selfishness?  All of the above?

Certainly not money.  In those terms, the shark is worth zip as it cannot be sold to restaurants by law.  The fish cannot even be used for shark fin soup, which is killing millions of sharks worldwide but fortunately, the status symbol is banned in California, where the great fish was killed.

The guy who killed the shark, Jason Johnston of Texas, also apparently kills lions and brown bears.  He must have some serious personal deficit to account for this massive overcompensation.

But it could have ended differently.  Catch and release, catch and release.  Instead, the impressive animal is reduced to numbers.  Over 1,300 pounds, 11 feet long, 8 feet wide, etc.  

It's a sad shame turning a rare and beautiful beast into a corpse.   More shameful is the Outdoor Channel, who will use the death of this record-breaking shark as entertainment for its show The Professionals.

Hard to see any professionalism in this sordid incident.  Maybe that's the name they give themselves for throwing chunks of mackerel in the water, seeing sharks go for it, tossing in giant hooks, and reeling in the fish.  Sounds amateurish.  One thing is true: I never want to see the show. 

According to National Geographic, the co-host of the show, Corey Knowlton, said, "We really care about these animals."  One helluva a way to show it!

He goes on with some pathetic justification that the shark will be donated to science.  Er, sorry that excuse is already taken by the Japanese as a way to kill whales.

Whether or not the shark is threatened or endangered is not the point, either (the International Union for the  Conservation of Nature calls makos vulnerable).

It simply sends the wrong message to kill this shark and cheer about it like a bunch of Neanderthals.

Instead, go ahead, be awed.  I dare you.  It's good for everyone, and certainly would have increased this shark's chances of living. 

The good news is that many people get it.  Most comments to much of the coverage reflect Giuseppe Mirelli's eloquent online comment in the Los Angeles Times:

"What I find disturbing and shameful is that there seemed to be no sense of compunction on the fishermen's gloating and smiling faces as they pose with their magnificent catch. This is a shark killed for sport and -- more dishearteningly -- a reality TV show.

"I fail to understand the feeling of triumph for killing such an impressive animal. As I contemplate the photographs, I'm humbled by the superiority of the dead animal and embarrassed by the pomposity and cowardice of man."

Images: National Geographic, The New York Post.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Saving Nature's Essential Wealth

"We are hurtling towards irreversible environmental tipping points that, once passed, would reduce the ability of ecosystems to provide essential goods and services to humankind," said Dr. Zakri, who co-chaired 2005's landmark Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, in Science Daily.

The story was titled Even Farm Animal Diversity Is Declining as Accelerating Species Loss Threatens Humanity.

"We need to urge more economists to do the hard but valuable work of pricing the seemingly priceless," he concluded.

“Right now, the way a forest is worth money is by cutting it down,” Adam Davis said.  Davis is a partner in Ecosystem Investment Partners. “We measure that value in board-feet of lumber or tons of pulp sold to a paper mill,” according to the New York Times.

"What has been missing is a countervailing economic force that measures the value of leaving a forest or other ecosystem intact," he said.  

Putting a value on what is at stake -- the priceless -- could move policy if not people.  Especially as the numbers are big.

"In the case of the oceans, a conservative estimate of the cost of climate change is that by the year 2100 it will amount to nearly $2 trillion annually in 2010 dollars," according to the Economist.

That's trillion with T.  Even the most jaded denier or resource squanderer can hear that.   

Friday, June 7, 2013

Happy World Oceans Day

World Oceans Day is tomorrow June 8th but of course, every day is World Oceans Day around here.  I'll take any excuse to head to the water.

One way to celebrate is to make a promise to help the oceans.  Here's some sample promises to get your thoughts going. 

I promise to not eat meat on Mondays
I promise to bring reusable bags to the grocery store
I promise to get a reusable water bottle
I promise to shop a thrift store first instead of buying new
I promise to take shorter showers.
I promise to take public transportation to school/work once a week.
I promise to only eat sustainably harvested seafood.
I promise to unplug my chargers when I’m not using them.
I promise to shut off all the lights and A/C when I leave my house.
I promise to participate in a litter clean-up.
I promise to not use toxic pesticides on my lawn.

Also, the Ocean Project is collecting promises. You can make a promise and post it and tag it. They’re hoping for tons of promises to help the oceans and many are already coming in.

You can create your own promise or use one above.  Either way you’re celebrating the oceans and helping to keep them healthy.  Here's how to do it: Make a Promise.

Whatever you do, make sure you pause and enjoy the oceans on their official day.  It's good for you and good for them -- we protect what we love, a wise man once said.