Saturday, September 29, 2007

Brain-eating amoeba kills swimmers

Just when you thought you might like to go swimming, news of a brain-eating amoeba that can swim up your nose and kill you. YIKES!

It's rare, but there's no treatment. This thing is for real. It's called Naegleria and there's a fact sheet from the CDC. Six people in the US have died this year. The nasty thing likes warm, standing water, so watch out if your nearby lake warms up. So far, it seems like a freshwater problem only.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Blue crabs in trouble in the Chesapeake Bay

Is another sad story coming? Blue crabs are in trouble in the Chesapeake Bay. Blue crabs are a big deal, millions of pounds caught and hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. Oh yeah, they're interesting and important creatures too.

There are fewer blue crabs than we want. Lots of problems afflict blue crabs, but here's an interesting question.

Is it ok to catch half of the crabs or more each year? That's the fishery management goal, around half of the crabs get pulled out of the bay for people. Is that reasonable? Fishery science says it's reasonable.

Now that crabs are in trouble, people are asking what's wrong. Is it pollution harming the crabs?

An interesting statement came crabs aren't reproducing fast enough to recover from the pressure they're under, according to the Department of Natural Resources. So the problem is the crabs? They're not reproducing fast enough to satisfy our wants?

I'm sorry, I like sustainable fishing, but there has to be common sense applied. I don't think catching half the crabs is reasonable. The fishery models may say it's ok, but I have doubts. It just seems like taking too many crabs. It might work when we're lucky, but it doesn't seem like a good long-term strategy.

Sustainability is about more than using a model to allow maximum take. Sustainability also means being prudent and cautious and allowing the crabs to thrive so we don't have trouble when conditions are bad for crabs. When we're killing half of the crabs each year, there's no reserve if they fail to have a good year for reproduction. Two years of poor reproduction and they're gone. Bye bye crabs.

This is the biggest problem with most fishery management, we're reckless and aggressive and the needs of fishing are viewed as the baseline. And those damn crabs just have to reproduce fast enough to make everything ok.

This isn't the first time that I've seen the bizarre statement that a problem was caused by fish or crabs that didn't reproduce as fast as they were caught. What a nutty way to look at a problem.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Dam removal not just a dream

Who says enviros and fishermen can't work together? And who says we can't engage big business in a search for sustainability? This summer, Portland General Electric is removing a fish-killing dam on Oregon's Sandy River. This success is a result of diverse interests working together, including PGE, fishermen, and environmentalists.

PGE has created a fascinating website with demolition videos, time lapse demonstration of river restoration, and lots of explanatory material.

This is the biggest dam removal project in the northwest in over 40 years. Thanks to PGE for recognizing the value of a free-flowing river. It's gratifying to see this happening, since I worked with PGE and fishermen on efforts to define where, when, and how it makes sense to restore natural river habitats.

Removing claws is harmful to crabs

Is this a surprise? Even though the claw can grow back, it's not good for the crab to break off a claw.

Some crab fisheries are called sustainable because they only take a claw and throw back the rest of the crab. Well, now researchers have discovered that breaking off a claw can be harmful to the crabs.

I guess there's a reason crabs have claws, and the crabs would prefer not to have pieces broken off. This doesn't completely overturn the sustainability argument, crabs have a better chance of surviving loss of a claw than being cooked whole. But it's a bit too easy to assume everything's fine if the crab gets thrown back.

I wonder if an ecological study would show that clawless crabs have trouble even if they survive the shock? This study didn't look at survival value of claws, it only looked at death from the direct injury of claw removal.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The salmon dance

Fish ecology comes to life in a nutty fish video set to a song from the Chemical Brothers. You won't believe the beatbox blowfish.

Hat tip: Jason at

Monday, September 24, 2007

Speaking sustainability, ENGO-business cooperation

How can ENGOs and businesses work together on sustainability? The key is alignment. Where conservation goals can be aligned with business interests, then it can work.

What doesn't work?

For ENGOs, it won't work to try to squeeze concessions out of businesses that promote conservation but are peripheral to core business interests.

For businesses, it won't work to buy or beg ENGO support for activities that do little or nothing for conservation.

That's nice, you say, for the few issues that are win/win, where business and conservation interests coincide. But how about everything else? And how often is this fairy tale alignment gonna happen anyway?

Here's the really interesting part...IMHO, business/conservation alignment can be built where it's not readily apparent. Alignment won't happen on every issue, but it can happen a lot more often than most people think.

It takes good strategic vision to see possibilities for alignment, and courage to follow the vision. It takes big picture thinking, and dropping stereotypes and calcified positions. It takes a focus on fundamental core values, and a willingness to listen to other people when they talk about what they really want to achieve.

Flexibility of mind may be the hardest thing to ask people to do. If you've always hated big business, then you need to spend some time with people who work in big business. I assure you, they're not as evil as you think. If environmental groups leave you angry, then find someone who can talk about the real goals of the environmental movement. It's not the end of corporations, even though some people might say that.

I got started on this journey a long time ago, when someone said "don't let your cause turn into an excuse for feeling superior to others." I thought about it, and declared myself guilty of feeling superior. Yuck, once I saw that I felt rotten. As I worked to discard that baggage, I found more allies on "the other side" of any issue.

So, with a little clarity, it's not too hard to look past pushy positions and soap-box shouters on either side of an apparent divide like business/ENGOs. Look for the people actually thinking and doing, and trying to solve problems. Talk to them about big picture goals, and ask each other if there's any common interest. It's fun to try, and it certainly can't hurt.

There you have it, the blogfish truth on ENGO/business sustainability partnerships. So what'll it be? Raving and raging, and excoriating the impure and unwashed? Or looking for alignment as a way to build sustainable success in sustainability?

This isn't a new issue that came up during Stanford's Business Strategies for Environmental Sustainability, but the program definitely took me to new heights on this line of thinking. I heard specific case studies of people building alignment where there was once no alignment, to real advantage. I heard business leaders in the class groping for solutions, just like me. Did you hear that? They were looking for solutions, JUST LIKE ME. Whattya know?! As they say where I come from: "well shut my mouth." And maybe, once or twice, I did.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Speaking sustainability, day 6

We had a great run at Business Strategies for Environmental Sustainability, from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, 2007. I thought it wouldn’t be possible but we actually peaked on the last day, when various threads came together (for me at least).

Kudos to organizer Professor “Wild” Bill Barnett and his team for a truly great learning experience. The topics and presenters were well chosen, with great variety yet also strong common threads. Bill’s wide-ranging summation sessions stimulated great discussion and much productive thinking. And to complete the success, the students brought powerful insight and perspective. Participants came from all sectors of the economy and brought with them all flavors of ideology. This very strong program is in its first year and deserves to continue.

It was interesting to find common mind on optimism and models for change this week. Like what? My view that big change always looks impossible, until afterwards, when it looks inevitable. The need to tolerate failure in prospecting for big change, because success is hard to predict.

Those are some of the big picture insights that weren’t entirely new. Others were more surprising. Like the value of learning from big business success, as a model of promoting social change. What other part of society has such an emphasis on changing how people live, act, think, and feel? And what’s better evidence of a successful approach than rapid business growth? The products and activities of a big business can be destructive, but effectiveness in getting people to change is something to learn from.

Why can I learn so much from a business school perspective? Simple really, the study of business strategies is just the study of change, and I’m in the business of promoting change. No wonder the insights are relevant.

I guess I have to admit that a business school perspective isn’t actually evil. That’s a surprise since business schools are viewed as the brain trust of capitalism, the place where people go to learn how to make money, and environmental dogma has sometimes held that money and capitalism are the enemy.

What have I missed by being so skeptical? Just the insights of smart people who’ve been studing social change for a long time, with some very incisive methods. This leads to the biggest take-home message I got from the program: change advocates can learn a lot from studying business strategies.

Now back to the real world of Reno airport. It's not the best place to ponder sustainability. Slot machines scream for attention while the airport’s great view dramatizes the “fish out of water” aspect of this city. Nevada-style development is simply out of place here; but something much more subtle might fit in.

What happens when I get back to my office and a bulging task list waiting for me? How do I bring the lessons from this class into my work? How long will it take? What can I say when asked what I learned? I don’t know yet. The insights aren’t a list of specific facts, they’re more like a way of thinking about problems. I won’t know what I learned until I tackle a new problem and see whether I tackle it differently. That should be fun to watch, I’ll let you know how it goes.

Thanks Bill, and I hope you got a nice dip in Fallen Leaf Lake last night.

Next comes my thoughts on Sam’s question in the comments…intersections between corporations and NGOs, and what makes them work in advancing sustainability.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Speaking sustainability, day 5

Deep into our sustainability program, I have to say there might be something to this business school outlook. Hmmm....

How many people find supply chain management to be a sexy topic? Well, now I know better, and I can tell you that supply chains are sexy. What's the big lesson from studying supply chain management? The innovators for business success are also the likely innovators for anything else, including sustainability. Wanna find a partner for a sustainability project? Look for a sustainability partner among the business winners, and try to turn them into sustainability winners. Belive it? Well you should believe it.

Too often, we environmentalists find our favorite conservation partners among the underdogs of the economy, the "little guy" who is being crushed by competition. Why do we like underdogs? We tend to believe the stories, that they're pursuing sustainable practices and being slaughtered by ruthless unsustainable business practices.


I've been worrying about this question for a couple of years, and I'm learning things this week that reinforce my view that conservation advocates need to focus on the winners of the capitalist competition.


Two things. The winners are the ones with the ability to change the world. If they adopt new practices, they can influence a whole business ecosystem of suppliers and customers.

Also, the winners are the ones with the entrepreneurial energy to innovate. If they innovate to make money, then they can innovate for sustainability. So what about the people who are losing the economic competition? Adding sustainability to their operation isn't going to turn them into winners.

Is that just a ruthless, cutthroat attitude? Assuming that capitalism is good? No, it's a realistic view of what it takes to make change in the fisheries production system. Change will come from influential people who want to tackle big problems, and have the ability to turn ideas into viable solutions...the winners of the business competition.

OK, maybe it's not so simple, but I still think it's a mistake to look among the little guys for most of our conservation partners. Look at me, I'm really in business school now.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Speaking sustainability, day 4

We've really hit our stride now at Stanford's Business Strategies for Environmental Sustainability program.

We've had 3 days of classes, including the challenging business school round table format, where we students engage heavily in discussing each "case" and shaping the conclusions.

We played a little game on the Prisoners dilemma, which demonstrates the difficulty in building collective action when each individual profits most from being a selfish actor. In an interesting version of the game, we demonstrated a good model of collective action.

We also explored some interesting cases of NGOs and businesses trying to build a better future, and analyzed what worked, what didn't work, and why.

It's interesting and a bit of a duh to realize that the problems I face in my work are not unique. Of course they're not unique. people have spent a lot of time and energy thinking about the types of problems that I'm working on. Yes, I can benefit from learning more about how other people have solved similar problems, and the lessons learned from successful and failed attempts.

I'm finding some good validation of the work I'm engaged in, and tons of food for thought in doing the work better. I think it's going to take a long time to chew through and digest all of the lessons.

Remind me why I don't do this kind of training and education more often, it feels really valuable. Stanford is to be commended for creating this course. I hope for future success for some of their other creative enterprises.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Speaking sustainability, day 3

What's green and stupid and unfair? An environmental nonprofit? Maybe. At least some of my fellow students raise such questions.

Today, we reviewed the role of activist organizations in advancing sustainability, and some of my fellow students don't exactly have a warm spot in their hearts for activist groups that pursue radical or semi-radical actions to "speak truth to power."

Now, I don't want to be too defensive, critics of protests raise legitimate points about the ethical obligations of ENGOs. But ENGOs face tremendous power imbalances and resource limitations and so it seems OK to me that ENGOs use the tools available. Maybe not purely "fair" but so be it. I may be in the minority here on this point.

From my perspective, after 15 years as an activist/advocate, this class is tremendously informative. I have lots of facts and knowledge, but lack a conceptual framework for understanding the general principles invovled in some of this activity. It comes as a welcome surprise to me to find out that smart people have been studying and thinking about the dynamics of business/ENGO relations for some time.

Leaving aside the feeling that I'm serving as a laboratory rat in a maze, I can welcome the insight delivered by people who've studied what I've been doing for the last 15 years. Oh, so is that how it works? OK, let me think about that for a while, thanks for the insight. Truly, I know how to run environmental campaigns, but that isn't a complete solution to advancing sustainability. The discussion leaders are helping me understand how the pieces fit together and helping to decipher general trends. This is good stuff, and I'm thinking this may take weeks to months to really assimilate and understand.

Another interesting insight, Stanford was planning a blog to post deep insights about this BSES class, but blogfish has served that niche so well that there's no need for another one. Wow, we're doing more than just pissing into the wind, whattya know?

One particular issue, the role of "standards" for environmental performance seems destined to be a pivotal concept for me. Since sustainable seafood is a field ripe for standards, it seems like we outght to be able to predict how standards will influence the ongoing development of the field. Order out of chaos, and growth will likely follow standards. Hmmm..interesting, and I think that's a good thing.

Tomorrow, we get to delve into mission and strategies for organizations striving to advance sustainability. This should be interesting.

After 2 days plus, this feels like a full week already. It may help that internet connectivity is rough. Hope you all appreciate that blogfish is going to great lengths to blog the proceedings. I'm now standing on my head in 3 feet of snow while whistling dixie to keep the signal alive on my wireless link. OK, not really, but almost that bad. And the cell phone reception is so bad that even my heroic headstands don't find reception. How's a guy supposed to keep functioning without the umbilicus?

Hardship time now, do you know how difficult it is to sleep in absolute silence? Woe is me, huh? After today's brief run into the beautiful Desolation Wilderness area above Fallen Leaf Lake, I won't really try to play the hardship card again, no connectivity is true, but that just leaves more room to connect to the wildlands all around. Now lets see, how much does property cost around here?

Arreviderci, ciao, bye-bye, good night. See you again tomorrow.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Speaking sustainability, day 2

The challenge of sustainability is huge. With CO2 emissions climbing and climate impacts piling up, how can we possibly imagine a better future?

Do we need a "breakthrough" technology that will suddenly solve everything? Or, can we rely on a large suite of more modest solutions that add up to climate stabilization? The smaller solutions look helpful, but the problem may just be too big. Oh no.

And, once we've focused on sustainability for 6 hours, can we sustainability advocates play a fishery management game and achieve sustainability?

Short answer, all of our fisheries crashed, despite the heroic efforts of a few "managers" to build agreements for restraint and sustainability.

Our Stanford overlords have effectively led us into the gut-level realization that profit motives and a short term outlook are POWERFUL THINGS, and the prospect of voluntary human action to protect our climate system seems perhaps remote. When there's money (or chocolate) on the table, then everyone sharpens their elbows and plays tough to win. Or at least enough people do that the rapacious ones control the outcome. How then to move forward?

Maybe this is like boot camp, where I hear that the job is for the military to break people down before building them up again with a new outlook?

Will we find solutions tomorrow? Stay tuned as blogfish brings you day 3:

1. Sustainability as a market strategy.
2. High profile activism: media and boycotts.
3. Environmental standards and non-governmental enforcement.

What about that high profile activism? What is it good for? Is sustainability a viable market strategy?

Where are we? A reminder, we're at Stanford Business School's "Business Strategies for Environmental Sustainability" day 2.

Image: Kranky's cartoons

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Speaking sustainability, day 1

OK, Stanford University is big, and blogfish is small, but Stanford wants to blog Business Strategies for Environmental Sustainability, and blogfish is here, so let's work together. Who needs whom?

This Stanford connection is interesting. Riding in the limo to Sea-Tac airport today, a newly-met neighbor and I share an interest in Stanford's programs that reach beyond the University and offer solutions to real world problems.

First, off the bat, blogfish wonders who else in the crowd wants to blog the program? Several people say yes, but there are surprising concerns. Does blogging the program exert a chilling influence on dialogue? This is not good, what shall we do? I guess the only answer is that everyone has the rights to their own experience, but that doesn't extend into revealing anyone else's private information.

Is there a blogging ethics for such situations? I must study and find the Truth of Such Things.

We have study groups for the program, and my group spent a couple of hours talking about what is sustainability and other such. Good start to the week.

I offered my blogfish view, sustainability is a state of mind, and we sustainability advocates are seeking an increased "mind share" for concepts like sustainability. But, alas, there are problems with focusing too heavily on broad, general principles and it is important to develop some standards for judging sustainability. But what are the principles for? I think they're to "hook" people on sustainability and bring them along to higher and higher performance.

What is sustainability? Any answers from out there? You can post comments, or if you're terminally private you can email me personally and I'll promise to bring the answer live and in person to the grand workshop in the Sierras.

Oh, did I tell you already that the Stanford conference center is beyond magnificent? If there were ever a grander place to ponder great questions, who cares because this one is grand enough.

Now I must go because the yoga session begins tomorrow morning at 7 and who could bear to miss that?

Friday, September 14, 2007

Talking sustainability-the workshop will be blogged

Hey all, wanna join me at a sustainability workshop/class? It's Sep 16-22, and it will be blogged.

Blogfish has the great pleasure of attending a week-long Stanford Business School program, Business Strategies for Environmental Sustainability. Not knowing what I'd do without my people, I hereby invite you to attend with me. The format is readings, presentations, discussions, and you too can be a part of it.

Here's my thought...I'll post the schedule and see if I can get permission to post a link to the readings (available online). Then, I'll bring questions/comments into the discussions from YOU, the friends of Blogfish. I'll also try to post on each day's doings (Uplink willing!)

It's a bit of an experiment for me, and I have no idea how the program organizers will feel about this idea, but we'll at least do something. My challenge to you is that I'll be deeply disappointed if I don't get at least one great piece of input to the class from the blogosphere. It just occurs to me, wonder if anyone else who will be there is planning to blog the program. That's my first question when I get there Sunday afternoon.

Now quick, get to thinking, what would you just love to ask business school types about oceans and sustainability?!

One program note, we have a fishing simulation segment, where we form teams and run fishing fleets into near and distant waters, buy and sell boats etc., and strive to maximize profits. Any suggestions on optimal strategies for fleet management? Most importantly, any sugesstions on how to have teams work together to avoid fishery crashes and overfishing, when the goal is maximizing profit? Co-op formation? Don't leave me high and dry without your input, please.

Huge oarfish, you won't believe this picture

Ever heard of an oarfish? It's huge, ornate, and magnificent, and very strange looking. Here is an incredible story of an oarfish beaching itself and being collected (after failed rescue attempts).

Oarfish are reputed to be the longest bony fish in the sea at well over 30 feet. They're rare, perhaps found mostly in deep water, but very occasionally seen on shore or in shallow water. They are ribbon shaped and swim by undulating their dorsal fins. This individual beached itself in Mexico, accompanied by another oarfish that eventually swam away.

Note to Jason at, Gorton's law was invoked in the second response to the posting of this story, in record time for such a magnificent animal.

Hat tip: Brand Mongeau

Thursday, September 13, 2007

How to change the world in 5 easy steps

OK, they're not easy, and there's probably more than 20 steps, but the real story won't sell magazines. Now that you've gotten this far, read on if you still want to know how to change the world.

Why go here? Blogfish started something with comments on Carl Safina's conservation outreach to evangelical Christians. As a result, blogfish is now challenged on how to change the world. So here goes.

First note that we're talking big changes. It's not enough to get everyone to switch from green shoelaces to blue, we're talking big changes like the color of shoes. Maybe even shoes AND socks.

I think there are ways to try to change the world that have a better chance of success, and other ways that have a poor chance of success. What's the difference? I think a strategy with the essential focus of tearing something down is unlikely to make big gains. In contrast, a strategy that has the essential focus of building something has a better chance of making big gains.

I think people often try to change the world by tearing down a society that isn't what they like, and remake it in their image. That's got a building aspect, but it's mostly about tearing down our current culture and world, and in my view it won't work. Because people recognize the essential focus on tearing something down and don't like it.

In contrast, I think the right way to try to change the world is to try to build something better than we have now, without the need to tear down so much of what we have now. It will shine through to people as a gain, a benefit, and something worthy of the noble goals being pursued.

Hmmm...this violates all the rules of good blogging, where's the story here? OK, let's try an illustration.

Suppose you're living in a lousy house. Somebody comes along and says you should really tear that down and start over, and it'll take 2 years to finish. You ask what happens when it snows next winter and you're told, you'll shiver and suffer, but ultimately you'll be glad. I think the answer is mostly no thanks, we'll keep what we have.

Now suppose someone else comes along and offers to help you rebuild your lousy house without tearing the whole thing down. You may have some gaps and holes during rebuilding, but you'll never have to stand out in the cold.'ll always look like progress in the right direction. That's a much more attractive project.

So if you want to change the world, craft a plan that feels more like progress than steps backwards. Otherwise, you have the hard sell of convincing people to suffer. And who's going to say yeah, send some of that my way?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Global warming is an offense against god

OK, not the first thought that comes to my mine when I think about global warming...but it's one message from Richard Cizik, the internationally known "Green Evangelist."

What he says may be important, since he's Vice President for Government Affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals, representing 45,000 churches in the United States.

Looks like a good time to reach across cultural divides and find common ground on saving the planet from global warming.

Enviros & seafood businesses make unlikely allies

Anyone who's worked on fish conservation can tell you that some seafood businesses can be the most anti-conservation voices in the management arena. In that context, it's welcome news to read about conservation gains achieved through successful partnerships between conservation groups and seafood businesses.

This successful effort includes some large corporations, such as Wal-mart and McDonald's, and some smaller but influential business leaders like Plitt Seafood Company.

It's a good thing that some courageous and visionary individuals reached out across cultural divides and sought some common ground in sustainable seafood. Now, instead of suspicion and knee-jerk opposition, enviros and seafood businesses can talk about shared goals openly. Not everything is shared, but enough to make it very valuable to work together on some very important issues.

The work is not done, but things are certainly going better today than 10 years ago. It might make an interesting story.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The approach formerly known as framing science

Yesterday's post about Carl Safina's outreach to evangelicals on climate change has generated some conversation. That's a polite word for it. For more, check out Pharyngula, Evolution, Carl Safina's blog, and the Radula.

I raised the issue because there's much debate these days about how to get science to play a stronger role in shaping public policy, and some scientists think the answer is to attack religion. Others suggest "framing" science to (among other things) appeal better to religious people. And it's turned into a bit of a tussle.

Carl's outreach looked good to me, and I wanted to see how it looked to those who want to attack religion.

Interesting, they generally like Carl's outreach, but say it's not framing science to appeal to religious people. OK, I can see some common ground there.

Who cares what we call it, let's just do it. Henceforth, I plan to use the approach formerly known as framing. I'll reach out to anyone who cares to listen, using accesible terms and trying to build trust in the listeners, just like Carl. I'll connect first on shared values and also tell the truth about science. I'll make sure to be respectful while I say things that might contradict messages they've heard previously. And I'll drop the threatening more f-words like framing.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The great gray whale famine

Scary news, the Pacific ocean can no longer provide enough food for today's small remnant population of gray whales. But wait, gray whales are supposed to be a success story of recovery after the end of commercial whaling.

Gray whales still have a long ways to go to recover, according to a new study of gray whale genetic diversity. There were once around 100,000 gray whales, compared to today's population of around 20,000. And today's small population can't seem to find enough to eat, so they're getting skinny and even starving.

What this means is that today's ocean can't support as many whales as the 1800 ocean. Leading candidate for this whale famine? Climate change that is limiting the whale's food supply in the Bering Sea.

Gray whales, since the root around in the bottom to feed, have a big effect on ocean ecosystems, so loss of whales affects more than whales.

This is a real shifting baseline problem, as explained by Jennifer at Shifting Baselines.

Framing science done by a master

Scientists opposed to "framing" science keep asking for an example of what framing science looks like when done well. Here's a very good example in Carl Safina's description of an effort to raise awareness of climate change.

I challenge PZ Myers, Jason Rosenhouse and other haters of framing to consider what Carl is doing and respond. And...for those who say what is this about...the question is how can we get scientific information to play a bigger role in public policy. Some say "frame" the science so people can hear the message. Some others say "framing" is wrong

This is especially timely in light of the plea from climate scientist Michael Tobis yesterday, asking

"Why can't scientists make themselves heard?"


"the central issue of this blog, is how legitimate science, not the institution but the body of legitimate knowledge that the institution produces, can establish trust in the political community, in competition with the cherry-picking that private interests are so good at spinning into a skewed story."

Answer: read Carl Safina's piece, and call him if you don't understand what he's doing. He's building trust across a cultural divide in hopes of getting an important scientific message heard. He's showing religious leaders first hand about climate change, and its natural and human cost, and trying to recruit them to help use the science and fight the problem.

So you stone-throwers determined to "defeat" religion and expunge "superstition" from our culture. Go ahead and shout about why nobody cares about science in the US if you want, but if you really want to change things (instead of just hearing yourselves rant), then go learn from Carl Safina about changing the world.

Way to go Carl, and thanks.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Whale killed in US whale hunt

It's difficult question time as a grey whale was killed during a whale hunt in nearby coastal waters. Blogfish finds many friends asking questions about this hunt.

First, news is sketchy, so more time is needed to sort out what really happened. Sunday morning, before coffee, a banner headline screamed "Grey whale killed in rogue tribal hunt." BTW, this is Seattle all right. How many other places carried the news so prominently?

The early story was rogue hunters did a bad thing. But wait. It now seems that the lead hunter was a grey-haired man who led the legal Makah hunt of 1999 that also killed a whale. One comment was that he was tired of the 8 years of process and wrangling over their treaty rights, and "it was time" to hunt again. For detailed reports, visit Olympic Peninsula Environmental News.

Blogfish sees many shades of grey here. Makah whale hunting is important and culturally valuable. Lots of people claim this and it's rarely true. It's true for Makah whale hunting. Process hurdles do look ridiculous at some point, and I can understand wanting to act rather than spin more papers. But it's breaking the law and one has to be prepared to pay for breaking the law. This "rogue" whale hunt is at least partially some people standing up for what they view as their rights, but that will have consequences. The hunters are not hiding, they're prepared to take responsibility for their actions.

Finally, there is no scientific reason that I know of to worry about the biological impact on the whales. It may be significant if this was a local resident whale, but it's not primarily a conservation issue. This is a moral and social issue, and raises concerns about resumption of whale hunting elsewhere.

It's a tough call, and the rule of law is important. But I wish we were better at drawing lines between resource uses that are ok and those that are not ok. The Makah tribal hunt doesn't worry me as a conservation problem, and I wish the Makah well in maintaining their identity. They have some of my sympathies, I just wish they had waited until they had a permit.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Death to the gang that eats endangered salmon

A new gang is getting rough treatment from federal authorities near the town of Cascade Locks, Oregon. Tired of the "Zalophus bunch" hanging around a fish ladder at Bonneville dam and eating endangered salmon, federal fish and wildlife officials are moving towards a a death sentence.

Who are these criminals? California sea lions, doing what comes naturally, eating fish.

But they happen to be eating the wrong fish in the wrong place at the wrong time. Columbia River salmon are in trouble, and we're spending big bucks to try to save them. By some counts, hundreds of millions of dollars per year. Of course, that's not real money, it's economist's money like "wasted" water that fish get to use instead of hydropower turbines.

Sadly, the recovery plan isn't working, so instead of solving the problems we'll just kill the sea lions blamed for killing 3000 salmon per year. That's a drop in the bucket of dead salmon, but it's earned the Zalophus gang a death sentence.

To the tradition of the scapegoat, we can now add a new word term...the scapesealion. And the scapecormorant...we've spent taxdollars to pay boaters to "harass" cormorants that are eating juvenile salmon, with no obvious benefit.

Ice, ice, baby

Or is it no ice, no ice, baby? Either way, Vanilla Ice has no future. Those big white floating things and the pale rapper are both going, going, gone.

The arctic ice cap will melt sooner than expected, according to the latest research.

And in the here and now, the fabled northwest passage now exists ice free, for the first time since humans have cared. If only the intrepid explorers had waited a couple of hundred years, they would have found it.

Losing Ice is the visible part of some of the changes that are already happening in oceans due to climate change. The scary part is under the surface. This has significant consequences for grey whales, check back on Monday for some hot news that will leave you cold.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

More on skinny grey whales

Grey whales are seen to be skinny and underfed as they head south towards their maternity wards. This is bad, it's hard to have a healthy baby when you can't gain weight. And losing weight while pregnant is beyond bad, it's a serious problem.

We've seen reports of starving whales linked to global warming, and now this about whales failing to fatten up as expected in the Arctic waters where they normally eat a LOT and get FAT so they can last through birth and nursing in warm southern waters without eating.

Some have speculated that grey whales are simply at their carrying capacity, there are as many whales as the ocean can support. Hmm, this is a provocative idea that deserves further comment...soon.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Pollution causes 40% of human deaths

Here's a story that deserves wider coverage. About 40 percent of human deaths worldwide are caused by water, air and soil pollution, concludes a Cornell researcher.

This is scary news that deserves front page coverage and rapid follow-up by public health authorities. Is it right? Because if true, it's very, very WRONG.

We who watch ecosystem health have been screaming for years that we have to notice when pollution is killing wild animals, because what we do to them, we do to ourselves. How many more "canaries in the coal mine" stories do we need about poisoned fish, birds, etc.?

Findings from the Cornell University study, led by David Pimentel:
Nearly half the world's people are crowded into urban areas, often without adequate sanitation, and are exposed to epidemics of such diseases as measles and flu.

With 1.2 billion people lacking clean water, waterborne infections account for 80 percent of all infectious diseases.

Air pollution from smoke and various chemicals kills 3 million people a year. In the United States alone about 3 million tons of toxic chemicals are released into the environment -- contributing to cancer, birth defects, immune system defects and many other serious health problems.

Soil is contaminated by many chemicals and pathogens, which are passed on to humans through direct contact or via food and water. Increased soil erosion worldwide not only results in more soil being blown but spreading of disease microbes and various toxins.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Do you want to swim in sewage?

I didn't think so. Thanks to a new bipartisan bill in Congress, you might just be able to find out when you're swimming in sewage.

The Sewage Right to Know Act would require monitoring, reporting, and public notification of sewage dumping into rivers, lakes, and ocean beaches.

It's about time that we find out when we're swimming in sewage...without having to wait for the symptoms.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Skinny bluefin tuna

It's good to be fat, at least in the fish world. So nobody's cheering about the skinny bluefin tuna in Maine.

Creative science found skinny bluefin tuna by relying on the meticulous work of tuna grader Robert Campbell. Since bluefin can fetch a scary price when prime, upwards of $50 per pound, much attention is giving to separating the prime from the not-quite-prime.

Fortunately for fishery science, what makes bluefin tuna good to eat also makes them good for making baby tuna. It's all about the fat content, like pretty much any good desert and most good food. Is it fatty? Then it's good.

There is no obvious reason for skinny bluefin tuna, there seems to be plenty of herring to eat. Maybe it's the influence of mainstream media and unhealthy body images.

Carnival of the blue 4

Is up at The Saipan Blog.

Best of ocean blogging comes to you this month from Saipan, largest and capital island of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Angelo has much more to tell you, so drop by for a visit.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Burning Man

It's burn night on the playa, Burning Man is happening. And all I can do is watch on the lousy streaming video. Oh well, it's better than not burning at all.

I've seen some comments from bloggers that don't "get" why people like Burning Man. It's the strangest planet I've ever been on, and it resets my mind back to where it oughta be.

Here's a link to some photo galleries from some of my people, check it out. And here's 1998, one of my favorite years. See what the fuss is all about. And get yourself there next year, if it looks like something that might "get" you.

Parkour, FreeRunning, its body surfing on land

Obstacle surfing on land with just hands and feet, it's parkour. Or freerunning. Whatever, it's the most amazing body sport and you won't believe it.

This one's for Thomas who likes the surf videos.

Oh so many years ago I did a baby version of this with college friends. Highlights for us were running across the tops of a long series of church pews (one nasty fall in a dark chapel at midnight), jumping across big gaps and over small (parked) cars, and climbing and spinning around poles. A fun start is finding the highest post you can jump directly up onto without doing any climbing (not touching anything except the top).

These moves are unreal, long series of linked runs, jumps, and manuvers up over through and around obstacles like railings, etc. Gotta see it to believe it. To paraphrase the immortal words of tres arboles for a family blog, this video got me excited.