Saturday, August 29, 2009

Green consumers, who are they?

Who buys green goods? People who rank sustainability above all else? No.

A survey on who buys green uncovers some green surprises. Despite prevalent myths, people who buy more-sustainable products still care about price and value. So sustainability won't sell if it's too costly.

Other interesting myths: that saving the planet is the top goal of green consumers. And here's my favorite: more information won't necessarily spur people to make greener choices.

Monday, August 24, 2009

People vs. fish in the Caribbean

Where there are more people, big fish disappear. At least in the Caribbean.

A study of Caribbean reef fish says that "as human population density increases, presence of large-bodied fishes declines, and fish communities become dominated by a few smaller-bodied species."

Yikes, people and fish conflict, and the relationship is simple and direct. How sad. The causes of the Caribbean fish decline include habitat damage and overfishing.

Sustainability says we can reverse this trend. Let's get to work. I want to see the trend disappear as the big fish come back to reefs near people.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Wild salmon declines--possible causes

Salmon are in trouble in British Columbia and elsewhere. Is it salmon farming? Pollock trawling? Or what?

I'm not up on all the data, but there are signs of salmon problems from California to Alaska. Not just near salmon farms, and not just where trawlers catch pollock.

The problem has hit sockeye from the Fraser River. But it's also hit salmon from British Columbia all the way to California. Salmon farming has been blamed, but there aren't salmon farms to cause problems all the way to California.

The kings are in trouble in the Yukon River, and pollock trawlers have gotten some heat, but there are disease problems linked to warmer temperatures also causing problems for these fish.

Oh...and there are seabird problems in some of the same areas, British Columbia and the US west coast.

Not sure what to think about all this, but I'm going to focus my worrying on the larger scale issues like ocean warming, either cyclical or CO2 driven.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Watch out for the methane monster

Runaway global warming coming soon--if the ocean bottom starts releasing methane.

It's the scare story of the decade, and there's scary news just out. Ocean farts are leaking methane already, sooner than expected.

How does this work? The ocean bottom has methane stored as methane hydrates, stable at cold temperature and high pressure as found in the deep ocean. But only slightly stable. Warmer temperatures make the methane hydrates melt and the methane is released as a gas...ocean methane farts. Enough farts and the methane can contribute to global warming. And so on...and so on...until we're all melting. Read the book.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Alaska's fishery failure

King salmon have turned up missing in Alaska this year...and last year...and the year before that. Wait a minute, this is the land of sustainable fisheries, right? WTF?

Alaska's pride has been sustainable fishery management, buoyed by good productivity. What will happen now that our fickle ocean mistress seems to be forsaking Alaska's king salmon? Will the management system look equally good?

The test of good fishery management comes when times are tough, and a rigorous test may be coming for Alaska.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Climate control

What if we save the earth's climate without the pain of reducing CO2 in the air? Who would support action? I worry that the idea would become a political football, sort of like health care in the US.

Climate engineering is close to reality, probably a lot closer than global reductions in CO2 production. Aerosol particles are being considered to shade the earth, and seawater mists might work to make clouds reflect more sunlight. Both ideas could be tested fairly soon at a reasonable cost.

Critics correctly point out that climate engineering is risky, but so what's safe about our current CO2 orgy? We're pumping up our atmosphere with CO2 in a massive and risky experiment already. It's time to be brave, smart, and active, and that means we should consider designed climate engineering instead of our current accidental climate engineering mess caused by our love of combustion.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Oyster restoration success in the Chesapeake

Good news for oysters, and that means good news for the Chesapeake Bay. Gigantic oyster-shell artificial reefs are proving successful as a home for oyster refuges. This is good news, after a spate of bad news for oysters in recent years.

Oysters are great things to have in a bay, they produce habitat and filter out algae that can otherwise contribute to nuisance algae blooms. And...they make a great dinner, especially when eaten raw.

The newly-made oyster reefs are sanctuaries where oysters are left to grow and breed unmolested. Protecting some good reefs makes sense, to help repopulate the bay. Let's hope the early success continues.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Ocean plastic study--watch it as it happens

Are you dismayed by reports of plastic garbage in the ocean? Wanna peak over the shoulders of scientists as they explore and study the problem? Here's your chance to watch science unfold in real time.

In case you haven't yet heard about the problem of plastic in the ocean, here's a nice CNN story on Seaplex, including a little bit of debunking. The plastic accumulation is NOT a giant floating island or anything so dramatic. It's a lot of plastic, but even in the middle of it, you might not see anything visible to a human eye while standing on the deck of a boat. What is the reality, what's the hype?

Go to Seaplex Science's website or twitter feed to watch the action as it happens. Poke my friend Miriam Goldstein as she leads the expedition and drags the scientific world, kicking and screaming, towards real-time reporting of results.

Wow, I'm on the edge of my seat. And hey, isn't that a giant vampire squid?!

View SEAPLEX in a larger map

Friday, August 07, 2009

A new day for salmon?

Could it be that political tides are turning in favor of saving salmon? Will we finally muster the political will necessary to reverse habitat loss and restore salmon?

A story in the always-stimulating High Country News suggests that we may finally be ready to do what it takes to help salmon recover.

We already know that salmon restoration is a good investment that will make money.

The bottom line? Idaho does not deserve a government-subsidized seaport, it's too far upstream (435 miles from the ocean) and uphill (738 feet above sea level). Get real, Idaho, and wait for rising sea levels if you really want to have a coastline.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Nasty Venice algae to become green energy source

Real green energy for Venice--nuisance algae blooms to be harvested and used to produce electricity. Up to half the electricity needs of the historic city center can be generated by this goop to gold alchemy scheme.

If only every nuisance could be so readily transformed into a resource. Imagine using CO2 to eliminate wrinkles and unsightly cellulite. We'd be using up so much CO2, we'd have to worry about global cooling.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

guilt was never a part of it...

There's too much guilt in the non-profit world. Here's an exciting new charity that is turning heads with success in delivering clean water to poor people. Why? One reason seems to be the attitude of Scott Harrison, the founder of charity:water, a new group that helps deliver clean water to people who need it:
Guilt has never been part of it,” he said. “It’s excitement instead, presenting people with an opportunity — ‘you have an amazing chance to build a well!’ ”

It's an awesome a well, save a child, build a turning off the faucet of guilt that is so popular among non-profits.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Seagulls attacking whales

It's like a Hitchcock movie made real--attack of the birds. I wonder if whales are as scared as I was when I saw "The Birds" as a boy.

Seagull attacks are a new threat to endangered right whales off Argentina. In 1974 only 1% of whales were attacked, but the number of victims has increased to 74% today.

Roger Payne from the Ocean Alliance said “You see big open sores, which we thought were pock marks of infection. Some are half a metre across and the edges look like thousands of bites."

The gulls are driving the whales crazy as they try evasive manuvers to avoid getting pecked to death while on the surface to breathe. Especially at risk are mother-calf pairs, the preferred target of the gulls.

hat tip: zooillogix

Sunday, August 02, 2009

New study on rebuilding global fisheries

Google and Microsoft just joined forces to improve your life. OK, not really, but something equally monumental just happened for us few interested in fisheries. The result? Some optimism that fisheries can flourish, but only if we get serious about ending overfishing.

Marine ecologists and fisheries scientists just smoked the peace pipe and worked together on a "what's up in global fisheries" study. That's good news for those of us caught in the middle, between projections (not predictions) showing the end of the line for fishing by 2048, and critiques that such an idea was "mind-boggling stupid."

The collaboration is timely, given the release of the apocalyptic movie "The End of the Line" this summer. So who was right?

As usual when smart people disagree so strongly, both sides have a good point. Lacking controls on fishing, we're headed for fisheries disaster. But fish and ocean ecosystems can thrive where science-based limits on fishing are well-implemented.

What's ahead in our shared future? Fisheries success seems likely where effective management respects scientific advice. Fisheries failures will continue where social and economic forces conspire to inhibit effective management. What's needed is creative solutions that cross traditional boundaries.

How will we fish and seafood people get to solutions where governance tends to be weak, such as international fisheries or small-scale fisheries in the developing world? Creative solutions do exist, where people are willing to put their ideologies aside and work together in pursuit of shared goals. That's right, shared goals. After all, NOBODY really wants to get to the end of the line for fish, not in 2048 or ever.