Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Grey whale visit while diving

No, it wasn't me, but I wish it was. Watch this short video from RIPproductions9 and imagine it was you!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Swim (and fly) like a dolphin

Oh my, I want one of these really much!!

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Dam removal becoming a new possibility

Personal reflection on freeing the White Salmon River in Washington:

"I can't believe I am living long enough to see it actually happen," said Phyllis Clausen, 87, of Vancouver, Wash., who with other citizen activists has fought for restoration of the White Salmon as a free flowing river since joining the "Friends of the White Salmon":http://friendsofthewhitesalmon.org/, a non-profit citizens' conservation group, in 1976. "We kept working on things for the river, and it just became our obsession," she said.

What she centers on as she talks about the long campaign that will be rewarded with a boom on Oct. 26, when the dam is breached, was the power of persistence. It wasn't any one letter or hearing or action that got the job done, she said, but just staying with it, even when it seemed hopeless.


Phyllis Clausen and Friends of the White Salmon fought for restoration and dam removal on the White Salmon for decades, even when it seemed hopeless. Photo courtesy, Phyllis Clausen

"Situations change over many years, and what seemed impossible at early times might become possible, just because situations surrounding the issue change. That occurs slowly, but if you are tuned in to take advantage of those moments, like the moment when the dam came up for re-licensing, then you may be able to accomplish something," Clausen said.

"It took a number of people, and it certainly wasn't just me. I felt, it was that this river was so important to so many people, I think it for a lot of us, it's a home, really, and it has the same beauty to us. I could go down and sit there on a cliff side with my feet dangling and eat a picnic lunch and watch dippers down in the water and birds flying all around there, and I would remember that, long after I left."

Monday, December 05, 2011

Floating cities

People often dream of the perfect tomorrow, and some find satisfaction in floating cities, far from the crowds and free to drift with the wind of the open sea. Sounds nice, getting away from welfare, minimum wage, and stifling laws restricting private weapons.

Wait a minute, whose dream is this?

The latest version comes from the billionaire founder of PayPal, who apparently sees himself as a real-world Atlas, as in Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand's ponderous novel of heroic capitalism. I didn't like the book, and this version seems even less appealing.

This week, the Economist considers the realities of governance, engineering, and other mundane difficulties. The dream may still have to wait a while.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Airwatch and the right to breathe

Here's a nice story about a guy in California who started taking pictures of problems that he had noticed, and now he's making a difference in helping clean up California's dirty air.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Fish and the people who look like them

It might be a bit scary for some people to be a subject of New York based photographer Ted Sabarese. Here's an example of his fish-people lookalike series.

To see a series of his fish-people images, visit the Symbiartic blog at Scientific American.

I wonder what he'd do with me?

Thursday, December 01, 2011

The least sustainable food on earth

What do you think is the least sustainable food on earth? Panda steaks? Spicy Condor wings?

No, food that doesn't get eaten is the worst. Even if lovingly prepared by happy workers using zero-impact methods, if food ends up in the trash then it ain't sustainable.

Where is the worst place for food waste? Restaurants, and diners are beginning to wonder about the problem. What a shame to buy and cook carefully at home, only to see pounds of food thrown away when you splurge on a dinner out.

How bad is the problem? According to a recent study it's bad and getting worse.
US per capita food waste has progressively increased by ~50% since 1974 reaching more than 1400 kcal per person per day
1400 calories per day, that's just a bit less than I eat in one day.

Food waste, the next frontier in food sustainability?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Immersed in the wild ocean

Here's an excerpt from a great article on open water swimming. I can relate, since I'm a bit of a wild water swimmer too.

Immersed in the Wild
by Edwin Dobb
Like any deeply enjoyable activity, distance swimming readily becomes addicting. The high is real. But swimming entails another kind of attraction as well, one whose locus is the medium itself. Since boyhood, I've been drawn to water, especially open water -- rivers, lakes, seas, and in a visceral way. Mere contemplation won't do. The first time I saw the Pacific Ocean, on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington, I was seized by a desire to taste it, to feel it on my skin, to surrender to it. Exultation is the going, as Emily Dickinson wrote, Of an inland soul to sea. Though the poem refers to sailors, I know well the going it celebrates. I also know well the hunger for going that haunts some land-born souls.
Immersion doesn't entirely satisfy this hunger, which then moves outward, fixing on the horizon, an undulating, ever-receding border between endless sea and endless sky. Past the houses, past the headlands, Into deep eternity! Playing it safe during my birthday escapade, I looked -- rather than swam -- across the cove, toward the opening that connects it to the bay as a whole, where sailboats and ferries, tugs and container ships were visible. After I've increased my stamina and grown accustomed to longer stays, I'll trace successive mile-long circuits, swimming along the interior perimeter. I especially enjoy passing through the opening into the zone where the smaller chop inside the cove mixes with the larger, more energetic chop outside. There I pause and tread water for a spell. Sometimes I tremble slightly, not in response to the cold but in recognition of the wildness of the place, its power, immensity, and indifference to my interests or well-being, which is exhilarating, surprisingly enough, but also scary. I gaze at the Bay Bridge; Treasure, Alcatraz and Angel islands; the Golden Gate Bridge and, beyond that, the Marin Headlands. A crazy yet almost irresistible urge takes hold, the same urge that arises whenever I'm in the ocean, with nothing but water in front of me -- to swim farther out, and farther still....
Click the link at the top for much more, including a great set of links at the end on open water swimming.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Frustrated salmon

It's fall, time for salmon to run upstream and spawn. And every year you can find these kind of scenes of frustrated salmon. Can we help these fish?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Have a snack, save a species

Yvon Chouinard has an idea, and he's not a person that should be ignored when he has an idea. I won't go into his record here, suffice it to say it's good.

Now he's onto seafood, introduced by his "Have a snack, save a species" essay. Can salmon jerky revolutionize seafood? If anyone else said so, I'd be skeptical, but I think Patagonia Provisions salmon jerky has a chance because of the person behind the product.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

New (old) sustainable aquaculture

Fantastic new aquaculture promises sustainable seafood. Great idea, good story, but it's not exactly new.

China leads the world in farming seaweed, and it's at least hundreds of years old if not thousands. This piece in The Atlantic gives us some good news, but it seems to miss the Chinese roots of this "new" wave in sustainable aquaculture.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sustainable pangasius farming in Vietnam

During a recent trip to Vietnam I had the pleasure of meeting again Mr. Duong Ngoc Minh, President of Hùng Vương Corporation, and the largest pangasius farmer in Vietnam.

Mr. Minh signed an agreement with WWF to advance one of his pangasius farms to sustainability certification by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, and to use his farm as a demonstration to other pangasius farmers. Mr Minh is in the light blue shirt with some of his staff and the WWF team.

We toured one of his farms and processing plants, the operations are big, efficient, and very impressive. Here's feeding time on the farm (photo right).

Our hosts then treated us to a wonderful Vietnamese seafood feast at the Thuong Nyen restaurant in My Tho in the Mekong Delta region. Including some wonderful squid, shark, and much more, all cooked in a steaming pot right on the table. Vietnam is a great country to visit, I know I'll be back.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Live fish markets, sustainability, and almost-local seafood

What is gained by staring a fish in the eye before eating it? China's live fish markets are a great place to ask this question.

My answer? Shopping this way brings the fish closer, so that imported food becomes "almost local." It's a good thing.

Walking through Qingdao's restaurant district I found row after row of live fish in tanks, ready for diners to order and eat. Not only fish, of course, there were also lots of sea cucumbers, clams, lobsters, etc. Some from nearby, no doubt, but many brought from some distance. Like the freshwater-farmed carp not widely grown in the area near this seaside city.

The tanks are small, and there's no way to see these animals as living peacefully in a native pond. But there is a definite sense of of visiting with a fish in the water when shopping for dinner. There's something about a live animal that transcends the particulars of the time and place of contact.

Live fish markets tunnel through distance and unknown supply chains and make fish seem local even if they come from far away.

A live fish market isn't the only way to do this, traceable and transparent supply chains have some of the same benefit. Buy a red snapper from the Gulf of Mexico's Gulf Wild program, and you can bring the fish closer with a few clicks. Enter the fish tag number on the Gulf Wild website and you'll look eye-to-eye with the fisherman who caught it and see a spot on the map where the fish was caught. This is another good approch for making your Mississippi red snapper an "almost local" fish in Idaho. Why not? It's better fish for the land-locked.

And before you think this only happens in China or Chinatown, here's Joe Tess Live Fish Market in Omaha, Nebraska, proudly featuring carp since the 1930's, some in live tanks, and serving up a ton of carp a week. "We're going fishin' cause we're going to Joe Tess."

Watch the video below, and see middle Americans talk about how Joe Tess brings fish closer to customers, giving them fish that "tastes like it's just out of the water."

Monday, November 21, 2011

Carp dinner in China, sustainable and good

What could be more sustainable than a dinner of plant-eating farmed carp? But is it a GOOD dinner for a westerner? Time to find out.

During my recent trip to China I was interested to find a real Chinese carp dinner. I grew up fishing, and my father and everyone else taught me to throw carp back in the water. "You can't eat those things" I remember being told.

But the Chinese know better, they've farmed carp for thousands of years. In fact, carp farming in China is the biggest farmed fish industry in the world. Most of the carp never make it out of China, and they almost never find their way to the western world.

My host in Qingdao, Songlin Wang, took me walking through the
town restaurant district and we shopped the live fish tanks until we found a place we wanted to stop.

All of the restaurants had a variety of live fish in tanks, ready for diners to call one out to become dinner. We chose the grass carp, the staff reached into the tank with a net (photo, top right), and our dinner came out of the tank flopping and headed for the kitchen.

We asked for a spicy preparation and the cooked carp soon arrived in a steaming pot, head, tail, spinal column and a few more interesting bits (photo, left). The dish had Sichuan pepper which was spicy and had a slight, temporary numbing effect on the lips.

The carp was great. It was tender, with a mild flavor that complemented the sauce nicely. The only challenge was some small bones that had to be pulled out of many of the pieces. The bones didn't bother me, but might easily annoy a more squeamish eater. Of course, the carp's head staring at us from the pot would probably be a bigger challenge.

One nice feature of this dinner, you can be sure that you know what you're getting in this type of seafood restaurant, there is no chance for fish fraud. Unlike the widespread problem in the US of restaurants feeding customers fake substitutes for expensive and desirable fish, here you can see that you're getting what you ordered.

The dinner was a great success, I'm a carp fan now, ready to promote these sustainable fish.

But wait, they're not certified!? It's true that there may be some farming practices of concern, waste or nutrients in the effluent water. But these plant-eating fish can be grown without added feed, so they're very close to sustainability without much extra effort.

Growing millions of tons of carp is a sustainability success story for China, it's a very good thing that China is NOT growing this much farmed salmon.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thrift and sustainability in China

Here's an interesting greenspace, crops growing on the roof of the main parking garage at Beijing Airport. Thrifty use of space.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Where's your tuna from?

John West wants you to know where your tuna came from. Enter the can code into their website and see the ocean and boat that caught your tuna.

This is a good start in transparency for tuna. The big tuna companies could have done this a long time ago. They track their tuna to minimize costs in the case of recalls of unsafe tuna.

Now all we need is sustainability information like how it's caught and whether fishing is sustainable. What do you say John West? Will you collaborate with eNGOs on adding sustainability information to your website?

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Glowing surf, WTF!?

Strange beauty is common in the ocean, and glowing water is right at the top of my list of eerie yet fantastic ocean sights.

Churned by surf, fish, or boats, glowing ocean waters are the result of microbes that glow when disturbed, in the case of the photo at right, a red tide in California.

Click here for a fun video of surfing bioluminescence.


Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Japan increases protection of whaling fleet

Stories of my demise have been greatly exaggerated. So say Japan's whale hunters after speculation that they would stop hunting post-tsunami.

Instead, the Japanese whaling fleet will have more protection from anti-whaling protesters this year.

With both sides promising to get tougher, this could be a troubled year for Japan's whaling effort.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

China rejects contaminated US oysters

In a "man bites shark" story, China recently halted the import of contaminated oysters from the US.

That's a turnaround, Chinese regulators stopping a questionable food import from overseas. Maybe we need to take another look at food safety; it's not just health risks caused by bad people from far away.

The oyster problem arose in Washington state in the US because ofoysters contaminated with an annoying bacteria Vibrio parahaemolyticus. In case you're skeptical, here's the US FDA announcement on the problems with Washington oysters.

Monday, October 03, 2011

How the seahorse got it's shape

Nitrogen pollution disrupts Pacific Ocean

Surging nitrates in Asian waters could dramatically affect marine wildlife. So says science journal Nature in a news piece explaining why we should care about human-caused increases in ocean nitrate levels.

Waste from agriculture and burning of fossil fuels are the suspected cause. This is bad news, and could lead to increasing ocean "dead zones" where oxygen is depleted and many of our favorite ocean animals flee or die.

I always wonder about the demand-side effect on nitrogen that might occur in changed ocean ecosystems based on my experience with rivers. In some streams with healthy ecosystems, increased nitrogen causes increased growth of animals like fish. This happens in a "tightly coupled" ecosystem where fertilizer efficiently moves through plants to herbivores to predators. So the demand side of the system sucks up increased nitrogen supplies.

This effect is so pronounced that it's exploited by people in some places by fertilizing streams with nitrogen to increase the growth of desirable fish.

In our oceans, how much of the excess nitrogen would get cycled into fish biomass if the ecosystems were healthy? Is there a demand-side effect that we neglect to include in our analyses? Does anyone out there know the answer? I've seen tidbits of research that suggest it matters, but never a clear and precise study.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Infinite green fuel

Scientists make hydrogen using sunlight:
Two independent research teams report today in Science that they've taken key strides toward harnessing the energy in sunlight to synthesize chemical fuels. If the new work can be improved, scientists could utilize Earth's most abundant source of renewable energy to power everything from industrial plants to cars and trucks without generating additional greenhouse gases.
Let's dream the impossible dream of clean green fuel!

Thanks: Revkin

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Elwha River (finally) defeats Elwha Dam!

The Elwha River in Washington is making an end run around the Elwha Dam, and you can watch it on this webcam. Here's today's view.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Shark eats siblings in utero

Intrauterine cannabilism on camera, wow:

Thanks to Deep-Sea News

One green score for products

Here's a good idea...a single green score for products. US consumers want a single green score that says what products cost the environment and people.

More than 80 percent of U.S. shoppers want a single sustainability rating for all products that 75 percent say should be displayed as a numerical score and produced by an independent organization with no profit motive, according toOne Green Score for One Earth.
Nice idea, who's going to set the scores, using what criteria?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Squid sex: a shot in the dark

What do you do if you're a lonely male squid? Fire your sperm at the first potential partner you see, regardless if it's male or female.

That's life in the deep sea where sex partners can be hard to find. A new study shows that male Octopoteuthis deletron attempt to copulate at the first sign of another member of their species, without bothering to learn first whether it's a female.

They deposit spermatophores on the backside of other squid using a long penis-like organ, and the lucky deposits made on females are absorbed and used to fertilize her eggs.

Just one of many strange ways that deep sea creatures reproduce.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Serious dam removal-the Elwha River

I've been waiting for this; it seems like it's taken forever. But now the Elwha River dams are coming down. See the big chunk missing from Glines Canyon dam on the Elwha River.

If you're really interested, you can follow the 3 year restoration project with the webcams.

Why is this a big deal? Washington's Elwha River once hosted miraculous salmon runs, with fish up to 100 pounds. But two big dams blocked the river near it's mouth almost a century ago, so the salmon fizzled out despite pristine habitat. Ironically this is one place where salmon could still be thriving in the lower 48. Most of the Elwha River watershed is pristine and protected in Olympic National Park.

It's a good day for river restoration and fish conservation.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Legal Seafoods fake 'save the animals' ads--funny?

Do enviros have a sense of humor? Maybe not, judging by some reactions to the Legal Sea Foods ads in the videos below. Comments from Greenpeace and the National Resources Defense Council seem a bit stiff.

I think the ads are funny. What do you think?

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Fishermen vs. Wal-mart

Some recreational fishermen have decided they're going to make Wal-mart blink. Angered by the Walton Family Foundation's funding of ocean conservation (thanks WFF!), the Recreational Fishing Alliance is calling for a boycott of Wal-mart stores.

 Why would this fishing group oppose ocean conservation?  Seems nonsensical, doesn't it?  Conservation means more fish, but RFA thinks that's not OK if it means creating no-fishing areas. 

As if taking on Wal-mart isn't enough, the RFA is already supporting a boycott of Safeway, the 2nd largest retail grocery chain in the US. 

Spending by anglers does matter, but it's hard to believe that these Quixotic moves will have an impact. Will we really see the "nationwide protests" that RFA expects?  Or is the campaign more about driving traffic to the button on the RFA's website (top left)? 

A quick search of the news provided no evidence of boycotts or protests against Wal-mart by fishermen. In fact, it looks like anglers will have to wait in line to get attention for their boycott, behind other groups that are targeting Wal-mart for other reasons.

Here's a group calling itself "Boycott International," a group who's reason for being is to organize boycotts in "recognition of the power of individuals in situations where governments have chosen to, or are unable to, influence companies that exploit children and/or violate basic human rights of their workers."

Watch this space for news about retail giants crumbling (or not) under the pressure of anglers upset about ocean conservation harming their "right to fish." 

Monday, September 05, 2011

Gentle "save the ocean" persuasion with a music video

This meet's Randy's rules, it's not boring...

Sunday, September 04, 2011

A fish that lives on land

Who knew there was a fish that lives on land? Not just a walking catfish that can tolerate being out of the water, this is a fish that actually prefers to be out of the water.

It's the Pacific leaping blenny, and it's unusual lifestyle is described in a new study. These interesting fish engage in complex behaviors on dry (actually moist) land, and they can leap about from place to place with a tail-flicking motion, clinging to almost any firm surface with their modified fins.

Click the video below and watch them leap!

Friday, September 02, 2011

Buy shrimp right off the boat in Louisiana

New way to buy shrimp, call it a "fisherman's market" like the farmer's markets that are so popular.

The Port of Delcambre (Louisiana) has a new direct sale website that lets you check what local fishermen are catching and make phone orders that you can pick up at the dock. Fresh seafood.

Here's shrimper Jimmie Dupre to tell you a little bit about buying shrimp direct, and a few other things as well.

This is a great new way to connect seafood producers and customers, always a good thing.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Bluefin tuna crisis, again

Bluefin tuna are in trouble, again. This time it's the southern bluefin tuna, the more endangered cousin of the Atlantic bluefin tuna that was much in the news last year.

It's the same tired story, conservation advocates call for reduced fishing, and some fishing interests want to keep fishing. This time, however, Japan is skeptical of the wisdom of maintaining or increasing fishing levels. Maybe pressure to put Atlantic bluefin on the CITES list of endangered species has encouraged bluefin conservation.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fraser sockeye good news, again

One of my favorite fish stories is back. Fraser River sockeye salmon simply refuse to die.

Fish have a way of keeping us humble. Just try to catch one, or even worse, try to predict what they'll do.

This year the infamous Fraser River (British Columbia) sockeye are causing problems once again. Just as a high-level panel is discussing what caused their collapse, they're doing better. How ironic to autopsy a corpse that stubbornly insists on coming back to life.

Last year's record sockeye run of 34 million fish began the trend. Now this year's 4 million is about equal to the 50-year average, and well above the record low of 1.7 million fish seen in 2009.

Are the problems over? No. But the fish are surprising us by coming home to spawn in good numbers again this year, confounding our attempts to understand them.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Chilean sea bass boo-boo

It's the biggest sea bass snafu since Al Gore armed critics by serving chilean sea bass at his daughter's wedding. It turns out Gore was green, or so we thought, because the fish was certified as sustainable. But now Gore's green may be wearing off...

Sustainability certification is supposed to make sure that buyers can identify sustainable products. However, in a recent study of Marine Stewardship Council certified sustainable chilean sea bass, scientists have found 1 out of 5 fish were mislabeled. Some were seabass from uncertified fisheries, and some weren't even sea bass at all. Tuna, greenling, and mackerel sold as certified sea bass? For the full details click here.

MSC critics have found fault with many aspects of the MSC's program, but this is the first time I've seen evidence of substitution in a certified product. This is not good, and the MSC is investigating the problem. Let's hope they have a good answer.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Your CO2 killed my oysters

Human CO2 is killing oysters on the US west coast. It's the early stages of our CO2 assault on the ocean.

CO2 makes carbonic acid in water. Since we're responsible for the excess CO2 in the air, then there is absolutely no debate about the human causes of the ocean acid monster.

Here's an interesting and scary article about how oyster growers on the west coast have been hit hard by the ocean acid monster, and how they've responded with a good adaptation strategy. They only take low CO2 water into their oyster tanks. BTW, the strategy works for an oyster farm, but not for wild oysters, they're stuck living in the water no matter how much CO2 it contains.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hoki fishermen ask for smaller quota in New Zealand

Since when do fishermen ask for smaller catch limits? That's what is happening in New Zealand these days, as increasing hoki populations have government managers trying to give away fish to fishermen.

But the fishermen are having none of it, they say leave the fish in the water to grow and reproduce.

This is one of the promises made by advocates of transferable quotas or catch shares, that fishermen's incentives will change and they'll be more focused on conservation. Whattya know, it seems to be working in New Zealand.

Cod is not dead in Canada

Cod are coming back to Atlantic Canada. Slowly, here and there, but the signs are positive.

That's good news after the catastrophic collapse of the Newfoundland cod fishery two decades ago. Since then, we've learned a lot about the effects of overfishing on ocean ecosystems, and the mysterious non-recovery once fishing was stopped.

One problem has been that fishing wasn't actually stopped, and remaining low-level fisheries inhibited recovery.

One worrisome sign is that the fish are smaller than they used to be, what's up with that? Is it a blip that will go away, or a changed system?

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Sustainable shrimp farming in Las Vegas

From the land of wasteful resource use comes a development in sustainability. Shrimp farmed in recirculating tanks just outside of Las Vegas, far from the ocean (unless you count Mandalay Bay's wave pool).

Are there any aquaculture critics who can't accept this as sustainable?

New Zealand hoki, fishery success story or not?

Hoki populations are increasing around New Zealand, testing the predictions of many who care about fish and fishing.

The hoki fishery, certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council, has been under fire because hoki declined after being certified. The declines were cited as proof of unsustainable fishing.

But fishery managers reduced quotas and now hoki are recovering. That addresses one of the major complaints made against the fishery.

Will hoki fishery critics concede the point? I haven't seen it yet.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Can the tuna industry sink Sea Shepherd?

Or at least leave them high and dry? Thanks to a lawsuit by a tuna company from Malta, Sea Shepherd may be forced to sell the boat they use to harass bluefin tuna ranchers.

According to The Guardian:
Maltese company Fish and Fish lodged a complaint against him in the Scottish courts over alleged damage sustained when Sea Shepherd freed hundreds of bluefin tuna from the company's nets in a a clash off the coast of Libya last year. The Steve Irwin was impounded by the court on 15 July and now the man described by the Japanese as a pirate has just days left to post a bond for £860,000.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Why NOT to fight about climate change "facts"

Do you think Rush Limbaugh is cool? How about George Will? They win the title in a new paper "Cool dudes, hot temps; the climate change battle will get us nowhere."

These characters are cultural "elites" used to getting their way, so why should they be worried about climate change or anything else? The lesson here: you can't win arguing "facts" with one of these "cool dudes." Because ideology trumps facts and their ideology has them feeling secure.

It's the "white male effect," those with power are less worried because they feel like they control their own destiny. So there's no point in arguing facts, it's ideology that has them blithely unconcerned.

From the writeup in BigThink:
What is valuable about this study is what it says not just about conservative white men, but about all of us. This research confirms that who we are as people, at really fundamental levels, has a lot more to do with the way we see things than just the facts. All of us, not just CWMs. And not just on climate change. And what that means is that arguing issues based just on the facts isn‘t going to get us very far, since the facts aren’t really what we’re arguing about in the first place.

Here are a few of the findings (based on analysis of Gallup surveys of public opinion between 2000 and 2010);

--- 14% of the general public doesn’t worry about climate change at all, but among CWMs the percentage jumps to 39%.

--- 32% of adults deny there is a scientific consensus on climate change, but 59% of CWMs deny what the overwhelming majority of the world’s scientists have said.

--- 3 adults in 10 don’t believe recent global temperature increases are primarily caused by human activity. Twice that many - 6 CWMs out of every ten – feel that way

So what is about CWMs that make them see the climate change issue this way? The “Cool Dudes” paper suggests that its partly because they’re WMs, and partly because they are Cs. The so-called “White Male Effect” in risk perception has found that white males between ages 18-59 are generally less afraid of things than white women or people of color of either gender. A famous “White Male Effect” paper suggested Perhaps white males see less risk in the world because they create, manage, control, and benefit from so much of it. Perhaps women and nonwhite men see the world as more dangerous because in many ways they are more vulnerable, because they benefit less from many of its technologies and institutions, and because they have less power and control.”
Makes sense to me. What do we do about this problem?
The solution is obvious, though hardly easy. We have stop making climate change a zero sum if-you-win-I-lose battle. We have to frame the issue in ways that work within everybody’s underlying cultural/tribal perspectives. We have to realize that answers are more likely to be found, and solutions are more likely to be reached, if the goal is finding common ground, to one of the most serious threats humans - all of us - have ever faced.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Amazing Chinese algae bloom

Once again a major algae bloom is afflicting China's coast (photo above). This reminds me of the Olympic year, and the massive cleanup necessary to present a good image and keep coastal waters usable.

I'm surprised that this doesn't seem to keep people out of the water, I suppose it depends on what you're used to.

Great surf video

You won't believe this one

Un film de Karim Rejeb, Production Anticyclone

Thanks to Deep Blue Home, where Julia posts the best stuff ever...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Is small-scale fishing less harmful?

Who are the ocean villains? Large-scale industrial fishermen are the most convenient target, but is "industrial" really a dirty word in fishing?

There is an un-examined assumption held by many ocean scientists and environmentalists: that small-scale fishing is inherently less harmful to ocean ecosystems than large-scale industrial fishing. This assumption shows up even in research done by well-known scientists.

small-scale fisheries in Peru are widespread and numerous (100 ports, 9500 vessels, & 37,000 fishers), and our observed effort constituted c. 1% of longline and net deployments. We suggest that the number of turtles captured per year is likely to be in the tens of thousands. Thus, the impacts of Peruvian SSF have the potential to severely impact sea turtles in the Pacific especially green, loggerhead and leatherback turtles.
This study is not alone. This study found disproportionately large harm caused by certain small-scale fisheries, and this report cautions against assuming that small-scale fisheries deserve special support based on the idea that they're less harmful to ocean ecosystems.

There are no easy answers, and I'm sorry to say that "small is beautiful" just doesn't work in fisheries.

"Turtle graveyard" photo from small-scale fishery impacts.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Japan's tsunami was 132 feet tall

How big was the Japanese tsunami this year? Reseachers now say 132.5 feet, or 40 meters. Wow. That's the biggest tsunami ever to hit Japan, and bigger than the tsunami that devastated coastlines around Indonesia in 2004.

As if that's not big enough, the largest tsunami ever was 1,720 feet (524 meters), trigerred by a rock and ice fall in a small inlet in Alaska in 1958. Yikes. That's taller than the Empire State Building in New York.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Why people care about a cause

Do you ever wonder why your worthy cause doesn't attract enough attention? Why don't people care, when you know they should?

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times has some answers, based on years of reporting experience. If you're a typical activist, you won't like the results. They reinforce the model that most activists hate, put a face on the problem. Find a person struggling and making progress and show people how they can join this person.

What are Kristof's views on how to draw people to a worthy cause?
"We intervene not because of stories of desperate circumstances but when we can be cheered up with positive stories of success and transformation. For example, one experiment found that people are quite willing to pay for a water-treatment facility to save 4,500 lives in a refugee camp with 11,000 people in it, but they are much less willing to pay for the same facility to save 4,500 lives when the refugee camp is said to have 250,000 inhabitants. In effect, what matters is saving a high proportion of people, not just a large number of lives.

If one lesson is the need to emphasize hopefulness, the second is that storytelling needs to focus on an individual, not a group. A classic experiment involved asking people to donate to help hungry children in West Africa. One group was asked to help a seven-year-old girl named Rokia, in the country of Mali. A second was asked to donate to help millions of hungry children. A third was asked to help Rokia but was provided with statistical information that gave them a larger context for her hunger. Not surprisingly, people donated more than twice as much to help Rokia as to help millions of children. But it turned out that even providing background information on African hun­ger diminished empathy, so people were much less willing to help Rokia when she represented a broader problem. Donors didn't want to help ease a crisis personi­fied by a child; they just wanted to help one person—and to hell with the crisis.

As we all vaguely know, one death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic. As Mother Teresa said, "If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will." Professor Slovic calls the first reaction "psychic numbing." But Slovic wanted to know at what point the number of victims triggers psychic numbing. He set out to find out, and his findings were deeply depressing.

In one of Slovic's experiments, people were asked to donate to Rokia or, in other cases, to a similar hungry boy, Moussa. In each case, research subjects were quite willing to help and donated generously either to Rokia or to Moussa. But when people were asked to donate to Rokia and Moussa together, with their photographs side by side, donations decreased. Slovic found that our empathy begins to fade when the number of victims reaches just two. As he puts it: "The more who die, the less we care."

There you have it, find a face to represent your cause, and make it a face that exemplifies progress and hope. I'm sorry to say it, but your statistics won't work.

Zombies and communicating risk

Are you ready for a zombie attack? If not, check out the CDC's advice on how to prepare for a massive assualt by zombies. Or any other disaster like hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, etc.

It's a great lesson in communicating and Randy Olsen explains the hows and whys regarding the massive success of the CDC's creative approach to outreach about boring topics.

Enviros, are you listening? If not, you should be listening and the best place to start is Randy Olsen's "The Benshi."

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The secret world of sand

I'm a sand lover. During my Swim Around Bainbridge Island, I crossed a lot of sand bottom (see photo). I've always been fascinated by sandy bottoms, and I love this video that I found on Deep Blue Home. It's 4 minutes + of sandy ocean bottoms and some of the interesting and amusing creatures that live on and in the sand.

Julio / July from Rafa Herrero Massieu on Vimeo.

Monday, July 18, 2011

What's wrong with green marketing?

Selling products with a green message...does it work?  Is it morally wrong?  What would you say in a critique of green marketing?

Here's one expert with an answer: 
Most (green) marketing ... is ponderous, lacking in humility, humanity and humor...Guilt doesn't sell, but humor does. We need to sell green by poking fun at our silliest excesses, the stereotypes and ourselves.
Green marketing should make people feel good.  That's not exactly a strong point of the environmental movement.  Usually we're busy making people feel bad for all the wrong things they do. 

Most greenies hate advertising and the people who do it, but there's a lesson here.  If we want people to help save the planet, we should learn from the experts at shifting people's motivations--advertisers. 

Take a look at the two ads, which do you like?  Probably not the green one.