Monday, May 30, 2011

Sustainable shrimp farming

Growing shrimp right in Belize.  It can be done.

Thanks: Revkin

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Welcome to the Anthropocene

The Anthropocene--the human epoch on earth--has begun.  Some scientists believe the name is apt because we are the driving geological force on earth.

Yes, earthquakes and volcanoes can make us blanch, but we're still driving change more than anything else.  According to The Economist, humans and our livestock outweigh all other large animals, and we have made much more nitrogen available to plant and animal life on earth.  The problems start when our plants and animals are done with that nitrogen, and it leaks out into the biosphere.  Or when we worry about the effects of our CO2-producing combustion.

Does it matter what we name this era on earth?  Yes, because we need to take responsibility for all the change we're producing in planetary systems.  We need to apply our engineering smarts to putting some things back the way we want them.  Lower CO2, less free nitrogen, etc.

It's geoengineering, that bogeyman that some want to avoid.  But it's too late, we've been geoengineering for too long to pretend we can fix things without using our technological abilities.

I think the Dire Journal is right, welcome to the Anthropocene.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Carp ninjas

Wild times bring wild responses.  Peoria fishermen are finding a new way to hunt the absolutely crazy jumping carp that are invading waters in the midwestern US...they've become carp ninjas.  Check out the video above.

Thanks to:  Switchboard

Monday, May 23, 2011

Playing God with the Earth

"We are as Gods and have to get good at it."
-Stewart Brand, author Whole Earth Catalog
It's time to get brave and admit we're running the earth. Then we can put to rest the quaint notion of "don't mess with Mother Nature." It's helpful to hear this from Stewart Brand, a person seen as an icon of living in harmony with the earth.

No matter that we're running the earth by default choices, such as our unwitting choice to increase CO2 in the atmosphere and ocean. We are already playing God with the planet, so we have to get good at playing God.

This is actually a liberating change, although somewhat scary. Admitting we run the earth allows us to start making choices of HOW to run the earth. This is better than getting stuck on the false debate of whether or not we should do geo-engineering. We are doing it already and we need to do it smarter.

Why does Stewart Brand matter? Because he has credibility on the issue of making smart choices and now he thinks the green movement is making some dumb choices

Brand's Whole Earth Catalog, started in the 1960's was a bible of the hippie/enviro/liberal/earth-lover world when I was young. It carried the information needed to make smarter choices to live in harmony with the earth.

From an opening page of the 1968 edition of the Whole Earth Catalob:
The WHOLE EARTH CATALOG functions as an evaluation and access device. With it, the user should know better what is worth getting and where and how to do the getting. An item is listed in the CATALOG if it is deemed:
  1. Useful as a tool,
  2. Relevant to independent education,
  3. High quality or low cost,
  4. Not already common knowledge,
  5. Easily available by mail.
CATALOG listings are continually revised according to the experience and suggestions of CATALOG users and staff.
We are as gods and might as well get good at it. So far, remotely done power and glory—as via government, big business, formal education, church—has succeeded to the point where gross defects obscure actual gains. In response to this dilemma and to these gains a realm of intimate, personal power is developing—power of the individual to conduct his own education, find his own inspiration, shape his own environment, and share his adventure with whoever is interested. Tools that aid this process are sought and promoted by the WHOLE EARTH CATALOG.

The 1968 catalog divided itself into seven broad sections:

  • Understanding
  • Whole Systems
  • Shelter and Land Use
  • Industry and Craft
  • Communications
  • Community
  • Nomadics
  • Learning

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Extreme ocean video with a mini-quadrocopter

Now you can use this:

To make this:

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Project Ocean at Selfridges in London

There's a new kid on the block, too cool to ignore. Project Ocean from the upscale UK department chain Selfridges. The compelling world of London's Oxford street shopping district is taking on ocean conservation.

What's your pleasure? Saving fish while mingling at the Ultralounge? Riding a whale at the whale rodeo? Watching the lush window displays change?

This is good stuff. Selfridges knows how to move people--they can put a direct tap in your wallet and suck out your money--so it's no surprise that they know how to strike some chords that green groups usually miss.

Selfridges is smart, they're selling pleasure mixed with ocean conservation. This is not your father's ocean conservation campaign, laced with doom and gloom. If you don't believe me, click the video below and watch through to the end. You won't believe who's at the party. And if you're not there, you've missed the boat.

Some seafood people are not pleased. As an example, check out this blog post titled "what about the facts" on, where seafood businessman Roy Palmer looks disdainfully at Selfridges role as self-proclaimed ocean savior.

If you buy and sell seafood, there is a clear lesson here. Take care of the ocean, or these kind of actions will intrude on your world. Like it or not, seafood business people dont' get to have their way with the ocean any more. Sorry Charlie.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Will the Mississippi River change course this week?

The Mississippi River pushed on a wall,
The American economy had a great fall,
All the king's money and all the king's men,

Couldn't put the River together again.

There's a slow-motion disaster happening in the US that could rival the Japan earthquake and tsunami for drama and impact. The Mississippi River is fighting the US Army Corps of Engineers.

This isn't just a flood, bad as floods can be. The Mississippi River wants to change course and the Army Corps is trying to stop it, as directed by the US Congress. The River will win eventually, and it could happen as soon as this week. Or it might stay put for 100 years. Stay tuned.

Why is this happening? The Mississippi River likes to move. As it nears the ocean, it likes to move a lot. The mouth of the river has jumped back and forth like a hyperactive kid when viewed from a geological perspective (see map at left). It's a natural process, so we shouldn't be surprised. But government and business leaders are often annoyed by natural processes and decide, in their infinite wisdom, to stop them. Sometimes it works...for a while.

But our success often creates a Humpty Dumpty problem, and now on the Mississippi we have to try to keep Humpty up on the wall. This time the wall is the ordinary-sounding Old River Control Structure, labelled "Low Sill Structure" in the picture above right. It's designed to keep the Mississippi River in it's place, but that's a tough job.

The Atchafalaya River will capture the flow of the Mississippi sometime soon, turning New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and the biggest port system in the world (by some measures)--the lower Mississippi River up to Memphis--into a shallow salty backwater bayou. The Atchafalaya River is shorter and steeper than the Mississippi River, and that's the way water likes to flow, the quickest route to the sea.

If you like this kind of story, and you like good writing, then you should really dig into John McPhee's fantastic piece on man vs. nature in the Mississippi River. Then, keep watching. This could be the biggest story of the year in the US, or maybe not. Depends on who wins this round of the fight. For good up-to-date info, check out the fantastic Wikipedia site on the Mississippi River flood of 2011, being updated in real time it seems.

Nature will win eventually, Humpty will have a great fall and then all the king's horses and all the king's men will run around like crazy people wondering what went wrong. John McPhee told them more than 20 years ago exactly what is going on.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Are fisheries crashing or not?

Here's a fascinating debate over the status of the world's fisheries, spawned by a provocative op-ed saying things are (mostly) just fine. Read for yourself as knowledgeable experts weigh in on all sides. Here's an editorial note introducing the debate:
Editor’s note: The following discussion, which more than one participant called “extraordinary”, began after Ray Hilborn of the University of Washington published an op-ed “Let us eat fish” in the New York Times on 14 April 2011, and John Bruno of the University of North Carolina (and my Co-Editor at SeaMonster) replied here at SeaMonster. John’s post was emailed to a list of experts in fisheries and marine ecology, and quickly sparked a wide-ranging online conversation remarkable for its combination of careful argument, thoughtfulness, diversity of perspectives, breadth of expertise, and—perhaps most noteworthy—collegiality. The conversation grew to include many leading scientists and the email exchanges allowed a give-and-take among participants in near real time that would be impossible in the print journals where such discussion traditionally occurs. For all of these reasons, there was broad agreement that the discussion should be made publicly available. And so, here it is.

Emmett Duffy
Forum Editor,

Thanks to a fantastic new blog, SeaMonster.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Extreme seafood

Ocean foraging taken to the limit.

Hat tip: Deep Blue Home

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Shrinking wildlife thanks to human impacts

But did you know that the same thing is true for other animals and even for plants? Human impacts make many plants and animals develop reduced size. No, not because of fishing, but because of a lot of things people do. This is even true for small animals that we don't hunt, including the green clock beetle from Europe, where habitat damage favors shorter larval stages and reduced body size.

Soon we'll be living in "bonsai world."

Monday, May 09, 2011

Narco sub for drug smuggling

The latest thing in drug smuggling is the "narco sub," a semi-submersible built to avoid detection while carrying drugs. These homebuilt vessels run mostly underwater, with a very low profile and other features designed to avoid detection.

Now that the authorities are getting good at finding semi-subs, the truly latest thing seems to be fully submersible narco subs.