Q: Where does your funding come from?
This is probably the most common question we are asked. A lot of people want to help save the oceans and would love to find the funds to occasionally make funny films while doing it, so they can't help but be curious.
To begin with, almost none of the funding for this project has come from re-direction of existing ocean conservation funds. It has all come from Scripps and Ocean Conservancy donors who would otherwise have not given their funds to ocean conservation, but have been convinced that the established scientific voice of Dr. Jeremy Jackson, combined with the impeccable film credentials of Gale Anne Hurd, combined with the science and filmmaking background of Randy Olson is worthy of taking a few risks with an experiment in communications.
We now have seventeen partner groups who have joined because they support the basic ideas of what we are doing, though the funding has come only from Scripps, the Ocean Conservancy and most recently World Wildlife Fund, which is sponsoring the Groundlings films and our Hollywood Ocean Night. Also, Environmental Defense funded the Spanish translation of the website.
As flattering as it is to see people talking in chatrooms about our project and saying, "looks like somebody's spending millions on this one," (we've seen this comment at least a half dozen times) the fact is the total budget to date has been about $400,000 which has paid for the PSA campaign, the website, the lenticulars, the events we have staged, the slide show, the videos, the comedy contest, the Rotten Jellyfish Awards, our small windowless office at Raleigh Studios, and the upcoming Hollywood Ocean Night.
We've gotten a lot of mileage out of it.
Q: And is it working?
Yes. The PSA has aired over 10,000 times since its release in October, including being aired on CNN Headlines News, MTV, Discovery, and written up in USA Today and US News. It has resulted in the The Ocean Conservancy receiving over 1000 requests for the SB Action Kit. The Flash slide show has been downloaded over 40,000 times. The OpEd has been reprinted in dozens of newspapers, websites, and in two college textbooks – one on natural resource law, another a popular general writing textbook (St. Martin’s Guide to Writing, 7th edition) -- and translated into five languages.
The most important accomplishment has been the absorption of the term
"shifting baselines" into the thinking and speaking of the broad audience. A test of its spread can be seen by searching the term on Google. A search of “shifting baselines” in November, 2002, produced only a single website that mentioned it in an ecological context (an essay in the Palm Beach Fishing Club News). Today, just a year and a half later, the same search produces literally hundreds of websites linking to our website and discussing the term.
Q: What does Shifting Baselines teach?
Perhaps the biggest bonus of all is what Shifting Baselines teaches – critical thinking. This is one of the most difficult things to teach, and yet most important.
It’s like the old adage of “give a man a fish, he eats for a day, teach him to fish, he eats for life.” The same is true for environmentalism. Tell people about the problems and they will stay involved for a while. Teach them how to think critically about nature, they will figure out the problems for themselves and get involved for life.
The critical thinking SB teaches is reflected in e-mails received through the website in which people talk about their local baselines – beginning to question how things are, how they used to be, and where they might be headed. Many of these are posted in our SB STORIES feature on our website.
In some ways it's sad to urge people to ask these questions – to encourage them to question the use of the word “pristine.” We would all like to sit on a beach and revel in the idea that what we are looking at is pristine – untouched by humans. But it isn’t.
As David Helvarg wrote in his book, “Blue Frontier,” there no longer is any “blue frontier.” Humans have impacted every part of the oceans. The time has come to accept this and figure out how to stop the decline of the world’s oceans, before … before we use a cliché like “before it’s too late.” The problems are serious, so let’s get to work.