On Friday night I saw, "The Day After Tomorrow," which is a brilliant comedy. Not sure it was necessarily intended to be, but every time Dennis Quaid tried to say something dramatic, the audience burst out with howls of laughter. It's not a great movie, nor a mess. Somewhere in between, justifying the current score of 46% on www.rottentomatoes.com. Probably a little better for thinking people
-- if you let your mind constantly project, "some of this really could happen," its fairly interesting.
And there's something eerie about the shots of a wall of ocean water rushing down NYC streets, and thinking that could never happen, but then thinking of the 9/11 footage of an identical wall/cloud of debris rushing down those same streets. A disaster movie like this one definitely feels different post-9/11 -- its a lot easier to envision NYC devastated. So in that regard, the movie is a bit unsettling. But still, the acting and dialogue are soooo bad. It pretty much
undercuts whatever serious message they had intended. And there's a few too many scenes of Quaid telling the President, "this wouldn't be happening if you had listened to the scientists earlier." A great way to make people hate preachy scientists.
The true highlight of the movie (at least here in L.A.) is when they decide to evacuate all of the southern U.S. to Mexico, and then the Mexican's close THEIR border to "illegal immigrants." All the Latinos in the theater were screaming and cheering! (no better place to see a disaster movie than opening night in Hollywood).
Overall, its a fairly stoopid movie, but a good thing for global warming just in terms of giving the public some (albeit temporally exaggerated) images of what climate change will bring. And yes, the climate changes in the movie are virtually instantaneous, but let's not all be gradualists -- as Stephen Jay Gould spent a lifetime pointing out, change often happens episodically, with stable periods punctuated by short bursts of rapid change. Volcanoes do explode, Glaciers do calve, and anoxic events in the ocean do sometimes take place on very short time scales.
So is this movie a good piece of environmental propaganda? Who knows, but I can tell you its a lot better than what I listened to yesterday afternoon, which was a friend telling me about a television show in which "the bad guys" were a group of environmentalists in the form of "eco-terrorists," in which the Navy was sent in to protect the public from these environmentalists. Given the choice between these two portrayals of environmentalists, clearly the cast of "The Day After
Tomorrow" is preferable.
Here's a pretty good assessment of the science in the "The Day After Tomorrow". (and by the way, could everyone please quit using the term, "teachable moment" -- it sounds like the sort of thing people do at a cocktail party that ruins all the fun -- keep the teaching in the
The Statue of Liberty goes snorkeling in "The Day After Tomorrow"
The Gully is about 80 kilometres long and 50 kilometres wide. It reaches down more than 2,500 metres at its mouth. The news was welcomed by environmentalists, who have fought for almost a decade to see it protected. "I think it was a good day. It's a beautiful area, a unique area," said Mark Butler of the Ecology Action Centre, an environmental advocacy group. The Gully is the second of what federal officials hope, over the next decade, will become a system of 11 marine protected areas on Canadian coasts and in the Arctic.
Well, we all know that the Washington Times is not the Washington Post, but look at the laughable job they did of trying to critique Oceana.
Oceana tried to respond, but it seemed to just lead to even more nonsense from the WT. Actually, we agree with their original headline, "Keep an eye on Hollywood do-gooders." Maybe even listen to what they're saying -- they're not as crazy as some might think.
Like 'em or not, MPA's are headed our way. Here's news about one for
South Australia and Tasmania.
Just when you thought you could go to the ocean for a breath of fresh air, check this out ...
"Just one container ship traveling one mile produces NOx emissions equaling 25,000 cars traveling the same distance," said Anthony Fournier of the District.
Last fall Groundlings veteran Roy Jenkins performed 10 minutes of stand-up comedy for the banquet in San Diego honoring The Ocean Conservancy at Yachtfest 2003 -- the world's largest gathering of "mega-yacht" owners. He opened his set by saying, "Greetings Liberians!" a reference to the fact that most of the all-white super-wealthy crowd have their mega-yachts registered in a foreign land.
Now comes a book, "The Outlaw Sea," that by all accounts will leave you wanting to stay on dry land. The reviews for this book on Amazon are very impressive. And check out the review here in the San Francisco Chronicle.
So where can you go on this planet where the fish are so abundant you just don't have to worry about overfishing? We wish we could answer this for you. All we can say is New Zealand is not one of those places any more.
The Hoki, New Zealand's biggest export earning fish species is getting
It continues to shape up as a major battle line for NOAA Fisheries. The same guys who came out with the headlines last May of, "Another year of improving fish stocks in the U.S.," literally the day after the Myers and Worm Nature paper declaring no big fish left in the sea, are now wanting to count hatchery-born salmon among the natural population.
If you wondered how well the salmon industry is doing, check out this except from the article on ENN. And notice that this is yet another example of the "less than ten percent," indicator that seems to pop up in so many of the studies on what remains in the oceans.
Salmon in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and California were once the cornerstone of this region's resource-related jobs, economy and culture. However in recent years, the commercial and sportfishing industries have endured the loss of more than 35,000 jobs while watching salmon numbers dwindle to less than ten percent of their historical numbers. In addition, both industries have seen more and more restrictions placed on fishing seasons and catch limits in order to make up for the pressures put on the already overstressed river system.
Regardless of your politics, Michael Moore's prize Saturday at the Cannes Film festival for his anti-Bush film is a very important signal. In this age of media overload it becomes questionable whether film as a motivational medium still has any power. There was a time when a single movie could upset American society and generate serious thought and discussion. But the last films to do that were in the early 1990's Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing," and "Roger and Me," by ... Michael Moore ("The Passion of the Christ," didn't really address any specific issue in society)
So it is refreshing to see that Moore's newest film is set to have a major impact -- refreshing because much of our hope with Shifting Baselines is that we can eventually produce some media that can penetrate through the clutter of today and actually have an effect in promoting ocean conservation. Clearly it is still possible.
Michael Moore with Cannes prize, standing beside the world's most gifted filmmaker, Quentin Tarantino, who headed the Cannes jury.
Perhaps the biggest enemy of ocean conservation to date has been fractiousness -- the feeling that there are hundreds of different groups, many overlapping, some competing against each other, all with the same goal (saving the oceans), but little coordination amongst them.
Author David Helvarg concluded his excellent book, "The Blue Frontier," (which is on our SB Booklist) with a plea for unity in creating a mass movement for the oceans -- a "seaweed rebellion," as he called it. Now he is putting his organizational skills where his pen was in organizing THE BLUE VISION CONFERENCE, this July 11-13 in Washington D.C. (for more information see the "continue reading" link below).
The conference is open to everyone and offers the chance to connect grassroots community efforts with the large scale dynamics of the Pew and US Ocean Commission Reports. It will be limited to 300 and is filling quickly, but at the moment there are still some spaces left. The line-up of speakers already committed is most impressive, including giving a science award to Dr. Ransom Myers (who if he's as fiesty as he was last fall at the Scripps Biodiversity Confernce will be worth the price of admission alone) and a panel that includes Roger Rufe, Director of SB founding partner group, The Ocean Conservancy.
BLUE VISION CONFERENCE
JULY 11-13, WASHINGTON DC
TAKE THE PLUNGE!
Common Sense Solutions to the cascading threats facing our seas and coastal communities do exist, but it will take a blue movement to realize them. On July 11-13, join with hundreds of your fellow watermen and women at the Blue Vision Conference in Washington DC.
Become part of a growing seaweed (marine grassroots) citizen network. Hear from members of the historic Pew and US Ocean Commissions, leading members of Congress, top officials from the White House and Kerry campaign.
Meet your fellow blue activists, educators, surfers, divers, fishermen and women, marine scientists, sailors, artists, explorers, business folk and others. Come together to show there's a growing constituency ready to organize for sustainable new ocean policies while also taking pride in the best of our maritime heritage from sea to shining sea.
Check out more at Bluefront.org or at the conference website: Bluevizmeet.com.
If you need additional information contact David Helvarg at Blue Frontier Campaign, (202) 387-8030 or Dawn Hamilton at Coast Alliance (202) 546-9554
Okay, credit where it's due, radio host Terry McNally came up with this question at our Hollywood Ocean Night (and my surf buddy Greg Tilman came up with "Cod it out" which I used a while ago). Lots of bad puns that night.
But here's the story to go with the headline -- WWF just reported that world catch of cod has plummeted by 70 percent in the past three decades.
The only question is why this isn't a big enough story to justify the cover of Time magazine as the original headline, "Is God Dead?" did on April 8, 1966. Come on, why not?
Since about the beginning of the year Donovan Watts of San Francisco has been running The Coral Reef Report which is another excellent ocean-related blog. Check it out!
Here's their description:
Coral Reef Report explores the lives, work, and art of people who are passionate about coral reefs through personal stories, interviews, and awe–inspiring underwater photos.
For the past couple weeks I've been trading e-mails with Bill Lovelock, an American stationed at the U.S. Consulate in Lagos, Nigeria who saw our Ocean Symphony PSA on the Armed Forces Network. We worry about our coastal waters getting fouled, but he paints a picture of truly horrific water pollution in Lagos. Keep reading below for the really disgusting details of what he sees. Warning: it's pretty shocking to read.
Also, here's a travel item he has written for a website.
Lagos is the nastiest place on the planet. For all the plastic and trash that you see floating in the photos, there is just as much or even more that doesn't float, but just drifts around submerged. Normally we have to stop our boat and reverse the propellers at least twice on the 10 minute ride home after work, just to clear the trash off the propellers. The area in my photos is clear of trash in the mornings, but by the afternoon, the trash is backed up again. Occasionally, we see dead bodies floating in the water, so we try not to look too close at it-especially the big pieces. This, of course, ruins your whole day and makes you feel terrible that people could toss bodies in the water, but I guess most people are so poor here, there are no other options for burial. Also, the crime rate here is unimaginably high. They claim dozens of people disappear in Lagos every night, many of them courtesy of the local police. They simply knock people in the head and throw them in the water.
In Lagos, there are open sewers everywhere, no public toilets, and Nigerians are peeing and pooing everywhere you look in open view. Nigerian women have perfected a way to spread their legs apart and pee while standing up. We ride a shuttle to work in the morning and we cross a half-mile long bridge called Falomo Bridge. There's a catwalk for pedestrian traffic on both sides of the bridge, but only one side is used for walking on. The one on the opposite side is a "toilet" where everyone takes a dump. When our shuttle is in the lane next to his catwalk, you can look up the side of the bridge and see thousands of piles of shit! Amazing, and almost unbelievable, right? Meanwhile, fishermen are happily dropping their handlines over the side of the bridge and catching sardines. Delicious!
Official Americans live on small compounds here with 5-6 housing units on
each compounds. We have septic tank trucks that come several times a week to empty our septic tanks. These trucks are all over Lagos and they discharge their loads directly into the waterway. Their is an 8-ft high wall alongside the roadway that runs parallel with the waterway. The trucks line up single-file and plug their 4-inch hoses in a hole in the wall and discharge their loads. As far as I can see, on the other side of the wall is a concrete culvert that runs downhill directly into the waterway. They always empty our septic tanks at night, so I'm thinking they don't even bother to go to this wall, but instead just drive down to the water and discharge into the waterway.
In spite of all the nastiness, there are many rivers emptying into the ocean here and most of the coastline is a gigantic delta. There is abundant sea life all around in spite of the conditions.
Nigerians do not seem to notice or be bothered at all by trash and pollution. There is oil here and the country has the resources to prevent this from happening if they just had the desire to do so. Billions (not millions) of dollars are "scraped off the top" of the country's oil revenues each week by crooked politicians and government officials.
I'm sure there are many government environmental organizations here that are supposed to be looking after the environment. I'm not really sure what it would take to get them to actually do their jobs, but I think education and perhaps a little coercion from international environmental groups might help. Also, perhaps if world attention were focused on the pollution here, the government might be embarrassed into cleaning the place up.
Seems like "less than 10 percent of what they were 25 years ago" has become the common catch phrase for most high level predators. Certainly in the oceans. And here's the same thing for lions in Africa.
Although lions may once have been the world's most widespread terrestrial mammal species, experts recently estimated that as few as 22,600 African lions remain, 10 percent of their population just 25 years ago. Most of this decline can be attributed to conflicts with an expanding human population, specifically to depredations on livestock.
You may not agree with the politics or style of Greenpeace, but the case that John Ashcroft is trying to make against them really is a travesty and embarrassment. Watch closely as Ashcroft inadvertently causes donations and support to Greenpeace to skyrocket. The trial began Monday in Miami.
As of May 15 all 33 species of seahorse will be protected by CITES. An estimated 24 million of the little fellas are collected worldwide every year. In honor of this, many aquariums around the world celebrated Seahorse Day last weekend.
Happy Seahorse Day!
The British study last week on plastics has had a very wide reach. Here are a couple more articles about it.
Another vomitaceous photo from Bill Lovelock, showing what he has to look at every day for his boat commute in Lagos, Nigeria.
Washington seventh grader Kelly Manalo sets her governor straight on
the plight of the oceans and SpongeBob.
Save the SpongeBob
Long time Shifting Baselines executive producer and lover of ice cream, Jason Ensler, has been hired by New Line Cinema to direct Ray Romano's next movie, "Grilled," which is a comedy about two steak salesmen. Jason was a film school classmate of Randy Olson and was a major creative force behind the Ocean Symphony PSA and just about everything else visual in the SB project. Last year he directed the Martha Stewart movie, "Martha, Inc." and "Behind the Camera: Three's Company," both for NBC.
Check it out -- plus a genuine SB cartoon!
Yet another verification that we have saturated the planet with the brilliance of our synthetic chemistry skills.
Sooner or later we are going to revise our Booklist, and when we do, you can be this one will be on it. The author, Gus Speth, is the Dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. In this book, he calls things for what they are in the environmental movement. Unlike so many conservation groups who cannot afford to be honest about the failure of the environmental movement for fear of depressing and losing members (which is understandable), Speth lays out the bleak news very clearly.
As the book jacket says, "The author explains why current approaches to critical global environmental problems -- climate change, biodiversity loss, deterioration of marine environments, deforestation, water shortages, and others -- don't work now and won't work in the future. He provides a stinging critique of the failure of U.S. leadership and offers intriguing insights into why we have been able to address domestic environmental threats with some success while largely failing at the international level."
He also provides his ideas on how to fix things, which are good, but what's most important is simply calling things as they are, which is what we have been aying. The entire U.S. public needs to see that the whole planet is inter-connected (especially when it comes to the oceans) and saving our little strip of the coast as the entire oceans go downhill isn't good enough.
It is an excellent book and strongly recommended by Dr. Jeremy Jackson.
Yet another take on the U.S. Oceans Commission Report...
The winner of the International Smart Gear Competition will be decided by judges from World Wildlife Fund, the National Fisheries Institute, the American Fisheries Society, the Fisheries Conservation Foundation, the Marine Wildlife Bycatch Consortium (comprised of the New England Aquarium, Duke University, the University of New Hampshire and the Maine Lobstermen's Association), the Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Resources at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
In case you haven't noticed, we have compiled all of our Shifting Baselines productions onto a single DVD and have free copies available to the first 100 people who send in a self-addressed stamped envelope. Here are the details.
Ottawa government will allow the catch of 6500 tons of cod in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, which is a miniscule amount compared to twenty years ago.
We posted this issue last week a little light-heartedly (May 6, take a look at the excellent comment from Charles Keisel of Alaska), but its becoming clear that the tone of the issue is getting very serious.
The New York Times covered it on Sunday. The Bush Administration is trying to set a precedent in counting artificially hatched fish as part of the natural population. Check out the story (you must register first) or see an excerpt below.
Shift on Salmon Reignites Fight on Species Law
By TIMOTHY EGAN
Published: May 9, 2004
SEATTLE, May 8 — Three years ago, Mark C. Rutzick was the timber industry's top lawyer trying to overturn fish and wildlife protections that loggers viewed as overly restrictive. Back then, he outlined to his clients a new strategy for dealing with diminishing salmon runs. By counting hatchery fish along with wild salmon, the government would help the timber industry by getting salmon off the endangered species list, Mr. Rutzick wrote.
Now, as a high-ranking political appointee in the Bush administration who is a legal adviser to the National Marine Fisheries Service, Mr. Rutzick is helping to shape government policy on endangered Pacific salmon. And in an abrupt change, the Bush administration has decided for the first time to consider counting fish raised in hatcheries when determining if some species are going extinct.
The new plan, which officials have said is expected to be formally announced at the end of the month, closely follows the position that Mr. Rutzick advocated when he represented the timber industry.
Yet another cost of over-fishing -- a study in Nature last week reports that removing large fish results in the survivors spawning at earlier ages and smaller sizes making them less desirable. Another aspect of the downward spiral.
David Suzuki has written another very nice and well intentioned essay about environmentalism (posted on Environmental News Network), but sadly, he just doesn't get it. He complains about "how many Apprentices, Bachelors and celebrity antics will we be distracted by before we step outsiide and say, "This smog stinks."?
Attacking mainstream culture is not the way to fix these things. Step back and see what you can learn about what's going on with this stuff. He's talking about reality tv shows. Their popularity is saying something about what's going on these days in America. The general public is tired of scripted television shows. They are tired of things they have seen a million times and know what to expect. They are desperately seeking unpredictability and spontaneity.
Once upon a time the environmental movement provided lots of spontaneity through fast moving, large unpredictable events like the first Earth Day. But not so much any more. The public can pretty much predict what they will hear out of the mouths of environmentalists and thus they tune away. There's a need for innovation. That's what reality tv shows represent. Environmental voices like David Suzuki need to work a little harder to keep up with the interests of the general public instead of just chastising them.
According to WWF and delegates at the World Fisheries Congress, about a
quarter of the total world fisheries harvest is just killed and thrown overboard.
The National Marine Fisheries Service has introduced a plan that would count salmon raised in hatchery tanks along with wild salmon when determining the size of a species' population. Predictably, farmers and industry groups applaud it, enviros don't.
Last week I was a guest on Jerry Kay's radio show on Environmental News
Network. He really does a great job. Today he is doing his entire
"Beyond Organic" show on sustainable seafood with three prominent
experts as guests. Definitely worth tuning in for.
Yesterday the Washington Post ran an editorial with the title, "The Oceans Are Dying." (you have to subscribe to get access to it on-line)
Very nice. Glad that one of the most highly respected newspapers in the country has said this. Now we don't feel so bad about what we've been saying. We originally debated making "The Oceans Are Dying," the sub-title of our website, but feared it might be seen as an exaggeration. If it is, then the Washington Post is now guilty.
How things have changed in just over a year. It was only a little over a year ago that we completed our slide show, "Pristine?" and received complaints from three partner groups with two of them withdrawing from the project (though one of them eventually returned). They were upset by the statements that "fishermen now have the technology to catch all the remaining fish in the sea," and the question of, "who will be the rats and roaches that are left in the oceans?"
And then the Myers and Worm paper came out last May saying that there are less than ten percent of the large fish remaining. And now ... our slide show seems mild. Which is good. Progress is being made in communicating the overall story to the general public. There seems to be some slow realization that this is not the same ocean conservation message of Jacques Cousteau -- that things really have changed.
The thinking seems to be progressing from "preservation" to "restoration." Which means the idea of "shifting baselines" is more important than ever since no one will know what to restore things to if we have no clue of what the baselines were.
But regardless, there are definitely some signs of change and even hope in the effort to communicate the dire situation in the oceans.
Several years before the Pew Oceans Commission and the U.S. Oceans Commission, the state of Florida had its own Florida Oceans Committee. It had great recommendations, but most of them got lost in the transition between the Chiles and Jeb Bush administrations.
From a recent editorial in the Naples Daily News:
But regarding the Chiles report and the more than 100 specific recommendations that considered what agencies would implement them and how the state would pay for them, diver Alex Brylske was disappointed that much of it was simply ignored. Brylske said the excitement at the committee's inception was palpable, but, for him at least, that excitement has dissolved over the years.
There were dozens of OpEds and press releases around the country last
week on the US Oceans Report. Most seemed to say, "nice job, now let's
get to work." Some offered blanket praise, others criticized it for
lack of a specific action plan. Here's a nice one that says its meant
to lead to more bureaucracy and that never fixed anything. The best
part of it is the opening which says, "Depending upon whose science you
subscribe to ..." To which Senator Creech (of the Groundlings senate
film) would answer, "That's not my science. Nah-uh."
The CIA and FBI may not know how to work together, but at least NSF,
NIH, and NIEHS are proving they can. Collaboration is essential these
days to get the big things done. These three groups have come together
to form four centers around the country that will combine environmental
and human health science for the oceans.
It makes me think of the effort in the early 90's to pressure the
government to establish a Department of Environment which didn't work
out, but at least something like this is along the same lines.