October 27, 2004

10/28 - A terrific NPR story plays the audio of our Kerry/mercury ad with Paul Newman

Yesterday The Tavis Smiley Show on National Public Radio did a segment titled, "Scientists Express Concern Over White House Policies," which presented a heated debate between Dr. Lawrence Krauss, Director of the Center for Education and Research in Cosmology and Astrophysics (arguing that the Bush Administration has made a mess of science policy) versus Dr. Charles Arntzen, Director of the Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology at Arizona State's Biodesign Institute (defending the Bush Administration and saying that the protest of scientists is simply an illustration of what makes our society great).

In the middle of their rapid fire argument, the host played the audio of our mercury pollution commercial (including even Margaret Easley's tag at the end) which served to illustrate one of the administration's biggest environmental offenses -- the pollution of American lakes by mercury from coal-fired power plants.

Regardless of their playing our clip, the segment is very lively and well done.

Here's the website where you can listen to it -- I think you need Real Media Player, and see the link below for the transcript.

NPR - Newman on Public Radio


Interview: Scientists Express Concerns Over White House Policies

October 26, 2004

TAVIS SMILEY, host: From NPR in Los Angeles, I'm Tavis Smiley.
On today's program, we continue our weeklong series we called the
People's Debates, giving you, the listener, a chance to voice your
views on the presidential election. Also, our regular commentator
Kimberle Williams Crenshaw discusses how a presidential appointment
could reshape the US Supreme Court. And our reporter Allison Keyes
brings us within earshot of the music and beat of an aboriginal dance
company taking the stage in New York City.
But first, when science and politics collide. A phenomenon that can be
observed, explained, identified and most importantly proven is how
science is summed up, at least in modern times, but many leading
researchers believe that over the past four years, science has been
increasingly supplanted by opinion and politics, emanating specifically
from the Bush White House. The most dramatic expression of apprehension
over this came in the form of a recent statement sponsored by the Union
of Concerned Scientists and signed by more than 60 prominent thinkers,
including 48 Nobel science laureates. The signatories include
individuals that have worked for both Republican and Democratic
administrations. Altogether more than 5,000 scientists spread across
every scientific field have signed the statement, which accuses the
Bush administration of disregarding scientific study on the environment
and other issues, as well as censorship and distortion of scientific
analysis and manipulation of scientific processes.

We'll talk with science and politics--we'll talk science and politics,
I should say, in this segment, with Lawrence Krauss of Case Western
Reserve University. He's an active member of the advocacy group
Scientists and Engineers for Change, and is one of the signatories to
the Union of Concerned Scientists statement.
Glad to have you on, sir.
Mr. LAWRENCE KRAUSS (Case Western Reserve University): It's a pleasure
to be here. I'm a big fan.
SMILEY: Thank you, sir. Also we welcome Charles Arntzen, director of
the Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology at Arizona State's
Biodesign Institute, which he co-founded. Dr. Arntzen takes issue, I
suspect, with the Union of Concerned Scientists. We'll find out.
Doctor, nice to have you on as well.
Dr. CHARLES ARNTZEN (Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology):
Thanks for having me.
SMILEY: My pleasure. Lawrence, let me start with you. I know the issues
are varied here, among them stem cell research, air and ocean
pollution, the Endangered Species Act, the so-called anti-missile
defense initiative, but what would you say is, I guess, the main
concern of American scientists about the Bush administration's approach
to science?
Mr. KRAUSS: Well, I think there are two. Primarily first, the control
of information, the fact that scientific--results of scientific
advisory committees are often either censored or (technical
difficulties) and in fact, government scientists are--have been on
numerous occasions forbidden from speaking about these results or, in
fact, removed from advisory committees if they happen to disagree with
the president. And also, the fact that this particular administration
is literally distorting the results of science. And free flow of
information is an essential part of the scientific process. It's what
makes science work so well, and it's what makes science advice so
important, because our modern technological society depends vitally on
accurate data, and this administration seems to take, often take the
view that they know what's right and they'll pick and choose among the
data to support the view that they know is right in advance, and that's
just not the way science works.
SMILEY: As you also know, Lawrence, the Department of Health and Human
Services just issued a new policy requiring the World Health
Organization to submit all requests for expert science advice to
political officials at HHS. Those officials, I'm told, will then choose
which federal scientists will be allowed to respond. How do you
interpret that decision?
Mr. KRAUSS: Well, as I say, it's control of information and control of
science and scientists. And one of the worst impacts of this is that
you're finding a number of very good scientists who work for the
government are leaving because they literally cannot tolerate this
level of censorship and control, and if the government cannot rely on
good scientists, then we all suffer, and that's the really important
thing to realize. This isn't just an academic issue. This relates to
human health and, in fact, national security, and if you had an
administration that's, as this one appears to be, guided more by
ideology than by facts, then in particular in the case of science,
which I repeat isn't Republican or Democrat, you've got huge problems.
The people who signed this letter, as you indicated, included science
advisers to former Republican presidents, and all of us agree that we
have never, ever seen this level of manipulation and distortion in any
administration, Republican or Democrat. This is unprecedented, and
that's why you have this kind of group. One should really point out
that having the original letter with the 60 new scientists and the new
people who've signed it, now there's over 60 Nobel laureates, over 127
members of the National Academy of Sciences. This is not some partisan
group of, quote, unquote "liberal scientists." This is scientists
across the spectrum who are concerned by this.
SMILEY: Let--Dr. Arntzen, let me bring you into this. Let me ask you
whether or not you think that this document signed by these
distinguished scientists does suggest that there's something seriously
wrong with this administration's approach to science?
Dr. ARNTZEN: Not at all. I think the fact that this document has come
out, a lot of people signed it, indicates that academic expression of
interest is working as it has for a long time. There is a diversity of
opinion in the scientific and academic community about all the issues
that have been identified. It would be absolutely astonishing if there
was uniform feeling of opinion across academia.
SMILEY: You don't get the sense, though--I hear your point, that
science--your suggestion, at least, that science and politics have
always intertwined. Is it not your sense, though, that we have seen
that edge up to higher levels of concern and sensitivity in this
Dr. ARNTZEN: Well, what I've seen is that the degree of sensitivity and
concern has escalated with the amount of money that's going into
science. We've seen a doubling of the National Institutes of Health
budget. NIH is on its way--excuse me--National Science Foundation is on
its way to doubling its budget. We're seeing huge amounts of money
going into areas such as space exploration. Universities over the last
decade and two decades have been repositioning themselves in the types
of individuals they hire, the types of facilities they build to capture
this money, and it is just impossible to have a high level of
competition for government resources without generating some
disagreement as to who gets money, how it's spent...
SMILEY: Let...
Dr. ARNTZEN: ...and importantly how the government draws upon advice on
how to spend their money.
SMILEY: Doctor...
Mr. KRAUSS: Let me just jump in. The key thing to realize here is that
the scientists who are concerned about this, which is by the way now
over 5,000 members of the community have signed that letter, which
again for scientists is very unusual. They're not concerned about where
the money's going. This is not a question of self-interest. This is a
question of what the government is doing regarding the results of
science and the advice of scientists, and...
SMILEY: But, Lawrence, let me jump in.
Mr. KRAUSS: ...so this is--yeah.
SMILEY: Though, Lawrence, let me jump in. Are you telling me, though,
that money--I have a hard time believing this--that money is
disconnected from this?
Mr. KRAUSS: If you look at the--in fact, if you look at the concerns of
the scientists who are being removed from committees and are being
questioned about whether they voted for President Bush before they're
allowed to be on a committee, you'll see no question of money there. In
fact, there are money issues in the long term. The current
administration, if you look at their budget issues, has announced what
will be ultimately a drastic cut in support of the National Science...
Dr. ARNTZEN: Right.
Mr. KRAUSS: ...Foundation and other basic science, but there's nowhere
in this document that money is discussed.
Mr. KRAUSS: This is a concern about issues of scientific information
and scientific integrity. When the advice of scientists on such
questions as weapons of mass destruction is ignored, literally ignored,
then the health and security of people in this country is an issue.
SMILEY: I hear you. Let me jump in right quick. I want to play a clip
here on the environment, a clip I want to play.
SMILEY: Some argue that the administration's relaxation of strict
science-based anti-pollution rules have led to worsening pollution.
This has left, I think it's fair to say, an opening for John Kerry, as
we hear in this just-released ad airing in battleground states voiced
by the actor Paul Newman.
(Soundbite from political ad)
Mr. PAUL NEWMAN: Over one-third of American lakes today are severely
polluted. Coal-fired power plants, the major source of mercury, remain
completely unregulated. John Kerry has fought for clean air and water.
He said, `Our commitment to the environment is a compact with our
children, our grandchildren and generations beyond.'
Announcer: Environment 2004 Action Fund is responsible for the content
of this ad.
SMILEY: Kind of hard to sum up somebody's policy on environmental
issues in 30 seconds, but Charles--Dr. Arntzen, is that a fair
scientific summary of what the Bush administration has done or not done
as it were?
Dr. ARNTZEN: Yeah, it's amazing how these lakes got contaminated in the
last four years. It's a surprising interpretation of science. I think
the ad is normal politics. I think this whole issue of whether our
science policy towards the environment has changed significantly in the
last four years, I believe that what we're seeing by the Bush
administration is implementation of long-term solutions, in my view. I
think the emphasis, for example, on hydrogen fuels to replace the
current petroleum demand is a 20-year effort, but it's one that we
should have started earlier, and I just feel strongly that the faster
we go after some of these initiatives, the better off we are for the
environment, but also for economic development in this country.
Mr. KRAUSS: Well, as far as the environment is concerned, the Bush
administration in numerous cases has literally removed or withheld
information on mercury emission from power plants, they delayed the
report by nine months. They, in fact, removed rules on emissions from
mercury. In fact, the new rules are a paragraph taken directly from the
lobbyist lawyers' documents. It--over and over again, members of panels
that have been--say on lead poisoning, have been replaced by lead
industry individuals, people with not the same kind of credentials.
It's happened over and over again. Bioethics panel people removed...
SMILEY: Can we...
Mr. KRAUSS: ...distinguished scientists.
SMILEY: Let me ask you both, about 20 seconds each. Lawrence, is it
fair or can we expect that science and politics are gonna intertwine
even more in the coming months and years?
Mr. KRAUSS: Well, I mean, science are always a vital part of politics.
We live in a technological society, but never, never since the Second
World War has there been an administration, including the current
president's father, that's interfered and tried to control the access
and results--access to scientific information and the results of
science. That is inappropriate. The results...
SMILEY: Doc...
Mr. KRAUSS: ...of science, as I said, are not Democratic or Republican.
SMILEY: Dr. Arntzen, is this issue gonna get better or worse?
Dr. ARNTZEN: I think things cannot get--well, I wouldn't say...
SMILEY: ...(Unintelligible).
Dr. ARNTZEN: ...better or worse. They're gonna continue to change.
SMILEY: Right.
Dr. ARNTZEN: ...got more money in play here, and I simply--all these
anecdotal stories about the scientists' views being suppressed, I just
don't find any evidence for this when I get in and probe the issues.
Mr. KRAUSS: Have you read any of the documents?
Dr. ARNTZEN: Pardon?
Mr. KRAUSS: Have you read any of the documents? Have you seen...
SMILEY: Let me...
Mr. KRAUSS: ...the internal EPA report saying that global warming...
SMILEY: Let me jump in here...
Mr. KRAUSS: ...sections on global warming were removed by the current
SMILEY: Lawrence Krauss is director of the Center for Education and
Research in Cosmology and Astrophysics...
Mr. KRAUSS: Yeah.
SMILEY: ...at Case Western University. Charles Arntzen, director of the
Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology at Arizona State's
Biodesign Institute. I thank you both for a spirited conversation. Look
forward to doing it again.
Mr. KRAUSS: OK, great.
SMILEY: Thank you, gentlemen.
Dr. ARNTZEN: Thanks for having us.
SMILEY: Glad to have you on.
It is 19 minutes past the hour.

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Posted by Randy Olson at 09:39 PM | Comments (1)

10/27 - Fishing Conflicts Heat Up in New Zealand

As the New Zealand government clamps down on fishing limits they are also stepping up enforcement of existing fishing laws.

Measuring undersized snapper in the Hauraki Gulf.

Posted by Randy Olson at 07:17 AM | Comments (1)

10/27 - Plastic Baggage: choking the world's oceans with the bags you bring home

Several years ago friends of mine started saying NO to plastic bags at the stores. I had not realized how crazy it has gotten. This article talks about "tundra ghosts," and "landfill snowbirds." It's bad. And the Ocean Conservancy reported collecting nearly a half million this year with their Coastal Cleanup. Yeeks.

In the Number Five position, for most common items in this years Coastal Cleanup by The Ocean Conservancy, it was plastic bags. They're everywhere, they're everywhere.

Posted by Randy Olson at 07:12 AM | Comments (1)

October 26, 2004

10/26 - Red Snapper in the Gulf: limit the fishing and guess what, they come back!

Indications are that red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico, severely
depleted, may be starting to rebound, a bit.

Red snapper coming back around.

Posted by Randy Olson at 07:31 AM | Comments (0)

October 25, 2004

10/25 - Surfrider Summit Roundup

Here's a nice summary of last weekend's Surfrider 20th Anniversary Summit Conference which I thought was tremendous.

Surfing legend Brad McCall and departing Executive Director of
Surfrider (and SB Superstar from the start), Chris Evans.

Posted by Randy Olson at 07:48 AM | Comments (0)

October 21, 2004

10/21 - Greenpeace to Japan: Give the oceans a break

Greenpeace, who is not an SB partner group because if it was we would probably lose several of our partner groups (Greenpeace moves in and there goes the neighborhood), politely pointed out to Japan with a peaceful demonstration that ... they are ruining the oceans.

If you could read that subtitle, you'd be shocked.

Posted by Randy Olson at 07:40 AM | Comments (0)

10/21 - Know Your Ocean Honchos: Conrad Lautenbacher, NOAA head and banjo player

Retired Vice Admiral Conrad Lautenbacher is head of NOAA, the government agency most responsible for climate research in an administration whose stance on climate change was described by REPUBLICAN Senator John McCain (who can be seen growling a few items below this one) as "disgraceful." McCain told Lautenbacher last month that he was "deeply disappointed" with him, but still, in his favor, the guy is a banjo player who once appeared on Hootenany, so he can't be all bad.

Check it out...registration required.

Where do I know that face from ... oh, I remember, Hootenany!

Posted by Randy Olson at 07:35 AM | Comments (0)

October 20, 2004

10/20 - We're Number One! California takes the lead in ocean protection

The Governator means business. He and Dirty Harry (Clint Eastwood) stood on the rocks in Carmel to announce the new plan to protect California's oceans, "today, tomorrow and forever." The enviros are wanting to take a "wait and see" approach, but its pretty clear they mean business -- in fact, that has been clear all year long, ever since the Gov appointed Terry Taminen as head of Cal. E.P.A.

Sphagnum Force: Clint joins the effort to protect California's oceans.

Posted by Randy Olson at 08:14 AM | Comments (0)

October 19, 2004

10/19 - Pew and USCOP: See brick, use brick

Perhaps the most memorable quote from the Surfrider Summit Conference last weekend came from Warner Chabot of The Ocean Conservancy who said basically, "Think of the Pew and U.S. Oceans Commission reports as being like bricks for you to now put to work by throwing them and making things happen." Meaning that the reports laid out all the recommendations, now its up to the grassroots activists to help make things happen.

Pick up a brick or two.

Pretend this is a brick. Now use it.

Posted by Randy Olson at 07:09 AM | Comments (0)

10/19 - Surfrider is the best!

Had a great weekend at the Surfrider 20th Anniversary Summit Conference. They are an amazing organization. About 250 members were present, including the majority of the heads of their 60 chapters from across the nation. A lot of the east coasters brought their surf boards, but were miffed when the Saturday night first-of-the-year heavy rains meant the coastal waters would probably be unsafe for swimming and surfing due to runoff on Sunday when they had planned to go. Bad luck for them -- the guys from North Carolina said they don't have such problems, they don't have the runoff, and in fact rely on storms to bring the only decent surf, meaning that they HAVE to get out surfing
within the 12 hours after a storm to get the best waves.

What is most amazing about Surfrider is their structure -- very little hierarchy, very little bureaucracy, very close to the ocean itself, because most of the members are out surfing on the ocean every weekend.

On Sunday they had a chapters meeting in which all 250 or so members got the chance to speak openly about how things were going for their chapters. You can imagine the potential frustrations in running such a large organization, and yet, even the most frustrated of speakers didn't convey any anger -- there is an amazing spirit of environmental collaboration that pervades this group.

Which is why in my one comment to the whole group I said that, from my two years of working with them as a partner group, they seem like, "A blast from the past, and the wave of the future," meaning that their humble, unpretentious, grassroots dynamics recall the early, smaller environmental groups of the 1960's and 70's, while their youthful, energetic demographics and the popularity of their image (especially for me in Hollywood) puts them way out there on the cutting edge and clearly the wave of the future. Here's to Surfrider, Happy Birthday!

For a good time, join Surfrider.

Posted by Randy Olson at 07:00 AM | Comments (0)

October 18, 2004

10/18 - The Real World of MPAs: Biscayne National Park wrestles with no-take zones

MPAs, Marine Reserves, No-take Zones. Easy to talk about. Not so easy to implement. Florida is now working to pass one for Biscayne National Park. There is resistance, but it makes me think of the fisheries biologist I spoke with last spring in getting ready to produce the Tiny Fish PSA who said, "They're coming. The public might as well learn about them and get ready because they're coming."

Posted by Randy Olson at 02:11 PM | Comments (0)

October 15, 2004

10/15 - HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO SURFRIDER: 20th Anniversary Summit this weekend

Surfrider Foundation, holder of the title of, "Coolest SB Partner," is holding their 20th Anniversary Summit Conference in Costa Mesa this weekend. I will be giving a talk about Shifting Baselines (including showing the new commercial I wrote and directed for Environment 2004 in support of John Kerry that stars Charles Durning with voiceover by Paul Newman) on Saturday morning along with Chad Nelson of Surfrider who will talk about applying the concept of shifting baselines to local environmental issues such as beach closures. Looking forward to have a large amount of fun with our favorite partner group.

SURFRIDER: 20 years of being THE BEST

Posted by Randy Olson at 07:58 AM | Comments (0)

October 14, 2004

10/14 - Ecocide in India?

India and Sri Lanka want to make their own "Suez Canal" through the coral reefs that divide them. But how do the coral reefs feel about that?

"No one seems concerned about the disastrous environmental costs involved and the virtual wiping out of India’s biologically-richest coastal region. In human terms, the livelihood of lakh fisherfolk spread across 138 fishing stations along the five coastal districts will be severely hit."

India on the left, Sri Lanka on the right, annoying coral reefs in the

Posted by Randy Olson at 06:01 AM | Comments (0)

10/14 - Reefs At Risk: Study says Caribbean reefs are worth $2.2 billion/yr

Nice that someone put a dollar figure to their value.

Tourists: ya gotta love 'em.

Posted by Randy Olson at 05:53 AM | Comments (1)

October 13, 2004

10/13 - McCain Bashes Bush on the Oceans (it's true)

Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., is supporting legislation to make NOAA into a separate agency. Here's what he said about the state of the oceans under Bush: "A lot can be done and this administration is doing very little," McCain said. "We are going to pay a very, very, heavy price."

Senator John McCain, angry over ocean decline.

Posted by Randy Olson at 06:08 AM | Comments (0)

October 11, 2004

10/12 - Tainted Ocean Love: Oceans Commission recommends using wrong funds?

Here's a good editorial on a flaw in the recommendations of the U.S. Oceans Commission Report -- that government royalties from offshore oil and gas drilling be used to create a trust fund to finance "improvement of ocean and coastal management, including the sustainability of renewable resources." The Governors of California and Maine have both objected to this.

From their wells to the government's pockets.

Posted by Randy Olson at 08:37 PM | Comments (2)

10/12 - Shockingly Good Media Coverage for Tom Goreau's Coral Electro-therapy

Whoever their publicist is, they're doing an amazing job. Here's yet another article about how they are using electric currents to grow corals.

The shocking truth about corals ... electrifying news ... high tension
on the reefs ... what else, what else ... let's see ... wire reefs
dying ... terminal illness in corals ... okay, enough.

Posted by Randy Olson at 08:33 PM | Comments (0)

10/11 - Is Cod Dead (in Canada): nope, but possibly an endangered species

Canadians are considering declaring cod, once the cornerstone of North Atlantic fisheries, an endangered species.

Back by popular demand: this image took a lot of time to create so
we're recycling it.

Posted by Randy Olson at 06:40 AM | Comments (2)

10/11 - In Da News: Partner group Seaflow gets some ink

The San Francisco Chronicle gives a nice write-up to our partner group Seaflow.

Seaflow works to bring some peace and quiet to marine mammals.

Posted by Randy Olson at 06:32 AM | Comments (0)

October 08, 2004

10/8 - WANTED: Missing Fish (MFCN and Oceana name the Top Ten)

Ten fish species, all fished down to less than 10 percent of their original abundances. This is a very powerful and clear presentation of what we're talking about with shifting baselnes.

Posted by Randy Olson at 08:54 PM | Comments (0)

October 07, 2004

10/6 - New Zealand Goes for Quotas for All Fisheries Species

NZ fisheries season opens by adding 21 new species to their Quota Management System, achieving their goal of 50 species which includes all the major species. Check out the story.

Hoki smokes (again?): our favorite NZ fish.

Posted by Randy Olson at 06:53 AM | Comments (1)

October 06, 2004

10/6 - Update on Ocean Legislation

At least three bills are on Capitol Hill and two are co-authored by Rep. Sam Farr, D-Carmel. They would give structure to many of the commission's suggestions.

Ocean Superstar Rep. Sam Farr

Posted by Randy Olson at 06:28 AM | Comments (2)

October 04, 2004

10/5 - Bush and Kerry on the Oceans: "The who-whats?"

What do the presidential candidates have to say about the fate of our oceans? Apparently not much. At least not when Physics Today is doing the interviewing. They quizzed both candidates on what they felt are the 7 most important issues in science: Missile Defense, Climate Change, Science Investment, Nuclear Weapons, Nuclear Proliferation, Energy Policy, Nuclear Power, and National Laboratories. Perhaps it says more about the interests of physicists, but still, if the noise being made about the oceans today were loud enough (as it is for climate change) it would have somehow been on their list.

The oceans are ... um ... wet.

Posted by Randy Olson at 09:48 PM | Comments (0)

10/4 -Tonight on 60 Minutes: Nothing to do with the oceans

Has there ever been a higher ratio of OpEd's to TV News Coverage for an issue than the oceans? Just search "Oceans Oped" on Google and you will get dozens upon dozens of OpEd's about the dying oceans, but what was the last major national television coverage you saw for either the Pew Oceans Report or U.S. Oceans Commissions Report?

Seriously. The two biggest ocean reports in 30 years, both solidly proclaiming ocean disaster, and neither (as far as I know) has scored a segment on 60 Minutes, Dateline, 20/20, Primetime ... etc. If an issue is important in this country you will see it on these news magazines. You don't see the decline of the oceans being covered on these news magazine. The logical extension is obvious.

Doesn't the worldwide decline of the oceans rate a 60 Minutes segment?
Why not?

Posted by Randy Olson at 09:41 PM | Comments (0)

October 03, 2004

10/3 - Feed a Pew Fellow to the Great White?

Is it possible someone could feed a Pew Fellow, holding a copy of the Pew Oceans Commission Report, to the Great White Shark on Cape Cod? The mass media would cover the event so thoroughly it would make up for the lack of national attention to the Pew Oceans Report last year. No?

How to make the most of media coverage.

Posted by Randy Olson at 10:35 PM | Comments (4)