May 31, 2005

6/1 - A good SB OpEd

Here's a good OpEd about shifting baselines in the Philadelphia Inquirer by Margaret Bowman.

Posted by Randy Olson at 11:43 PM

5/31 - Jet Ski Journey: Polluting the ocean to save it!

I feel kind of embarrassed for this woman. It seems like she's stuck in the 1950's mode of thinking. She's planning to ride a jet ski -- a means of transportation so annoying and polluting that its been banned from many waters, including I think the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary -- from Washington to San Diego. She says she's passionate about the oceans and concerned about their fate.
She has a website, though the buttons don't seem to work at the moment. And here's an article about her ill-conceived venture in the Skagit Valley Herald. You might want to write her a polite e-mail, explaining that jet skis and ocean concern don't add up, at:
jet skier.jpg
And she's wearing a fur coat!

Posted by Randy Olson at 12:02 PM | Comments (7642)

May 27, 2005

5/27 - SURF THREAT: Will Trestles go the way of Killer Dana?

One of the key segments of our new Flash slide show is the bit about what happened to "Killer Dana" -- the famous surf break of Dana Point that was destroyed in the late 60's when a marina was built. Now, believe it or not, one of the other finest surf breaks in Southern California, Trestles, is being threatened with similar development. Plans are under way to built a new highway through the estuary beside it which will interrupt the flow of the creek, changing its outflow of sediments that are partly responsible for the surf at Trestles. Surfrider is trying to alert the public to this and let people know what they can do. Check it out, before its gone.


Popular S. California surf spot Trestles, and San Mateo Creek which may be altered by a new highway.

Posted by Randy Olson at 02:38 PM | Comments (1528)

5/27 - "UNPRECEDENTED" Heat Build Up for the Caribbean So Far This Year

Yarks. Al Strong, NOAA scientist (i.e. not prone to exaggerate) reports: We are presently watching the Caribbean begin its 2005 summer warm-up in the most southern reaches of this Sea.... So far, for this time in late May, the thermal stress appears to be building up at an unprecedented rate. This is since we have been watching HotSpots and DHWs evolve (since 1997)....stay tuned....


Heat up the tropical ocean and this is what you get: bleached coral.

Posted by Randy Olson at 02:34 PM | Comments (2323)

May 26, 2005

5/26 - Hot Air? A little insight on wind farms for N.J.

Remember how the Makah Indian whale hunting split the environmentalists who support native rights against the environmentalists who don't like to see whales get harpooned? Now we have wind farms that are splitting environmentalists who don't like nuclear power and fossil fuels against the environmentalists who don't like eyesores.

Here's a really good personal assessment of the current situation for New Jersey from John Weber of Surfrider.

Don't photographers just love windmills? Kind of like my directing teacher used to say, "Don't let your cameraman near a mirror"

Posted by Randy Olson at 07:27 PM | Comments (3151)

May 25, 2005

5/25 - Dowie Film Inspires Counterpunch Essay

Check this out -- an essay by Michael Donnelly on, inspired by the Mark Dowie film.


Posted by Randy Olson at 07:33 PM

May 24, 2005

5/24 - Watching Walmart Shift the Baseline of Florida's Wetlands (remnants)

The St. Petersburg Times has a great article on the loss of wetlands in Florida, complete with a nice graphic showing the changes in time.

Fl wetlands 2.jpg

Fl wetlands 1.jpg
Florida's wetlands: now you see 'em, now you don't.

Posted by Randy Olson at 10:02 AM

May 22, 2005

5/23 - How "shifting baselines" Makes for a Different Sort of Dive Trip

Here's a nice little piece from the diving world in which a diver tells of how the term "shifting baselines" became the on-going theme for discussion during a 3 day dive trip. On board was a copy of Marty Snyderman's cover story on shifting baselines in the January issue of Dive Training magazine.

And this is what's so great about the term and the reason we have run this whole project which is basically a promotional campaign (in which, by the way, nobody makes any money) behind the term. You can talk about how things have changed, but bringing in this term helps everyone focus the discussion better and gives the whole subject a label as everyone ponders "what is natural?" "what are the baselines?" and "are there any truly pristine dive sites any more?"
A Catalina dive trip: perfect time to talk about shifting baselines.

Posted by Randy Olson at 11:39 AM

5/23 - An Excellent Essay on How the Environmental Movement Needs to NOT Allow Its Baseline to Shift

Here's a very good essay addressed to Stewart Brand and his recent suggestions that environmentalists reconsider their opinions of nuclear power, over-population, urbanization, and GMOs. As the author, Ryan Ramon argues, a movement that allows its baselines to shifted aimlessly is no movement at all.
A movement with shifting baselines is no movement at all

Posted by Randy Olson at 11:36 AM

May 20, 2005

5/20 - Playing to the Grassroots (via Mark Dowie)

The kudos are starting to roll in. Not for me (all I did was sit the guy down in front of a camera), but for Mark Dowie who is the star of our new 6 minute short film currently featured on the home page of Grist. Check out this wonderful, wonderful, wonderful e-mail received yesterday from an east coast activitist:

I would love, if I may, to have two dvd copies of your film, one for me and one for the library at my office.  I'm a life long environmentalist, who, for entirely different reasons (community organizing around delinquency prevention), studied with Saul Alinski in the late 60s.  About two months ago it occured to me that 'we' of whatever bent, civil rights, conservation, world peace, had quit organizing and the christian right had moved in where we had vacated.  It's time to take it back and your film is very empowering.

Posted by Randy Olson at 10:51 AM | Comments (1)

May 19, 2005

5/19 - Grist posts our new Mark Dowie film

Grist Magazine has posted our new 6 minute film, "Mark Dowie: Empowering the Grassroots," on their website.

Dowie Still Small JPEG.jpg
Mark Dowie offers up his recommendations on "Imaginative Philanthropy" in our new short film

Posted by Randy Olson at 05:23 PM | Comments (1)

5/19 - In Search of the Unshifted Baseline of Long Island Sound

Tom Anderson, author of "This Fine Piece of Water: An environmental history of Long Island Sound," also has his own blog in which he's been talking about shifting baselines and the area around Long Island.

The author dreams of what Manhattan Island looked like 500 years ago

Posted by Randy Olson at 06:41 AM

May 18, 2005

5/19 - Surf Perfection in Tahiti

In case anyone was wondering what the word "perfection" means in surfing, look no further than Kelly Slater's TWO perfect tens on Tuesday in Tahiti.

As good as surfing gets

Posted by Randy Olson at 04:20 PM

5/18 - WOW! Hawaii Goes for #1: Giant marine reserve bill introduced in Congress

Check it out. Hawaii Congressman Ed Case proposed Monday in Congress the creation of an "Ocean Yellowstone," a marine park that would be the largest in the world, even bigger than Australia's. Here's the entire text of his speech, which is pretty good reading.


There's lots more to them islands than just tourist beaches.

Posted by Randy Olson at 01:11 PM

5/18 - American Watersheds: Are we winning? Kinda ...

Here's a really good article that basically says we're doing a hell of a lot these days to destroy watersheds, AND a hell of a lot to restore them. Which is just more evidence that we're collectively losing our minds.
A graph of our collective insanity?

Posted by Randy Olson at 08:32 AM

May 16, 2005

5/17 - Chesapeake Bay Almost "Clean": Just a couple more summers of redefined standards should do it!

How do you make your local degraded waters better? Two ways -- clean them up, or re-define "degraded," which is what the EPA is doing this summer for the Chesapeake Bay as reported by the Baltimore Sun. "Progress by redefinition," is what Erin Fitzsimmons, of Waterkeeper Alliance, calls it. Shifting the baseline is what we call it. Sure looks pretty dubious. The percentage of oxygen depleted water in the bay dropped from 40% in 2003, to 28% last summer, and is expected to go lower this summer, SIMPLY BECAUSE OF REDEFINING THE STANDARDS each year. That's pretty audacious given that each of the last summers there have been widespread reports of stressed marine life. Is that really the time to relax the standards to make it look like you're making things better?
Great Work! Just a couple more summers of redefined standards and the entire Chesapeake Bay will be "clean"!

Posted by Randy Olson at 08:18 PM

5/16 - Billy Graham, Shifting Baselines, and "Inclusion"

The Reverend Billy Graham talks about it today in USA Today. He calls it "inclusion." In my first meeting with Gale Anne Hurd (as some of us were scheming over which groups we should and shouldn't include in our new Shifting Baselines project) she had one request of the project -- that it be "inclusive." And that changed everything. We ended the scheming, did our best to invite as many groups as possible at the start (with the main criteria of wanting groups that have membership and are national) and actually thought through the message of the "Pristine?" slide show to make sure we conveyed that our project is not anti-fishing. Inclusiveness continues to be one of our fundamental aspirations.

Yesterday I had the usual 2 hour phone blabber with Jeremy Jackson in which we haggled about everything under the sun, but in the middle of that he talked about recently attending a meeting as one of a group of scientists giving talks about the state of the environment to a very wealthy, but also very conservative businessman. After listening to a few talks (and before Jeremy spoke), the guy said, "why aren't you guys more upset about the dire news you're telling me." Turned out the guy may be a hardcore right winger, but he's still disgusted with the decline of the oceans and eager to do something about it.

I suspect there are many people like this today who are repulsed by the tone of the environmental movement, but in favor of a healthy environment. It certainly is the sentiment I got from the California sport fishermen I got to know.

And this is the relevance of the Reverend Graham (and the Reverend Jeremy Jackson). The environmental movement has become sadly non-inclusive (and smug). It can't afford to. These are not problems of science and policy we're facing, they're social problems. That's my soapboxing for today. And in the meawhile, stand by, we're about to release a new short film with Mark Dowie within the next week that is along these lines and is going to ruffle a few feathers.
We must heed the teachings of the good Rev. Graham and practice "inclusion."

Posted by Randy Olson at 07:16 PM | Comments (1)

5/16 - Did we mention the Santa Barbara Ocean Film Festival THIS SUNDAY, May 22?

Starts at 6:00. Certain to be fun -- 850 people, last year it sold out. An evening of great films, with our new Surfrider 4 minute slide show a part of the evening. Hope to see you there!

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

May 13, 2005

5/13 - Homeless Dude and His Bodyguard at the Inspiration Film Festival

chad and ty smaller.jpg
Chad Nelsen (left) of Surfrider and co-writer of the new "Shifting Baselines in the Surf," and SB kingpin Ty Carlisle at the screening of the new piece at the Inspiration Film Festival

Posted by Randy Olson at 08:58 PM

5/13 - Awesome Galapagos Photos ...

Take a look at this amazing set of photos from Galapagos by Sebastiao Salgado.


Paul Simon was wrong, everything doesn't look worse in black and white.

Posted by Randy Olson at 01:44 PM | Comments (1)

5/13 - What have we done to the salmon?

This is sounding ominous. According to the NY Times either the salmon are very late, or something bad has happened.

new slamon.jpg

It really is sounding like a disaster.

Posted by Randy Olson at 01:38 PM

May 12, 2005

5/12 - Angelfish in Alaska?

I don't think the fish are doubting the existence of global warming. Here's the news that they're moving to higher latitudes.
Go ahead, ask this cod what he thinks of global warming

Posted by Randy Olson at 07:04 PM

May 11, 2005

5/11 - Tilting At Windmills in Massachusetts

I've gotten several e-mails over the past couple weeks from people asking whether we're aware of the Nantucket windmills situation (the planned construction of 130 wind turbines just offshore of Cape Cod) that is heating up. Yesterday the project crossed a major regulatory hurdle, turning up the heat another notch. And here's an essay by George Woodwell, Director of the Woods Hole Research Center, arguing in favor of the project which is opposed by the Governor and Senator Ted Kennedy.
Windmills: Cute in Europe, not so much on the coast of Massachusetts.

Posted by Randy Olson at 09:15 AM | Comments (2)

May 09, 2005

5/9 - Salmon Disaster in Oregon and California?

From the Eureka Reporter: Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Napa) sent a letter to U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez on Thursday urging him to declare a fisheries disaster in California and Oregon. According to a news release from Thompson’s office, this year’s salmon returns are expected to be very low as a result of the drought and low water conditions three years ago. Thompson is seeking financial relief for affected individuals, businesses and communities after the Pacific Fishery Management Council recommended severe restrictions on the offshore ocean salmon fisheries of California and Oregon. The California Department of Fish and Game also imposed a drastically reduced salmon fishing season for commercial ocean and river fishermen, as well as for the subsistence fishery of the Yurok, Hoopa and Karuk tribes. According to the letter sent to Gutierrez, the estimated loss to the commercial fishing fleet alone will exceed $100 million.


Posted by Randy Olson at 02:06 PM

5/9 - New SB/Surfrider Slide Show to have World Premiere at Santa Barbara Ocean Film Festival May 22

Buy your tickets now for the Santa Barbara Ocean Film Festival to see the World Premiere of our new Flash slide show, "Shifting Baselines in the Surf," featuring photos from 10 of the world's top surf and ocean photographers, a cameo appearance by San Diego City Council Member Donna Frye, pro surfer Pat O'Connell, and featuring the song, "In Times Like These," by Jack Johnson. And I gotta say, that song is the ultimate shifting baselines song. He sings, "In times these, in times like those, what will be will be, and so it goes, and it always goes on and on and on and on ..." It was the perfect song to match to our montage of messed up beaches from around the country in the middle of the slide show. Hope to see everyone there in Santa Barbara. And the slide show, along with two other new films will debut on our website the following day.
See you there!

Posted by Randy Olson at 01:51 AM

May 06, 2005

5/6 - Sea Lion Wars!

I heard about it from every fisherman I spoke with in the Central California coast. Now the good people of Washington and Oregon are throwing explosives at the beasts in an effort to save their salmon run. Saving endangered species is relatively easy compared to the difficulty of trying to figure out what to do with a super-abundant (but lovable) species like sea lions. And in response to the California fishermen complaints, I checked in with a few of the experts who know the real baselines for west coast pinnipeds and guess what, they say many of the seal and sea lion populations are more abundant now than any time in the past 500 years. The fishermen aren't exaggerating.
How could anybody throw a bomb at a face like that?

Posted by Randy Olson at 08:51 AM

5/6 - Shifting baselines of history: Osama Bin Laden's Perspective on Baghdad

There's a very good article in last week's New Yorker (April 25) taking Osama Bin Laden to task for his statement a couple of years ago that the U.S. had destroyed Baghdad worse than Hulagu of the Mongols in 1258. That's Hulagu whose Mongol horde killed 1.6 million people with arrows, clubs, and swords in the city of Herat in northwest Afghanistan in 1222. And when he took over Baghdad, after leveling the place, he ordered his 90,000 soldiers to each bring him a skull which they then made into a pyramid. How many skulls were U.S. soldiers ordered to gather?

What can you say other than "shifting baselines." Somehow Bin Laden's baseline of violence is a bit shifted. Not that I'm any sort of supporter of the Iraq war, it's just nice to keep track of how the past gets distorted. And I loved the quote a decade ago when Oliver Stone made, "Natural Born Killers," and said in an interview, "we live in the most violent society that has ever inhabited the planet." Duh, really? Worse than feeding christians to lions? Need to keep those baselines intact.
Hulago: his army makes American troops look like boy scouts

Posted by Randy Olson at 12:36 AM

May 05, 2005

5/5 - Crying Wolf on the Environment: Now it's time to beat up the Great Barrier Reef Folks?

Clearly we are in the midst of a worldwide trend. A huge streak of skepticism, resentment, and rebuke has broken out around the world in terms of the mass audience rising up to give the finger to the environmental movement. You see it in the Death of Environmentalism essays, you read it very loudly in Michael Crichton's "State of Fear," and Outside magazine this month has gone so far as to list "The Counter-Enviro Power List" -- their list of the twenty most powerful
anti-environmentalists (note that among the list is muckraker John Stossel whom Mark Dowie skillfully dissected in The Nation a few years ago which is more evidence of why we are ready to found the Mark Dowie Fan Club).

In Dowie's 1995 book, "Losing Ground," he quoted Nobel Laureate George Wald at Earth Day 1970 stating his fear that pollution would "go on merrily in all its present forms, while we superimpose a new multi-billion dollar anti-pollution industry on top of it." Well, now it appears a third industry, the anti-anti-pollution industry has emerged. Kind of like a whole host-parasite type thing. Like those wood wasps with the hyper-parasitism. Whatever.

Anyhow, I met Walter Starck 24 years ago when he was the head of a sort of commune in north Queensland, Australia, living on his research ship tied up on the banks of the Daintree River in the midst of the rainforest. Great guy. A true character. They brewed some amazing home beer at the time. And being of the feisty, independent mind set that he is, it's perhaps inevitable that he would have had a gut full of the enviro hype, prompting him to write a little essay about the "threats" to the Great Barrier Reef. Which is just another piece of this backlash in progress against the environmental movement. I wonder when the folks at the top of the enviro world will begin to sense that the peasants are amassing outside their castle.


Before we relax our concerns about the Great Barrier Reef, let's make
sure we know what the baselines are.

Posted by Randy Olson at 01:44 PM

5/5 - Cudos to the Chesapeake Club for Classy and Clever Commercials

At least someone has figured out the power of television. Two weeks ago at the Scripps Biodiversity Conference someone presented a pie chart showing that 44% of the American public get their science and technology information from television, which is more than any other medium. Which just brings up my eternal question of why, oh why, doesn't the ocean conservation "movement" channel 44% of their communication effort into television, rather than the endless mountains of brochures and pamphlets that litter the floors of events and end up in office trash cans?
So check out these nice and simple ads from the Chesapeake Club.
THIS is how it's done.

Posted by Randy Olson at 01:22 PM | Comments (1)

May 04, 2005

5/4 - Duh ... Stalking the not-so-elusive Giant Black Sea Bass in La Jolla

Meant to post this last week. Times have certainly changed when some poor dummy spears a protected fish and the whole community comes down on him. And then he resorts to the lame excuse of feeling threatened by the slow, lumbering fish who's about as intimidating as a big, fluffy St. Bernard.

Black Sea Bass2.jpg

Way to go, you shot the neighborhood pet.

Posted by Randy Olson at 02:00 PM

5/4 - The Latest Estimate of Coral Reef Destruction is ........ Twenty-Ten-Fifteen Percent

Today, one third of all coral reefs are damaged beyond -- no, a quarter of all coral reefs are under stress, no, wait, its actually ten percent are flattened, while fifteen percent are for sale and another twelve percent can't be found, no, it's two thirds of all healthy reefs and a quarter of those which are deemed neither available nor occupied, except in nations where Sundays are not considered to be holidays and ...

Why can't all the groups come together and agree on a single number for anything? The exact number for coral reef destruction changes with every new article which has a new definition for coral reef health. Here's the latest, putting it at 20%.

coral reef 2.jpg

Coral Reef Decline: Pick a number, any number.

Posted by Randy Olson at 01:57 PM

5/4 - Lewis Black Poops on Cameron Diaz and "Trippin'"

The incomparable Lewis Black of Comedy Central's Daily Show once again shows his scathing brilliance. Last night he highlighted the new MTV enviro show, "Trippin'" with Cameron Diaz by showing a clip of Drew Barrymore, somewhere on a river in a third world country, talking about the joys of taking a poo in the woods, to which he commented: "Now if there's a better metaphor for America's relationship with the world today than a white woman crapping in a native's back yard, I'd like to know what it is."
Lewis Black: Unstoppable

Posted by Randy Olson at 01:01 AM

May 03, 2005

5/3 - The Great Albatross Race: Are we pro or con?

Not exactly certain how to feel about this one. Good that they're donating the proceeds to charity, but a little sadistic that everyone's hoping all the other birds fall victim to longline fishing hazards.


This is what satellite tracking was developed for -- another thing to bet on.

Posted by Randy Olson at 02:50 AM | Comments (1)

May 02, 2005

5/2 - Web Traffic: Another record month (thanks to NY Times)

So what does a major article in the NY Times that has a link to your website in the fifth paragraph do to your web traffic? The answer is an increase of about 1500 visitors on one day (from roughly 1200 average up to 2700).
Daily Traffic April.jpg
Daily web visitors for April

April Traffic.jpg
Website Traffic by month

Posted by Randy Olson at 10:26 AM

5/2 - Sex, Advertising, and the disaster known as "Communicating Ocean Conservation"

I spent part of last Thursday at a workshop of "ocean communicators" at Long Beach Aquarium. It was sixty very nice people who really want the public to rally to the support of ocean conservation but can't figure out why the mass audience takes no interest in their "messaging." So let's talk about this elusive mass audience of America. "How can we reach them?" It's the age old question for these polite and well mannered "communicators."

Lest we forget, "sex sells." Here's an article in today's USA Today to remind you. And conversely, utter and complete sexlessness does not sell. Over the past year I've taken to talking about what I learned in acting class -- that there are four important organs in the body when it comes to connecting with a mass audience: the head, the heart, the gut, and the lower organs. The further down you can move the creative process, the larger the audience you will connect with. And moving things down to the lowest organs produces the "sex sells" phenomenon this article talks about.

Now consider this little rule in relation to the people in charge of communicating ocean conservation (without naming any names). Are they good at pulling heart strings? Do they have a cutting edge sense of humor? Are they sexy?

Where does this line of thought lead you? To the conclusions of the Packard-funded "Turning the Tides" report which concluded, "Ocean conservationists are much better at policy than politics." It's a movement run by affluent white brainiacs. Nice folks, but not the face of mainstream America.
Prudes: If you find this hopelessly offensive, you may be more a part of the problem for ocean conservation than the solution

Posted by Randy Olson at 09:32 AM

5/2 - Shock and Awe: NASA data shows globe is warming

Yawn. The ten thousandth data set from NASA shows ... drum roll, please ... the earth is getting warmer. Amazing how far you have to go to prove a simple fact when an Administration doesn't want to believe it. Glaciers melting, climate changing, animal distributions shifting, and politicians denying it.

On a different, much more nerdly note ... the sixth paragraph of the article begins with, "With this data ..." If there was one tiny thing they managed to drill into our skulls in graduate school it is that the word "data" am plural, as in "With these data ..." or the singular, "With this datum ..." I guess the A.P. is slipping in their standards.
Glaciers: Visit them while they last

Posted by Randy Olson at 02:40 AM