September 29, 2005

9/29/05 - No Synergy, Spontaneity, or Leadership: Where Is the Ocean Conservation Movement in New Orleans?

I'm back. Been off making a documentary feature all summer that will be released in the spring and anger lots of people (yea!) as well as make lots of other people laugh (typical SB style). As of Monday things will get back on track here at Shifting Baselines. But I feel like getting started right now by asking a few questions about Hurricane Katrina, like why isn't there a loud voice coming out about ocean conservation?

There's a wrong time to say these things (less than 2 days after the event, as Robert Kennedy, Jr. tactlessly did on the Huffington Post in a gesture that should cause everyone to question his sense of diplomatic timing), and a right time -- namely a month after the event as all of the investigations and examinations are now underway.

WHY, oh, why, haven't all the major ocean conservation groups come together in a joint press conference to take advantage of the moment and say in a single, clear, loud unified voice, "This is what happens when you don't manage your coastal wetlands properly." This message is being written about extensively and was in National Geographic last year. Everyone "in the know" knows it. But there's a need for the big organizations to take a leadership role and instruct the nation on these things so that everyone can clearly learn the lesson -- not just the OpEd-reading minority of our society (its about time to come up with a nickname for that demographic segment).

And I don't want to hear about all the good things they are hard at work on right now related to this subject. I want to know why I haven't turned on the evening news and seen a story about the heads of the ten largest ocean conservation groups coming together to make a joint statement about "enough is enough in coastal wetland mismanagement" and announce the start of a new joint project to ... whatever. That hasn't happened. It should have by now. The moment has been lost. If it happens tomorrow, that's nice, but it should have happened by now.

This sort of thing requires synergy (a movement where the whole is greater than the parts, which is not the case in ocean conservation because the groups are so inwardly focused), spontaneity (the ability to act without assembling a committee to look into things before acting), and leadership.

Nat Geo Photo.jpg
Gone with the Moment: National Geographic was on top of it from the start, but where are the big ocean conservation groups?

Posted by Randy Olson at 12:50 PM

September 16, 2005

9/15 - Bangladesh: The place to go for all your shark fin, sting ray, and tortoise "edge" needs

It must be the real proof of how limited their English skills are that a company in Bangladesh sent us the following advertisement today. If anyone wants their name and phone number (we're not going to advertise for them) to call them up and place a fake order just send us an e-mail.

To: Director / Manager
Subject: Like to Export Processed Shark fins, Dried Shark Fins, Dried Fish Maws, Sting Ray Fish Skin, Tortoise Edge , Shark Teeth, Shark Meat & various Species.

Dear Sirs:
We pleased to offer you, our aforesaid Processed Shark fins, Dried Sea foods Dried Shark Fins & Dried Fish Maws, various Species Size & Grade.
If you like deal in these items, do not heisted to contact us for your desired items without delay.
For your kind information we draw your attention that we are know, how knowledge to Procure, Drying, processing grading, Sizing & maintain due quality as per Buyer requirement.
Always assuring our best service to you & invite you once to see us, what we do for you.
A waiting for your prompt reply & early good news.
 Best Regards

Posted by Randy Olson at 06:14 PM | Comments (633)

September 13, 2005

9/14 - Does the World Bank have 2 sides to its mouth when it comes to Pacific fishing and turtles?

The Sea Turtle Restoration Project says that the World Bank, only weeks after announcing a new project to promote sustainable fishing, is also supporting longline fishing in the Pacific which is the source of so much marine life destruction.

Is this what the World Bank is supporting? (from

Posted by Randy Olson at 11:06 PM | Comments (1657)

September 09, 2005

9-9 BAHAMA TRAUMA: What's it gonna be, golf courses or coral reefs?

Is everyone aware of the increasing number of messes in the Bahamas? As if there aren't enough challenges to coral reefs these days with warming seas, the developers in the Bahamas appear to be running amok. Whether its a golf course for Great Guana Cay, a gargantuan casino on Bimini, or coastal development on Clifton Cay, it appears that coral reefs are taking a back seat to big money. Erik Gauger provides a really nice in-depth look at the situation on Great Guana Cay. All of these struggles to protect coral reefs need help.

guanaatlanticbeach smaller.jpg
Fairways or fore-reefs, who's gonna win?

Posted by Randy Olson at 11:08 AM | Comments (2541)

September 06, 2005

9/7 - Dissolving Boots in New Orleans

Three days. That's as long as a pair of rubber boots last in New Orleans. The waters are so contaminated with hydrocarbons. This is the word from a friend of mine working with the Red Cross in Houston.

Posted by Randy Olson at 09:15 PM | Comments (679)

9/7 - The SMOKING GUN for FEMA: How is it coral reef scientists knew what was coming?

It was on the coral listserv in May. I thought I remembered the discussion -- everyone was talking about how this was shaping up to be one of the hottest summers for sea surface temperature in the Caribbean. And everyone knows that hot water brings with it stronger hurricanes. I managed to dig up a few of the posts.

Read this post from Al Strong of NOAA, from May 26, and consider whether or not it reads like a smoking gun.

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....
Reports appreciated....our Automated Satellite Bleaching Alerts (SBAs)
scheduled to begin this summer!!
Al Strong
Coral Reef Watch

The major news media needs to be reporting this. FEMA has no excuses.

And here's another one from Scott Stripling in Puerto Rico:

Even further than the reduced upwelling has been an anomalously weak
Gulf Stream
and subsequent western boundary current circulation this past winter,
and in general
terms since last summer, when Frances really put a blocking mechanism on the
Gulf Stream flow. See
This is partially due to a surface low pressure anomaly across the
western Atlantic
this past winter, and has acted to block the upstream flow into the
Caribbean as well,
affecting the entire Atlantic gyre. There is a huge pool of anomalously
warm water
in the upper layer east through northeast of the  Lesser Antilles that
extends out
into the central Atlantic.
Scott Stripling
Carolina, Puerto Rico

Posted by Randy Olson at 07:59 PM | Comments (1149)

September 05, 2005

9/5 - New Orleans: How to avoid environmental self-righteousness?

Here's an article in the Washington Post that itemizes what an environmental disaster lies ahead for the Gulf coast. For all the anti-environmentalists who call environmentalists "alarmists," this is sadly the unfolding of the sort of thing that environmentalists warn about with their "alarms." It's really happening this time.

And as if the dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico haven't gotten bad enough, now they will be filled with not just excess nutrients, but high levels of toxins as well.

But the real challenge for the environmental community is in the communication aspects of this mess. How do you convey the devastating consequences of such obvious environmental neglect (several books have been written about the potential costs of wetland destruction in this region, and the costs are now clear), without scolding, condescending, or otherwise annoying the people who need to change their habits? You certainly don't do it by writing, "You see, this is what you get" type editorials (which sadly is what RFK, Jr. did on the Huffington Blog just 24 hours after the disaster began). I hope environmentalists are aware of that. It's more complicated than just shouting.

A true environmental nightmare

Posted by Randy Olson at 02:51 PM | Comments (858)