BLUE NOTES #100: 8-years old and still rambunctious
June 19, 2012 Tweet
By David Helvarg
The first Blue Notes came out on March 18, 2004. In launching Blue Notes I hoped to offer useful perspectives for the expanding, solution-oriented seaweed or marine grassroots movement Blue Frontier Campaign had recently been created to encourage and support. Below are some of the highs and lows from the last eight years.
July 18, 2004:A very seaweed approach to protecting the ocean environment is being carried out in Key West by DeeVon and Craig Quirolo and their many supporters. One-time charter-boat operators, they got tired of watching the reefs they loved damaged by anchors dropped on live coral. So 18 years ago they quit their business to form Reef Relief and began setting out dive buoys for boats to tie off to, and educating divers not to touch the coral (which can kill it). Soon they realized there were other problems like polluted runoff and got the county to ban phosphate detergents. They helped establish the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and more recently helped inspire the city of Key West to build a new sewage system that protects the reefs by stripping nutrients from its wastewaters (corals like clear, low-nutrient waters).
Nov. 25, 2004: The last day of our Blue Vision Conference, attendees from around the country participated in more than 44 meetings on Capitol Hill. … Among the topics discussed were NOAA funding, the Clean Cruise Ships Act, coral reef protection, fisheries management reform, and the need for a comprehensive approach to coastal and ocean health. (Watch the conference video.)
Sept. 9, 2005: “There’s a 9-11 waiting to happen in the oceans if we let it,” Admiral James Watkins (Ret.), chair of the Bush-appointed U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy warned two years ago. With Hurricane Katrina we just let it happen. A huge natural disaster was hugely magnified by greed, folly and a refusal to respond to a situation long recognized as critical.
Sept. 29, 2005: The smell of New Orleans is mostly not of dead bodies but of a dead city that’s lost both its color (literally – it looks sepia toned – all mud brown, russet and gray) and its people –a million environmental refugees from the city and the coast. The first day I passed through the police roadblocks I found myself in Lakeview, one of the communities that sat underwater for two weeks. Driving for hours through the debris-strewn city.…I was reminded of wars I’d covered, scenes of destruction after heavy street battles with trees and power poles down, electric lines hanging, metal sheets, smashed cars and torn open houses, only on a far grander scale and with more regional incongruities (shrimp boats on roads, barges on highways, houses blown into swamps). The smell you often encounter is like dried cow pies and mildew with a strong chemical aftertaste.
Nov. 14, 2005: In the 1990s one of science’s mysteries was why the climate (atmosphere) wasn’t heating up as fast as computer models of industrial carbon emissions suggested it should be. The recently discovered answer is that the world’s oceans have been capturing a large part of human-induced greenhouse gasses, particularly carbon dioxide or CO2, thus slowing global warming. Unfortunately this extra CO2 entering the seas is producing carbonic acid, which is corrosive to shell forming creatures ranging from certain planktons to clams to corals.
July 12, 2006:A strong case can be made that the Bush administration has had the worst environmental record of any presidency. But just as Barry Bond’s homerun record will always come with an asterisk relating to his alleged steroid use, any recounting of the Bush Administration’s environmental stances will now have to come with an asterisk noting the establishment of America’s first great and fully-protected wilderness park in the sea, the Northwest Hawaiian Islands Monument.
Dec. 18, 2006: Merry Fish Mass – And a happy depleted stock recovery. As one of its last acts, the 109th Congress actually passed a half way decent reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act.…Under the new rules scientific measurements will be used to set catch limits rather than the whims of industry reps who dominate the eight federal regional fisheries councils.…The Marine Fish Conservation Network helped generate over 100,000 comments on behalf of the new reforms.
April 3, 2007: Last week I got to sit down at a DC bookshop cafe and chat with two inspiring water-women who, although they’d not met each other before, seemed like siblings, both 39-years-old, 5’4’’, buff blond dynamos with a strong desire to save the ocean while also getting their stoke—or rather stroke—on. Margo Pellegrino of New Jersey plans to paddle a kayak from Miami to Maine (or rather Miami2Maine) beginning in July meeting with seaweed activists along the way.…Roz Savage plans fewer stops on her voyage. Roz is looking to become the first woman to row solo across the Pacific. (Note—As part of Blue Frontier’s Ocean Explorers Project they’ve accomplished both these missions and more).
Sept. 20, 2007: Eleven of the last 12 years have been the warmest in history and the Northwest Passage through the Arctic is open for business according to the latest satellite observations that indicate there was less summer ice cover on the Arctic Ocean this year than at any time in modern history. The rate of melting from anthropogenic (human enhanced) global warming should be the signal for an international mobilization and it is, just not the right kind (that would lead to a rapid shift to non-carbon energy sources). Instead the fossil fuel and mining industries and the governments they dig are looking forward to expanded oil and mineral extraction from the newly exposed waters with the same kind of wild euphoria usually associated with suicide bombers given brand new explosive belts.
Nov. 12, 2007: Oil covered birds like you’ve seen on TV look even worse in real life. Not the dead ones so much, except when a gull’s ripped a small floating grebe open in the water and is pulling at its toxic guts. In the war on oil all the bodies are booby-trapped and even the scavengers die. The same can’t be said for Hong Kong based shipping company executives who order new ships built that still burn heavy bunker fuel, the dregs of the petroleum process, rather than invest in cleaner propulsion systems. Besides, with modern navigation, radar, Vessel Traffic Systems, trained bridge crews and experienced pilots, its not like a large container ship is going to ram into the San Francisco Bay Bridge in the fog and spill 58,000 gallons (later revised to 53,000) of that nasty stuff into the water. Which of course is exactly what happened on Wednesday morning November 7th.
Dec. 13, 2007: “We’re looking at the pain and war that surrounds oil, but still when people say it’s a war for oil I don’t think it’s that simple because most of these supertankers are not going from here to the States. They’re going all over the world,” explains 24-year old Lt. JG Gordon Hood, Executive Officer of the Wrangell, the 2nd Coast Guard Cutter I travel with.
He’s right. It’s not that simple, although most of this Iraqi oil will in fact find its way to the United States. The production and distribution of fossil fuel has at the beginning of the 21st century become the largest industrial combine in human history. The armed protection of that global system of energy commerce is the largely unquestioned reflex of a U.S. foreign policy that all too often undermines the very principles of democracy the young men and women I’m meeting have pledged to defend.
The day I get back from Bahrain and the Northern Arabian Gulf, there are 20 mostly Mexican men in hazmat suits cleaning oil off the rocky shore behind my home in the Richmond Marina section of the Bay.
Nov. 15, 2008: Barack Obama is riding a historic wave just like he rode that shore break at Sandy’s on Oahu….On the downside neither President-elect Obama nor his opponent seemed to have much sense of Ocean and Coastal issues even though our coastal counties contribute over $6 trillion to our GDP, more than half the total, and healthy seas are essential to healthy economies in good times and in bad. Still, when the GAO put out a list of 15 issues the new administration needs to address it included national conversion to digital TV but not our public seas. That’s why having a Blue Vision Summit six weeks after the Obama administration and new Congress take power is so important…to remind them of the blue in our red, white and blue.
Nov. 28, 2009: More than a quarter century after President Reagan established a U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone stretching 200 miles out from America’s shoreline, a vast marine domain six times the size of the Louisiana Purchase, President Obama is moving towards a unified national ocean policy to oversee it. (And we held the second Blue Vision Summit in 2009.)
Feb. 4, 2010: Wednesday, January 13 marked “Wear Blue for the Oceans Day,” that grew out of a Blue Frontier strategy meeting in support of a Strong National Ocean Policy (see the last six Blue Notes). Colorful rallies were held in a dozen cities across the nation including Washington D.C., San Francisco, New Orleans, Cambridge and Anchorage. 300 ocean lovers and charter school students participated at the State Capitol in Honolulu, as did students in California, Colorado, Massachusetts and elsewhere.
June 24, 2010: Flying in a small Cessna at 2,000 feet I can see oil spills as far as the horizon. There are also thick columns of black smoke and orange flames on the water where they’re burning off surface oil. We also spot and count 75-100 dolphins and a sperm whale (later identified as a humpback) moving slowly through thick rainbow sheets of oil some 30 miles from the nearest clear water.
With his talk of a battle plan to fight the oil President Obama has begun to adopt the rhetoric of war. But I’d choose a more appropriate metaphor….The metastasizing spill in the Gulf is like cancer and the activity 90 miles offshore at the source like a messy surgery. The millions of gallons of toxic dispersants are like chemo, the burn offs, radiation.
Jan. 11, 2011: A giant Bluefin tuna fetched a record price of nearly $396,000, in Tokyo in the first auction of the New Year at the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo. That translated to $526 per pound for the huge fish, more than the price of hummingbird tongues, cat whiskers or panda paws.
May 30, 2011: It was three days of peace and music and nothing but…no, wait, that was Woodstock. Blue Vision Summit 3, May 20-23 in Washington, D.C., was a whole other kettle of fish. Over 400 Ocean Leaders and activists gathered over three days and four nights for celebrations, ocean awards, some 30 panels and workshops, networking, eating (delicious vegetarian cuisine), drinking (like fish) and marching endless miles of corridors on Capitol Hill Ocean Day.
Nov. 15 2011: Snow-capped mountains, cowboy boots and elk burgers aren’t what you usually associate with ocean events, but for some 350 people who participated in the Colorado Ocean Coalition’s Making Waves symposium in Boulder November 13, Colorado is ocean country….
Octopi the Streets – Ocean activists are giving mixed to negative reviews to the Obama administration’s 5-year offshore drilling plans released November 8th that seems inconsistent with his National Ocean Policy. As public discontent with the status quo grows, it’s important to reflect on how we can better communicate the potential of our public seas to create millions of sustainable jobs and healthy communities for all. Another reason to be involved: our movement has the coolest polar bear, dolphin, turtle, fish and jellyfish costumes.
Feb. 21, 2012: The Peter Benchley Ocean Awards inspire hope by honoring those who are putting broad solutions into practice every day and thus challenge each of us to strive to do as well. On Valentine’s Day—because they love the ocean—the 5thannual Benchley award winners were announced.
March 20, 2012: If you‘re not satisfied with how the leaders of major powers like the U.S., China, India and Brazil are addressing climate change or protecting the ocean maybe you could help direct their attention to Kiribati (pronounced Kirr-i-bas)….I got to interview (2012 Benchley Award Winner) President Anote Tong on his last visit to the Bay Area….Here’s part of what he had to say at that time.
Q: What motivated Kiribati to set aside the largest marine reserve in history?
A: Earlier at the United Nations I was bitter at the international community for not listening [on climate change]. But then it became clear that if we made a contribution this large, it was also a statement on our part. So, this was a significant contribution to the world community in the hope they would also act.
In Blue Notes and through our projects, Blue Frontier Campaign continues to raise awareness and to unite the marine conservation community, seeking to turn hope into action. I personally remain more frustrated than despairing. We know what the solutions are to the challenges facing our blue marble planet. The trick is to create the political will to enact them. That’s why Blue Notes has begun profiling member organizations from our Blue Movement Directory of close to 1,500 seaweed groups. Just like a rising tide we believe change will come from the bottom up. We also believe our movement is growing fast as bull kelp. This year, we’ll release an updated Blue Movement Directory and lesson plans that support our book 50 Ways to Save the Ocean as well as continue our call for implementation of the National Ocean Policy. We also continue to support Citizens for Sustainable Point Molate and Ocean Explorer Margo Pellegrino. Next year we’ll celebrate the 6th annual Peter Benchley Ocean Awards and host the fourth Blue Vision Summit. Plan to join us and, in the mean time, keep reading, keep contributing, and keep supporting the Blue Movement. I look forward to documenting the changing of the tide for our ocean planet over the next 100 issues of Blue Notes.
Please feel free to review, reprint or pass on Blue Notes with BFC source credit. Take advantage of the Blue Movement Directory to link up with other seaweed activists (and submit your groups if they’re not currently listed). Don’t forget the 60% discount on 50 Ways to Save the Ocean for non-profit activist groups. If you’d like to see something in Blue Notes or have suggestions on how we can improve it as a tool for the marine community, please let us know.
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