IBI Watch 6/17/12

17 06 2012

Caring for the Oceans – While We Still Can  //

Sometimes, the connection between the world’s oceans and our incessant burning of fossil fuels leaps to the surface.  Think of BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster.  But there is something much larger going on, with enormous long-term implications for life on the planet – marine and terrestrial alike.  The recent celebration of World Oceans Day (how did you miss that one?!) makes this a good time to take stock of marine health.  A saying has been applied to a country that chooses to invade another – ‘If you break it, you own it.’  I say, that applies even more directly to our relationship with the world’s oceans.  We own them; time to pay the bill.

Unsustainable fishing practices have been well documented.  Stocks of species once thought to be inexhaustible – think cod – have been reduced to the point where recovery is questionable.  Growing appetites for sushi have decimated the mighty blue fin tuna.

Serious though it is, fish stock depletion from overfishing pales in comparison with our vast uncontrolled atmospheric chemistry experiment.  More people seem to be waking up at last to the connection between greenhouse gas emissions and increasingly extreme climate.  It is time now to understand and fight ocean acidification.  The byproducts of fossil fuel burning – mainly carbon dioxide – eventually settle out of the atmosphere.  Their addition to the oceans has already changed global marine pH by 0.1.  That seems small – but is small only in the sense that CO2 makes up a ‘small’ percentage of the total atmosphere.  Considering the vast volume of seawater on the planet, this change is huge, as is its implications.  More acidic ocean water affects the entire food chain, from phytoplankton and tiny mollusks on up.  We must also remember that, like global temperatures, we have not move the needle 0.1 and now it stops for a new normal.  No, this is a moving target, and considering that we are burning ever more coal, oil and gas, this will continue until we wise up.  And should this trend continue, we may push the oceans toward a hypoxic state – something no one wants to contemplate.  A good source for awareness of this danger – which has been teased out in impressive fashion by paleo-climatologists – is Peter D. Ward’s Under a Green Sky.  If this doesn’t scare the hell out of you, well, nothing will.  No time for Ward’s excellent and very readable book?  Surely you have a few minutes for this Climate Central article.  It even includes workable ideas for ameliorating acidification.

Fortunately, many wise people and organizations are working to educate the public and/or influence policy towards sustainability.  Famed marine biologist Sylvia Earle has earned her nicknames ‘Her Deepness’ and ‘The Sturgeon General’ through a lifetime of dedication to exploring and protecting ocean ecosystems.  You will learn much from a terrific interview she did recently on Krista Tippett’s On Being.

Our chemical battering of the oceans is not the only way we are marauding.  Our wars take a toll as well.  Consider the divided island of Cyprus.  Loggerhead turtles have a hard enough time these days, what with predation, habitat loss and pollution.  That has not stopped two kind souls – Andreas Demetropoulos and Miroula Hadjichristoforou – from dedicating countless hours to give these giants of the sea a fair chance in an environment damaged by eternal conflict between Greece and Turkey.  This story from PRI’s The World includes a two-minute video detailing these tireless stewards’ work.  This story is part of a series of environmental stories called One Species at a Time.  An amazing amount of ecology here – including but not limited to Marabou storks, corpse flowers and Scottish wildcats.

But back to our starting point – the ocean.  Though I live about as far from the ocean as you can get in America, it still exerts a pull on me.  When I visit either coast, I still have to visit and dip my feet in the briny.  Here is an organization that works tirelessly to protect healthy oceans.  It is very deserving of support – The Ocean Conservancy.


Minnesota, Your Icebox is Melting.  Fast.

Those who watch carefully – admittedly, far from everyone – notice something of a change in Twin Cities weather over the years.  Winter – even a winter like last, which was predicted to be la Niña-boosted cold – no longer has its bite.  We jerk from drought to torrential downpours.  And, oh, that summer humidity!  A new study vindicates us observers.  Minnesota is indeed warming faster than all but two other states.  And when it comes to nighttime lows, we are warming faster than every other state.  Here is the national picture of warming.

Twenty years ago, those lyin’, research-money-grubbin’, wolf-cryin’ lowdown so-called scientists predicted that global warming would be stronger inland than at the coasts, stronger in winter than summer, stronger in overnight lows rather than daytime highs, and, hey, wait – they were right!  And just for good measure – let’s take a bigger shot at America’s real great national pastime, pignorance (pretend ignorance).  Do you think this accelerating man-made change to the inland American climate could be connected to this?  Nah, me neither.  Hey, did you hear about the clouds and sunspots?  Hey, wouldja pass the sunscreen?  And turn up the A/C, thanks!  Ah, nothing like pignorance in cool comfort!


Health – An Expansive Definition

A friend and subscriber called my attention to this TED talk.  The message of this speaker – Rebecca Onie, founder of Health Leads – had a special resonance for me.  My wife works in health care, and nearly every day (and sometimes without the support of her overlords) fights the struggle described and fought by Onie.  Here is her profile on the TED site.


Screwed, Blued, Tattooed . . . And the Beating Goes on

These days, you have to ask the question.  How unequal will we allow this once-fair country to get before we wake up and change things?  I like this article written by Democratic strategist James Carville.  We often see him pop up with witty video sound bites, but this article uses a thought experiment to illustrate just how out of balance opportunity has become, and how little we seem to care.  And then there is the ongoing campaign to vilify public employees.  One capital of this effort is, of course, Madison WI – where the leader of the campaign to blame and punish public employees for our fiscal crisis – Scott Walker – continues to win enough support for his disempowerment juggernaut.  Paul Krugman calls out this ‘destroy the public’ campaign, and why it ultimately solves nothing.  And speaking of economists, Joseph Stiglitz is out with a new book that helps us understand where we are going as we create Gilded Age Redux – the Millennium Edition. Read an excerpt of The Price of Inequality.  And more people seem to be fighting back – including shareholders.

So – what is a progressive to do?  First – consider the implications of the upcoming election, which will have the power to determine the ideological bent of the Supreme Court for decades.  Here are an article and a graphic that both tell that story.  And finally – George Lakoff has some useful thoughts and advice on how we can influence the fence-riders, i.e., those for whom both the ‘stern father’ and ‘nurturing parent’ moral compasses resonate.


Prudery Payback

A thumb in the eye to Michigan’s absolutely appalled male legislators.  They just can’t say a certain word.  Too bad George Carlin is not around to enjoy this.  Shocking stuff.


Pedal Power – Growing Steadily

Sure seems like a no-brainer.  And more of us seem to be catching on.  Sedentary life – underuse of our bodies to move around – is contributing to a national health crisis – the diabetes epidemic.  Meanwhile, another aspect of sedentary life – our overuse of fossil fuels as we use oversized vehicles to haul nothing but ass – is contributing to the global climate crisis.  Using bicycles as both athletic activity and purposeful transportation helps solve both problems.  And oh yes, it’s fun – if you stay safe.  This story from NPR shows how more people are embracing the two-wheeled way to health and saving finances (as well as the planet).  Not sure how to get started?   Here are two partner web sites that cater to practical cycling.  Take your pick between Utility Cycling and Commute by Bike.


“We all have to take responsibility for the direction we are going. In our schools we are focusing on numbers and letters but we need, from the earliest times, to get across the concept that we are connected to nature and that we are trying to find a space to sustain ourselves.” – Sylvia Earle


Blogger – Michael Murphy, St. Paul MN


Contributed links to this posting –Jeff Carlson, Glenn Gilbert, Allyson Harper, Brendan Murphy




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: