BLUE NOTES #104: Obama Responds, Sundance for Dolphins and Props
October 16, 2012
By David Helvarg
On August 15, Blue Frontier Campaign put together a letter to the presidential candidates signed by 60 ocean leaders calling on them to pledge to protect our ocean by moving forward in four action areas. On September 24, the Obama campaign responded with the following statement:
“President Obama is committed to ensuring that our nation’s vast natural resources are used responsibly, and that we maintain healthy oceans and coasts. By establishing a National Ocean Policy, he made it a priority of the federal government to ensure a proactive approach to improving the conservation of the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes.”
President Obama is directing additional funding to Gulf Coast restoration to further bring back the fisheries and coastal ecosystems that are still recovering in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon spill. He kicked off the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the largest investment in the Great Lakes in two decades, which is targeting ecological problems such as invasive species, toxic hot spots, and pollution runoff. And his administration is cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, establishing a “pollution diet” for the Bay that will help restore the natural habitat for fish and other wildlife. They have also invested over $1.4 billion in Everglades’ restoration, helping restore tens of thousands of acres that will serve as a sanctuary for native Florida plants and wildlife. Under President Obama, we have created or enhanced more than 540 public coastal recreation areas, protected more than 54,000 acres of coastlines and restored over 5,200 acres of coastal habitat. The administration is also investing more in monitoring our fishing stock in coastal areas in order to have the most accurate data possible on the health of our fisheries. These are significant steps that are helping us improve the health of our oceans and build more robust fisheries. (Thank President Obama for what he’s done on behalf of our oceans with an e-mail or a tweet.)
Sundance for Dolphins
The third BLUE Ocean Film Festival and conservation event held September 24-30 in Monterey, California, was for marine life (including salty humans) what the Sundance Festival is for independent film making: a sprawling, visually stimulating, intellectually exhausting and often inspiring week of film, panels and parties where some folks drank like fish. If you got too inspired, there was also a meeting of 500 scientists in town for the third global symposium on Ocean Acidification with a day of overlapping sessions to balance the visual wonder with stark warnings. Suffice it to say the best available science is producing the worst imaginable scenarios for the future of our ocean planet in a high CO2 world. (For a more detailed analysis on the Ocean’s rising acidity see Ken Weiss’s article in the LA Times.)
Along with films like The Island President (that won top honors) and emerging classics such as The Cove there were dozens of other films from student videos to 3D Imax spectacles from Disney and James Cameron to Jean- Michel Cousteau, Bob Ballard, Wyland, Sea Studios and MacGillivray Freeman Films.
Name-dropping who was there would be like depth-charging fish in a barrel (one of the few catch methods not presently approved by regulators). A random dozen would have to include three Cousteaus, Jean-Michel, Celine & Fabian, Dr. Sylvia Earle, Bob Ballard, James Cameron, Prince Albert II of Monaco, Jackson Brown, Edward Olmos, Don Walsh, Dr. Jane Lubchenco and Louis Psihoyos.
Along with four ocean submersibles on display there was also great blue photography by Benchley Awardee Brian Skerry, Bob Talbot and others. Google’s Liquid Galaxy launched a new photo platform-sled in partnership with Catlin Seaview Survey which allows users to take street view underwater. One of my favorite moments was when Steve Silverman from Google was showing underwater images of a sea turtle taken off the Great Barrier Reef and asked a roomful of 500 people, ‘How many of you have ever seen a real turtle?’ About 90 percent of the hands went up followed by laughter. “You have to know the audience your addressing,” he admitted ruefully. Even more fun was taking a run the next morning along the waterfront looking out over sea rocks and kelp beds full of pelicans, gulls, cormorants, harbor seals and sea otters. There’s nothing like a living ocean to compliment an ocean film fest.
That night’s awards and dinner at the Monterey Bay Aquarium included a tribute to two great ocean filmmakers Andrew Wight and Mike deGruy. The two died in a helicopter crash in Australia in early 2012 while on expedition with James Cameron who pointed out they died doing what they wanted – exploring and documenting our blue world to educate our world. “Our hearts are in the ocean,” Cameron added. “And our hearts are breaking because of what’s happening to it.”
At the final awards ceremony in Monterey’s classic Golden State Theater, I got to share a special moment on the blue carpet with her deepness Sylvia Earle and Sanctuary Sam, the National Marine Sanctuaries’ seal mascot, before watching host Chris Palmer wrangle the many winners of BLUE’s Green Turtle awards on and off the stage like a trained seal master. Kudos and applause to all of this year’s winners, which is pretty much everyone who attended.
A regular feature of Blue Notes where we shine the light on a group from the Blue Movement Directory in order to create a more self-aware and collaborative movement. This month we feature BLUE Ocean Film Festival.
Although BLUE would seem a glittering Hollywood celebrity type event compared to your basic seaweed citizen group it is actually an up by their own fin straps family enterprise run by Debbie Kinder with the support of her husband Charlie, daughters Sarah and Ashley and many volunteers. Before launching the first BLUE festival in Savannah Georgia in 2009 Debbie and Charlie had been independent filmmakers for 15 years. Among their films was NBC’s ‘For God & Country – A Marine Sniper’s Story,’ that traced a military scout sniper from his boot camp training to Iraq and Afghanistan. But it was another marine realm that attracted them as they contemplated buying a catamaran and traveling the world filming the ocean. Instead they launched a film festival.
“It started with our frustration as independent filmmakers not knowing where to go or how to get hold of the scientists doing the ocean stories – plus broadcasters less than enthused about stories on dolphins or whales plus just the technical difficulties of shooting underwater were so challenging. So we were going to Real Screen and Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival to try and learn how to make better (ocean) films and network and we realized there was nothing like this (for the ocean) so we started polling folks and found a resounding interest. One of founders of Jackson Hole encouraged us as did Greg Stone at the New England Aquarium [a Benchley Award winner now with Conservation International]. We were making films and raising three kids who were watching National Geographic TV and Discovery and understanding the power of that so we decided to create a platform to inspire more people to [create more and better ocean media].” In 2009, with support from the National Marine Sanctuary system they held the first BLUE in Savannah Georgia in conjunction with Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary that included over 400 industry delegates and 2,000 attendees. “So then we moved to Monterey…a more ocean centric area. We moved our family at the beginning of 2010 and held it later that year. By now we were gypsies. We shut our office and home in Florida and loaded up a trailer and moved across country and launched it in order to keep the momentum going.”
2010 was a success and this year even more so with over 135 films, 600 industry and activist attendees and more than 8,000 seats filled plus plenty of science and policy discussions. BLUE on Tour will also be showing films on 20 college campuses in China this year. Last year it toured 22 Mexican cities and Australia where it will return this spring. “We have over 1,000 titles in our library ready to travel,” Debbie notes proudly. “My family have all been amazingly supportive and I think they all have a sense of pride that we’re now making a bit of difference.”
To the Colorado Ocean Coalition as they surge towards their second annual Making Waves event in Boulder this Oct. 20-21. Join JM Cousteau, Sylvia Earle and others where the seaweed cowfolk roam and where on a quiet mountain night you can almost hear the distant rumble of whales calling or is that Jackalopes singing?
To Turtle Island Restoration Network, Oceana and others who campaigned successfully to get Governor Jerry Brown to take time from his busy schedule to sign a bill declaring the endangered Pacific Leatherback sea turtle the official marine reptile of California (the desert tortoise is our state’s official land reptile). This should bring new and needed attention to this largest of all turtles that can grow to over 6-feet and 2,000 pounds.
To this year’s Heroes of the Harbor honored October 9th at the Chelsea Piers by New York City’s Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance.
To 2011 Peter Benchley Ocean Award winner Dr. Greg Stone of Conservation International who helped organize the new science-based Ocean Health Index. By this worldwide measure 100 is a world in which humans live well with a healthy ocean. This year’s score is a 60. C’mon, humans, we can do better than a D!
To 2012 Benchley Award winner in science, Dr. Nancy Rabalais. The marine ecologist and Louisiana based lab director famous for her studies of the Gulf of Mexico’s dead zone has just been named a 2012 MacArthur Fellow, one of this year’s winners of the so-called “genius award,” (she’s one smart scientist). Last year she was also named a Heinz prize winner, as was former Benchley science winner Dr. Nancy Knowlton. Are these other prize committees poaching in our waters? If so we encourage the practice.
I’ve just completed the last work on my next book The Golden Shore – California’s Love Affair with the Sea out with St. Martin’s Press February 19. Any Californian or other seaweed group that would like to work with me on a book talk, e-mail me.
I also included this dedication at the front of the book –
To Richard Henry Dana Jr.
For describing it
To Ed Ricketts
For making it fun
To Peter Douglas
For protecting it
And to Sylvia Earle
For your energy
The first person who can email me a clear explanation on what the heck I mean – with precise reference to the four individuals named and their actions indicated will win a free autographed copy of the book when it comes out.
A Rising Tide on Capitol Hill
Save the Dates! May 13-16 2013 will mark the 4th Blue Vision Summit and 6th Peter Benchley Ocean Awards in Washington, D.C. Wednesday, May 15, will see the largest surge of Ocean Activists educating policymakers in history, a Rising Tide on Capitol Hill to let our elected representatives know that a healthy ocean and coastline is a human right, a job creator and a universal pleasure! Be part of history. Restore the blue in our red, white and blue! Plan now to be there with us next spring. Registration for the Summit opens January 2013.
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