Blue Notes #123: An Active Spring
May 20, 2014
By David Helvarg
Spring’s not over yet. On May 30 we’ll host the 7th annual Peter Benchley Ocean Awards at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. Join us along with this year’s seven outstanding winners, inspiring past winners and solution-oriented heroes of the sea, including former Secretary of Defense and Pew Ocean Commission Chair Leon Panetta, Congressman and ocean champion Sam Farr, Capt. Charles Moore, the sailor who discovered the Pacific Garbage Patch and Academy Award winning director of ‘The Cove’ Louie Psihoyos who’ll present this year’s media award to ‘Blackfish’ director Gabriela Cowperthwaite.
The next day, Saturday May 31, from 10-2 come to the first ever Benchley ‘Bay to Sea Symposium’ at and with the Aquarium of the Bay at Pier 39 in San Francisco. This free to the public event will include some of the outstanding Benchley honorees from the night before such as National Geographic Explorer in residence Dr. Sylvia Earle, former NOAA Administrator and marine ecologist Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Dean of the Bren School at UC Santa Barbara Dr. Steve Gaines, Director of the Hopkins Marine Lab, Dr. Steve Palumbi and Director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography Dr. Margaret Leinen. These are the doctors you call on when you need to restore a healthy sea.
April was also a busy month for Blue Frontier.
On April 22 Sherman’s Lagoon cartoonist Jim Toomey (who’ll MC this year’s Benchleys) joined me and 300 students from JFK High School in Richmond, California on Earth Day to talk and illustrate ’50 Ways to Save the Ocean,’. The ocean, of course, is 71% of the earth on any day.
On Friday April 25, with help from Citizens for a Sustainable Point Molate activist Pam Stello, volunteer instructors, teachers and staff (and support from Elmwood Café of Berkeley), we had a field trip to Point Molate for 35 JFK students, including a visit to the recently opened beach park (see Blue Notes #122). The students, who’d never been there before, learned about their city’s 422-acre headland habitat and history and saw harbor seals, nesting osprey, wild turkey, geese with goslings, unique California grasslands etc. Despite the on and off again rain (much needed during the drought), several of the students began planning to hold their Senior Sunrise at Point Molate. Back on the bus they all got their own copies of our 50 Ways to Save the Ocean book.
The next day, Saturday April 26 was ‘San Francisco Coast Guard Appreciation Day’ at Pier 39, an event that Blue Frontier initiated and that quickly gained widespread support from Pier 39, Aquarium of the Bay, the Port of San Francisco and others. SF Board of Supervisors President David Chiu presented a resolution of support to Coast Guard 11th District Commander Admiral Karl Schultz. We all said a few words and then some 700 ‘Coasties’ (as they call themselves) including their families joined crowds of civilians to watch helicopters dropping rescue swimmers into the bay, K-9 dogs demonstrating their bomb sniffing skills, and also got to board small boats, cutters and the Aspen, a big Buoy Tender that I once rode through several days of 20-foot storm seas while working on the book, Rescue Warriors – The U.S. Coast Guard, America’s Forgotten Heroes. At least on this day they were not forgotten.
While this was the first time a major city honored the U.S. Coast Guard, Blue Frontier is willing to work with other groups in coastal cities who’d like to hold similar events. After all 14 of our 20 largest cities are Coastal. By building a popular constituency for frontline agencies such as the U.S. Coast Guard, NOAA, FEMA and Fish & Wildlife we also help prepare the nation to respond and adapt to the growing marine and maritime threats we’re beginning to encounter from both increased population pressure along the shore and anthropogenic (human-enhanced) climate change.
The third U.S. National Climate Assessment came out earlier this month. It is based on a 3-year-effort by a team of over 300 scientists tasked to look at the impacts of climate change on the U.S. Following in the turbulent wake of the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report this is the most comprehensive look at climate change the U.S. government has ever produced. Its findings include the fact that we’re already experiencing the impacts of fossil fuel fired climate disruption. From the Executive Summary:
“The report finds climate change is causing more frequent or intense heat waves and downpours. In some regions it’s causing more floods or droughts. Climate change already disrupts key parts of our economy energy, transportation, agriculture and water supply.”
Sections of the report focusing on the U.S. coast and ocean found:
“Ocean waters are becoming warmer and more acidic, broadly affecting ocean circulation, chemistry, ecosystems, and marine life. Rising sea surface temperatures have been linked with increasing levels and ranges of diseases in people and marine life…Global sea level has risen by about 8 inches since reliable record keeping began in 1880. It is projected to rise another 1 to 4 feet by 2100…Coastal lifelines, such as water and energy infrastructure, and nationally important assets, such as ports, tourism, and fishing sites, are increasingly vulnerable to sea level rise, storm surge, erosion, flooding, and related hazards.”
Another finding of the report; “Sea level rise, storms and storm surges, and changes in surface and groundwater use patterns are expected to compromise the sustainability of coastal freshwater aquifers and wetlands.” In other words all water is linked. None of this is good news and yet we know what the solution is. We need a rapid transition to a decentralized global clean energy system and greater respect for the natural systems that sustain us all. Unfortunately the fossil fuel industry, the largest industrial combine in history, that once represented the cutting edge for human technological progress in the 16th and 19th centuries, is now impeding progress in the 21st.
One way to make sure that right actions are taken is to strengthen our blue movement for ocean and coastal conservation.
On June 18 an ‘Over The Horizon’ (OTH) meeting will take place to focus on how we can assure our public seas become a larger public policy issue between now and the 2016 Presidential elections. This 6-7 hour convening will take place from 10AM to 4/5 PM Eastern Standard Time in Washington DC with video teleconferencing from around the nation (see Blue Notes # 122). The event will include local, regional and national groups in deciding how we, as a movement, go forward.
Sponsors to date include Blue Frontier, Ocean Champions, Oceana, NRDC, Clean Ocean Action and the Colorado Ocean Coalition. The Ocean Conservancy, Surfrider, Waterkeeper Alliance, Restore America’s Estuaries and others have also joined in early planning discussions.
OTH June ‘14 will include opening presentations from our friends on Capitol Hill, veterans of two ocean commissions, and the State Department, as Secretary of State John Kerry will have just completed a two-day Global Ocean Summit. The OTH focus will be more on how we build an effective constituency within the U.S.
Some of the things we hope to resolve include:
– We will aim to agree on the 2-4 key issues that we all can bring to the public in the next two years. Presentations on specific issues can be made.
– We will also focus on a dozen 2014 election campaigns in 6 states proposed by Ocean Champions, where candidates and the public need to hear more about the importance of coastal and ocean issues.
– We will discuss colorful non-partisan actions we can take to achieve this. Additional races where we can/should make ocean health a visible issue can also be discussed.
– The key issues and themes needed to strengthen the May 2015 Blue Vision Summit and Healthy Ocean Hill Day in Washington DC will be another focus of our OTH meeting. One of the targets of last May 15th’s Hill Day was passage of 4 anti-Fish Piracy (Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing) treaties. The Senate recently voted to ratify all 4 of these treaties on a unanimous bipartisan basis.
– We will discuss how we can make the 2016 presidential elections a teaching moment so that the candidates and their campaigns address our agreed-upon key issues to restore the blue in our red, white and blue.
All of this will depend on the input and decisions made at this first OTH meeting. We hope this will become an ongoing discussion and driver for more effective organizing among our constituent blue groups and allies in various sectors of ocean dependent business, recreation, science, health and exploration. Our success will depend on your participation, live or via video link.
A regular feature of Blue Notes where we shine our light on a group from the Blue Movement Directory in order to create a more self-aware and collaborative movement. This month we feature Love a Sea Turtle.
Love a Sea Turtle (L.A.S.T.) founder Casey Sokolovic is also the 16-year-old winner of this year’s Benchley Youth Award. She first became active at age 8 when her class took a field trip to the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Hospital in Topsail Beach, North Carolina. To help out the injured and sick animals at this rehabilitation center she began baking and selling turtle-shaped cookies. Soon she was selling t-shirts and holding 5 and 10K trail runs as fundraisers, including a successful one this March. Her efforts also inspired a Fair Trade Sea Turtle coffee blend with 10 percent going to the Turtle Hospital. Casey has also created a summer camp program through the Boys & Girls Clubs of North Carolina to connect students “from the watershed to the sea.” Casey and her ‘turtle team’ recently sponsored a wilderness weekend and local river clean up for young student groups and supporters. Her L.A.S.T. group also works closely with other activist organizations including 2013 Benchley winner Sean Russell’s ‘Stow It – Don’t Throw It’ Project to reduce marine debris. Casey participated in their recent Youth Ocean Conservation Summit and speaks about sea turtles to young people and adults across the U.S.A.