Have We Doomed the Ocean?
Atlantic Ocean, Mauritania, 4 March 2010
The 120 meters pelagic trawler Johanna Maria is owned by Dutch company Jaczon, sailing under Irish flag. Johanna Maria is fishing for Round Sardinella (sardinella aurita) under EU:s fisheries partnership agreement. It’s represented by the Pelagic Freezer Association (PFA).
Remember the 1970s; bell bottoms, disco fever, Billy Carter, the Bicentennial and twice the number of fish, birds and marine mammals in the world’s ocean? That’s right, overfishing and other environmental disasters have cut the population of the ocean’s most evolved creatures (those with spines) nearly in half, according to a new report from the World Wildlife Fund. Not coincidentally human population has about doubled in this same period from 3.7 to over 7 billion Homo sapiens, the precipitant cause of the planet’s sixth mass extinction now under way.
The WWF report, which looked at 1,234 species of mammal, bird, reptile (sea turtles), and fish, found that between 1970 and 2012, populations declined by 49 percent, with some species of edible marine wildlife like tuna and mackerel hit far harder. Habitats such as sea grasses have declined by a third along with mangrove forests, salt marshes and coral reefs that could be all but extinct by mid-century. Of course the WWF report ends on a note of optimism, as do many of today’s environmental reports, often for marketing purposes, responding to the now widely accepted claim that environmentalism is failing because it’s message is “too negative.”
So along with promoting more cheerful peer-reviewed science let me tell a joke reflecting the lighter side of the apocalypse. What did one Baiji river dolphin say to another? Nothing. As of 5 years ago they’re extinct!
The late coastal activist Dery Bennett once was asked if he was optimistic or pessimistic about the future. “Depends on which day you ask me,” he responded. Unfortunately on the same day I read the WWF report I saw a NOAA report that this summer – June through August – was the hottest on the planet since scientific record keeping began in the 19th century. 2015 is now on its way to breaking the record for the hottest year in history, a record previously held by 2014 and 2010 before that according to NOAA and NASA. Notice a trend? Unless that trend is Biblical End Times none of the presidential candidates in the recent GOP debate saw one. Asked briefly about climate change they all rejected regulatory (or any) action to keep fossil fuel fired disaster in check, some arguing that you can’t really know what’s going on. Like Author Upton Sinclair once said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary [or campaign donations] depends on his not understanding it.” Same for Carly Fiorina.
At the same time those of us living in California have been reduced to hoping for a major disaster, the big El Nino pattern predicted for this winter that likely will reprise the destructive storms, flooding, mudslides and coastal erosion we experienced in 1982-‘83 and 1997-‘98 in order to relieve us from an even worse disaster; the 300 year drought we’re now going through that scientists say is cyclical but also 10-15 percent exacerbated by human caused climate change. More extreme and more frequently extreme weather patterns are one indicator of a warming world. A hotter more acidic ocean unable to hold as much dissolved oxygen as it does today is another.
Still I hold firm to my mantra that I’m more frustrated than despairing. We know what the solutions are to these cascading disasters we just lack the political will to enact them even with the Pope on our side.
Instead of posting a Selfie or frowning emoticon here let me quote from my book, ‘Saved by the Sea’: “Today I don’t really expect a revolution in either politics or consciousness to radically alter the cascading ecological collapse of our ocean planet. I do, however, note a rising line of ecological mindfulness approaching the declining plane of biological diversity on our water world. Where that X crosses will tell us how much is left to save and restore if we can.”
What Is to be Done?
If the Supreme Court is right that corporations are people and money is free speech then Exxon, Chevron, Shell and BP are the biggest loud mouths in America. They make Donald Trump look like a wallflower.
Still in my low-income racially diverse town of Richmond California we managed to beat Chevron in the 2014 elections through citizen activism. They spent over $3 million campaign dollars in our small city where they have a big refinery expecting to win back the city council from a progressive and environmentally active majority. That translated to close to $300 spent on me and every other voter or to put it another way $800,000 for each of the four candidates they ran for $18,000 a year city council seats. In the end, despite lots of dirty tricks and sleazy ads, all their candidates lost and all the progressives – outspent ten and twenty to one – won thanks to grassroots door-to-door canvassing in a community that has seen major fires and health impacts from Chevron’s century old refinery on San Francisco Bay.
I believe that same kind of victory is possible nationally in response to a government proposal so economically senseless and environmentally dangerous that people wonder why our outgoing President is putting his own climate and ocean legacy at risk by promoting offshore drilling in the Arctic and the Atlantic. The idea of oil drilling the Arctic Ocean or near the shores of many of our nation’s favorite beach towns, even as the health impacts from the last major oil disaster are still being felt by the victims (both human and wild) of BP’s criminally negligent Deepwater Horizon blowout five years ago is near inexplicable.
Our emerging Sea Party Coalition, its member groups and partners can stop this latest attempt to sell off our public seas to big oil, just as we did in California in the 1980s. Of course it will require we act in a concerted manner and build a broad-based nonpartisan movement combining both creativity and steely commitment so that in the next 13 months no candidate for President can avoid addressing the issue of offshore drilling. We need to turn the 2004 Tea Party cry of ‘Drill Baby Drill’ into 2016’s Sea Party call to ‘Get Oil Out!’
Hopeful signs just since last month’s Blue Notes include:
– The Alaska Wilderness League and Alaska Intertribal Council and other Alaskan activists displayed a perfect balance of hospitality and concern during President Obama’s recent visit to their state. They thanked him for his support of Native Alaskans and concern and attention he brought to the impacts of Climate Change on Alaska while also pointing out that letting Shell Oil drill in the Chukchi Sea is a bad idea that undermines his climate agenda.
– Greenpeace has also been highly visible challenging Shell’s plans while also calling for protection of the unique deepwater canyons of Alaska’s Bering Sea. Presently Actors Alexander Skarsgard of ‘True Blood’ and Jack McBrayer of ‘30 Rock’ are onboard the Greenpeace icebreaker Arctic Sunrise in the Greenland Sea working on a comedy series about industrialization of the Arctic (like I said, the lighter side of the apocalypse).
– Meanwhile Surfrider organizers are moving up the east coast with an oversized surfboard that they’re having signed by growing numbers of ocean recreation businesses opposed to offshore seismic testing and drilling, businesses that recognize this as a threat to their livelihoods and communities.
– Environment America (the only group mentioned so far not yet a member of the Sea Party) has also gathered signatures from 300 small businesses from Maine to Florida on a letter to the President that says offshore drilling is “incompatible with our tourism and fishing industries….When you drill, you spill.”
– On September 15 in Mt. Pleasant South Carolina more than 300 local residents turned out to follow in the sandy footprints of the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League and SODAPOP SC, forming a new anti-offshore drilling group called Don’t Drill SC – Lowcountry. So far 22 coastal towns in the state have come out against drilling and seismic testing. Republican Congressman Mark Sanford told the group it was time for the Statehouse and Washington D.C. to listen to the concerns of local people.
– That same day Friends of the Earth, the Center for Biological Diversity and other members of a new coalition of over 400 groups delivered a letter to the White House calling for the administration to ‘Keep it in the Ground,’ meaning no more leasing of public lands or ocean waters for fossil fuel development. Secretary of Interior Sally Jewel told reporters this idea was “simplistic.” Earlier she said lease sales are based on “areas we believe appropriate for development and areas we believe are inappropriate.” One area that millions of Americans believe is inappropriate is the Ocean.
Sea Party Press Conference & Rally November 4
On Wednesday November 4, just over a year prior to the November 8, 2016 Presidential election, the Sea Party Coalition is going to have a 10 A.M. Press Conference on Union Square in front of the U.S. Capitol Building to announce our intent to make the health of our Ocean and the fight against offshore drilling an issue in the upcoming campaign season. We expect a bipartisan group of anti-drilling pro-clean energy Senators, House Members and activists to join in this call to restore the blue in our red, white and blue. We’ll also be rallying with costumes, kayaks, props, polar bears, possibly a giant inflatable blue whale and anything blue you have to wear.
One easy way to wear blue is to get a Sea Party Tee Shirt with a $20 dollar contribution.
Also feel free to check out and promote the Sea Party Coalition website and Facebook page.
Some additional social media suggestions between now and November 4:
Help protect #coastal communities, sign @TheSeaParty #petition! #DontSpillOnMe http://bit.ly/1N4LH7A
Save the #EastCoast from #OffshoreDrilling @TheSeaParty #DontSpillOnMe http://bit.ly/1N4LH7A
Help support @TheSeaParty, get this awesome tee http://bit.ly/1NxmTUs
Blue Frontier (or NAME YOUR GROUP) wants you to join @TheSeaParty to stop #OceanDrilling! Sign the #petition here http://bit.ly/1N4LH7A
Also if you’re having an upcoming event we’d be happy to try and send BF staff with T-shirts, books and informational postcards about the Sea Party and the Sea and the November 4 Press Conference/ Rally.
If you can’t make it to D.C. on a Wednesday Nov. 4 feel free to hold your own press conference and/or rally that morning. We’ll be glad to help coordinate with you.
On the afternoon of November 4th activists from around the nation will also be holding a 4th biannual strategy meeting at the Sierra Club on how to best move forward in 2016 to stop offshore drilling from sea to shining sea.
We’ll also be holding a Sea Party Fundraiser at the Explorers Club in New York City in late October. Big shout out to Anne Dubouliet, New York City Councilman Donovan Richards, Schramsberg Champagne and others who will help make this a memorable evening.
Finally if you’d like keep Blue Notes going make a tax-deductible contribution or send a check to Blue Frontier.