Pumped Up in the Senate
August 25, 2006
By David Helvarg
Before taking its summer recess, the U.S. Senate passed a bill to expand offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico near Florida. More disturbingly, it opened the way for consideration of a House bill sponsored by Richard Pombo of California that could end a quarter century ban on any new drilling off California, Oregon, Washington and along the Eastern Seaboard.
As I mentioned in an emailing to several thousand Blue Frontier contacts (that got our server accusing us of spamming) the solution to Congress’s new push for offshore drilling starts with each of us letting our elected officials know that how they vote on our coasts and oceans will be remembered in the upcoming 2006 elections. In the interim if you’re not yet part of the OCS coalition fighting to hold the line join up. You can do so by contacting Richard Charter at Waterway@monitor.net Also don’t forget to check out the list of ocean friendly congressional candidates endorsed by Ocean Champions at www.oceanchampions.org
I figure we can’t pump our way out of the present energy crisis, but we can begin to conserve what we have and develop new forms of non-carbon energy that will meet our needs while protecting life on this blue planet, one of only eight in our solar system now that Pluto’s been downgraded.
Mind Altering Series
Did you just get pepper-sprayed or did some toxic marine algae aerosolated by the waves end up inflaming your sinuses and choking off your lungs? If you answered B then you were probably interviewed by Ken Weiss of the LA Times. In a stunning 5-part series titled ‘Altered Oceans’ Weiss, along with fellow reporter Usha Lee McFarling use the best available science and on the scene reporting from around the world to describe the dangerous state of our oceans including the growth of toxic algae and bacteria, killer red tides, plastic pollution and acidification of the sea, all linked to human inputs. The unremittingly grim but accurate report ran in late July and early August with additional photography and online video shot by Rick Loomis. Check it out at: www.latimes.com/news/local/oceans/la-oceans-series,0,7842752.special
Also worth checking out is the August 19 AP story by Allen Breen ‘Who’s to blame for Katrina’s aftermath?” As the one-year anniversary of the destruction approaches, this investigative reporter finds that last year’s failures of prevention, preparation and response have been matched by ongoing incompetence, waste and corruption. “Who is responsible for this mess, for a barely functioning city with large swaths still uninhabited — or uninhabitable — a year after Hurricane Katrina?” he asks. Read his story to find the answers. One site – www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/19/AR2006081900286.html?nav=printbox
A Coney Island Moment
July 19 I got to ride Coney Island’s famous Cyclone, an 80-year-old wooden roller coaster with an ocean view before the big drop. I did this with some smart, youthful leaders from the Florida Marine Science Educator’s Association (their new President Jim Wharton works out of the Smithsonian Marine Station in Fort Pierce). They were up in the Big Oyster along with more than 300 fellow members of the National Marine Educators Association for NMEA’s 4-day annual conference. They ended the gathering at the New York Aquarium at Coney Island where I was in the unenviable position of speaking between ocean author Carl Safina and the Sea Lion Show. Obviously I kept it brief (not being able to balance a ball on my nose while walking on my hind flippers) and just noted that they were uniquely positioned (the educators, not the sea lions). Unlike past generations of teachers such as Ed Ricketts and Rachael Carson, they are the ones who will either help educate and mobilize people of all ages to protect and restore our living seas or else bear witness to an irreversible marine disaster (see above).
Walking on the Coney Island beach with my friend, children’s author Lynn Cherry (whose most recent book is on mangroves) we spied a bulked up seagull yanking plastic bags of food and a plastic coke bottle out of a garbage can and tossing it to his winged buddies on the sand. Typical New Yorkers, I thought (my Dad grew up on Coney Island).
A Pearl of a Victory
I grew up on Long Island where Friends of the Bay in Oyster Bay, NY held a celebration August 18 after the Town Board accepted the withdrawal of a developer’s plan for a 300 plus luxury apartment complex. The development was to be named Avalon Bay (reflecting a fantasy built by a bay that would overload the local sewage system). Friends of the Bay’s Kyle Rabin said this type of coastal sprawl threatened their community’s character. Rather than “high density on steroids’ development Friends and other area activists would like to see smart growth based around coastal watershed planning. And of course Blue Frontier would like to see more local seaweed victories like this one scaled up to the regional, national and global level.
There’s 10 Times the ocean noise off the coast of Southern California as there was 40 years ago according to a study published in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America by Scripps Institution of Oceanography and other researchers. Using declassified Navy data from 1964-66 and comparing it with similar acoustic recordings off the Navy’s San Nicolas Island done between 2003-2004 they found ocean noise had increased 10-12 decibels or by a factor of 10. The noise is being generated mainly by larger and greater numbers of commercial ships steaming in the north Pacific. According to Lloyd’s Register the number of large commercial ships more than doubled worldwide between 1965 and 2003 going from 41,865 to 89,899. Takes a lot of cargo space to ship all those WalMart goods from China. “The impact on marine animals is unknown,” stated one of the study’s authors. As we’ve stated here before, noise is the light of the sea, the way fish and marine wildlife, communicate, hunt and find mates. Increased noise from commercial ocean traffic, military sonar and seismic surveys by oil companies all pose threats that have become a source of concern for groups ranging from the activist Seaflow organization (www.seaflow.org) to the European Union and the UN.
A Liquid Mirror
Light is also the light of the sea. The haunting, dazzling black and white underwater photographs of Hawaiian waterman (and Blue Frontier Friend) Wayne Levin can now be seen on his new websitehttp://waynelevinimages.com Check them out and be inspired. Speaking of Hawaiiâ€¦
Mahalo Honolulu Weekly
For the ‘Seaweed Rebellion’ cover story in your July 5-11 issue written by local author Stuart Coleman. /honoluluweekly.com/cover/2006/07/seaweed-rebellion/
Dogfish Days of Summer
As summer fades I’d like to reach out a flipper to Blue Notes readers. Just as we’ve described and linked well over 1,000 seaweed groups on our (soon to be updated) online Blue Movement Directory, www.bluefront.org/bluemovement/index.php it would help us if you could link your sites to ours. We’re at www.bluefront.org. Also feel free to post or pass on Blue Notes. Finally, any financial contribution to keep BFC building unity, providing tools and enhancing awareness of the seaweed movement would be greatly appreciated. You can contribute online at www.bluefront.org or by mail to Blue Frontier Campaign PO Box 19367 Wash. DC 20036. See you on the autumn tide.