Ocean Politics Gone Wild, Spyfish 1, and other reasons to head to D.C. for the Blue Vision Summit
January 12, 2009
By David Helvarg
Take that Kiribati!
Ex president Bush’s last Blue Asterisks were huge and a huge victory for our living seas. Kingman, Palmyra, Howland, Baker, Jarvis, Johnson and Wake (the Line Islands), Rose Atoll in Samoa, and the Marianas Trench that only two humans have ever traveled to the bottom of, are among the last great wilderness areas on our blue marble planet. Now, because they’re located within the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone, they’re also the three newest “Marine National Monuments,” established by Presidential decree. Spanning some 195,000 square miles they are 50 percent larger than all our national parks combined. About the size of Spain, they are just slightly bigger than the Phoenix Islands reserve established by the tiny Pacific island-nation of Kiribati in 2008.
The Blue Asterisks refer to the worst environmental president in history (see Blue Notes #52) ironically being the one to establish America’s first true wilderness parks in the Ocean. The first was the 140,000 square mile Papahanaumokuakea Monument in Northwest Hawaii that he established in 2006 (see Blue Notes #27).
Recent reporting on the White House’s internal decision-making process by the Washington Post and others suggested the president’s final action would be influenced either by his wife Laura Bush who strongly supported the designations or VP Dick Cheney who never saw the value of wildlife or habitat you couldn’t hook, shoot or drill. Luckily Laura won this argument. Cheney could still contribute to ocean protection as an artificial reef.
In the calculus of history these monument designations certainly won’t balance President Bush’s other blunders, high crimes and misdemeanors (no one talks about Mussolini’s commitment to mass transit) still it is a huge victory for marine conservation at a time when we’re more accustomed to hearing bad news about the cascading marine disasters of industrial overfishing, pollution, coastal sprawl and climate change.
Meanwhile the incoming Obama administration seems to be poaching on our Blue Summit Speakers lineup (and we hope they continue to do so). First they tapped panelist (now invited Keynote Speaker) Dr. Jane Lubchenco to head the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (see Blue Notes #53). Now our Federal Plenary moderator and former Pew Ocean Commission chair Leon Panetta has been tapped to take over the CIA. While this may be good for the nation some fish-hugger types are disappointed. Panetta had originally expressed interest in being Secretary of Commerce (that oversees NOAA) before that job was offered to Bill Richardson. By the time Richardson resigned due to an investigation into possible conflict-of-interest the Obama transition team was searching for a proven and reliable manager to restore the CIA to the job of providing credible intelligence and get it out of the business of kidnapping, rendition and torture, which is why Leon, a former White House Chief of Staff, was chosen.
With Panetta (call him Spyfish 1) taking over at CIA and former Coast Guard Admiral and Ocean Conservancy CEO Roger Rufe running operations at the Department of Homeland Security the world’s terrorists better think twice before messing with our marine ecosystems (that’s our job).
50 for 50
“Ocean Doctor,” mini sub-driver and explorer David Guggenheim (who’s organizing the Blue Vision Summit’s Explorers event March 7) has just launched his own Don Quixotic adventure — Celebrating his 50th Birthday by visiting and speaking to schools in all 50 States plus territories (and brining a copy of Blue Frontier’s book ’50 Ways to Save the Ocean,’ along with him). His itinerary so far includes Northern California, South Dakota, Philadelphia and the Florida Keys. If you’d like a great speaker, adventurer and conservationist in your state or school contact David at OceanDoctor.org or you can meet him live at the Summit this spring.
On the Blue Beat
Props also to The Ocean Conservancy’s President Vicki Spruill who had an inspired opinion piece in the Washington Post January 6 challenging President Obama to expand on Bush’s Monument designations by linking ocean policy to climate, addressing the Arctic meltdown and bringing eco-based management and oversight to our troubled seas, all key themes of the March 7-10 Summit which is why the Ocean Conservancy is one of its sponsors (sensing a trend here yet?).
Kudos also to two well-spoken scientists Ruth Curry of Woods Hole and David Connover of Stony Brook who made the climate connection to oceans as clear as a melting ice-cube (on a rolling research vessel) in their briny half hour show and tell with NOW’s David Broncachio that aired Friday January 9th on PBS. Before that, the December 30th issue of The Economist ran a major multi-page report on the state of the world ocean titled, ‘Troubled Waters,’ that’s still sitting on my ‘to read,’ pile that’s now the size of a harbor piling.
And in a more confessional mode, the Jan./Feb. issue of E- the Environmental magazine has a piece I did about my personal salvation through saltwater immersion, how the sea has given me both great adrenaline rushes, quiet inspiration and occasional solace reminding us that we’re all part of something larger, even when large parts of our own souls have drifted away. Pick it up or check it out online: http://www.emagazine.com/view/?4505&src=QSA159
March is the Time – D.C. is the Place!
Even as media and connectivity speeds up the global recession is slowing the economy to a dogpaddle that I see every day in the declining number of container ships arriving and departing the Port of Oakland just down the bay from where I live.
I expect it may take some years to make the necessary shift from a global economy based on American consumers shopping for stuff to one based on sounder principles.
In the interim I expect things will continue to tighten in 2009 so that many marine grassroots citizens might not be able to afford travel to Washington in 2010 to promote action for our threatened watersheds, estuaries, coastal communities and public seas.
That’s all the more reason we should take advantage of the historic moment the first 100 days of the Obama Presidency and 111th Congress represent for those of us who want to turn the tide and restore the blue to our flag (and on our planet).
The Blue Vision Summit March 7 — 10 has room for up to 500 ocean leaders who want to get our public seas onto the public policy agenda, begin the effort to pass an American Ocean Act at the level of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts of the last century and make sure the Ocean is a key element in any U.S. response to the climate crisis. It will also be an opportunity to highlight bottom-up solutions that are already working on the shores and in the water but need to be applied at the national and global level.
Summit Sponsors to date include the Blue Frontier Campaign, Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation, the Pew Environment Group, Oceana, the Ocean Conservancy, Natural Resources Defense Council, Ocean Foundation, Clean Ocean Action, and D.C. Chapter of Surfrider. Several exciting new sponsors are expected to come aboard shortly, joining more than 80 organizations from conservation, recreation, fishing, science, public health, new ocean energy, tribal nations, law enforcement, maritime labor and others who’ve already committed to expanding the blue constituency when we meet this March.
Planned speakers include new NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco and Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley (both invited), Senators and Representatives in key positions to advance an ocean agenda including long-time ocean champ Sam Farr, California Secretary of Resources Mike Chrisman, Explorers Sylvia Earle, Philippe Cousteau and Roz Savage, Author Bill McKibben, cartoonist Jim Toomey and many others.
For information, the latest agenda, links to registration and hotels (with early seabird discounts till Feb. 7), a downloadable Summit flyer and more go to www.bluefront.org/bluevision